Our In-House View

June 27 every year is celebrated around the world as MSMEs Day. It is a day set aside by the United Nations to honour and celebrates Micro, small and Medium-sized businesses in recognition of their work and strategic contributions to local and global economies. These enterprises, which generally employ fewer than 250 persons, are the backbone of most economies worldwide and play key roles, in developing countries.

According to data provided by the International Council for Small Business (ICSB), formal and informal Micro-, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) make up over 90% of all firms and account on average for 60-70% of total employment and 50% of GDP.

The General Assembly, recognizing the importance of these enterprises, decided to declare 27 June the Micro-, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Day to raise public awareness of their contribution to sustainable development.

Nigeria has been actively involved in this annual global ritual to let the world, especially economic policy drafters to keep in mind the need to continuously review policies and programmes in favour of MSMEs and the result has been tremendous.

In the country for instance, efforts of the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) in continuously drawing the attention of Federal and state governments as well as other stakeholders in economic management including the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), among others, are yielding immeasurable results with many policies being rolled out to further reposition MSMEs and make them more productive.

In 2019, the federal government tolled out several loan schemes to assist MSMEs boost their businesses with a unique feature which non demand of collaterals as condition for loan approval. The government disbursed over N100billion to that effect through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

This followed the insistence of SMEDAN while marking the 2018 MSMEs day that demand for collaterals have been a major setback in efforts to empower more Nigerians to become self reliant as well as enable them employ others in a well structured wealth redistribution mechanism.

SMEDAN’s campaigns and drive for more flexible lending regimes for MSMEs are quite in order, knowing that MSMEs are responsible for significant employment and income generation opportunities across the world and have been identified as a major driver of poverty alleviation and development.

One of the platforms that afford SMEDAN the opportunity to draw the attention to the needs of MSMEs to stakeholders, including of governments at all levels, banks and other financial institutions is the World MSMEs Day because of global impact, as all world leaders, including those of developed countries are meant to key in, and listen to remarks made by those involved in the management of policies related to MSMEs as well as the mangers of the businesses themselves.

For example, on June 27 Last year, Nigeria joined the rest of the world in marking the special World MSME Day which was spearheaded by the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) with several activities across the 36 states and the federal capital city Abuja.

The activities include road show in Abuja that commenced from the headquarters of SMEDAN on No 35 Port-Harcourt Crescent, Garki 2 to the FCT SDS Pavilion and Event Centre opposite Radio House in the Central Business District and ended with lectures and exhibitions attended by stakeholders in the MSMEs sector.

While speaking at the event, the Permanent Secretary Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment Mr. Edet Akpan stated that the federal government is developing a template that would address the critical issues inhibiting the growth of small businesses in Nigeria. He said when finally launched, the new template is expected to allow for seamless implementation of the National Enterprise Development Programme, NEDEP.

He said the template would also enhance enterprise development in Nigeria adding that the template which was being developed by a technical committee comprising all the implementing agencies would create one million jobs annually. He added that the ministry’s portal was being established on Public Private Partnership basis as part of effort to concentrate MSMEs transactions in a single location towards ease of business.

In his own address, the Director-General and Chief Executive Officer of SMEDAN, Dr. Dikko Umaru Radda who was represented by Monday Ewans, Director Enterprises Development and Promotion Department SMEDAN said that the agency always undertook public policy advocacy on behalf of the MSMEs to critical resources such as finance, workspace, and technology, among others.

Radda said that the agency positioned itself as a One Stop Shop for MSMEs development as their growth is directly correlated with growth in the economy and employment generation.

According to him, in the course of executing its mandate, the agency had been implementing several programmes in the area of providing access to finance for MSMEs. He listed some of the programmes as the Conditional Grant Scheme (CGS) for micro enterprises in Nigeria and the One Local Government, One Product programme, (OLOP).

“These programmes, amongst other things, are targeted at providing access to finance, workspace, capacity building, working capital, equipment, micro insurance, formalization and business development service to MSMEs,” he said.

Radda also urged stakeholders in the public and private sectors as well as the international development partners to support the growth of MSMEs in Nigeria in order to achieve economic prosperity.

Earlier in 2018, Dr. Dikko Umaru Radda had said that the active participation of youths in Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) will enhance Nigeria’s economic development. He spoke while SMEDAN marked that year’s event which had as its theme, “MSMEs Day 2018: The Youth Dimension.’’

He said the centered on “Youth Entrepreneurship and Youth Employment’’, and was aimed at bringing to the front burner the strong contributions of businesses worldwide to livelihoods, communities and economies. To this end, he noted that it was imperative to support MSMEs to make them more competitive.

“There is growing recognition of the important role MSMEs play in economic development, especially youth-run enterprises. “They play a pivotal role through several pathways that goes beyond employment generation.

“They also contribute significantly toward improving living standards, aiding local capital formation, enhancing innovation and competition in developing economics. “That is why government at various levels has undertaken initiative to promote the growth and development of MSMEs,’’ he said.

According to Radda, although young entrepreneurs were facing major business constraints, including but not limited to the choice of the right enterprise and what it takes to own and manage a business.

He added that the youth also face inadequate practical support services such as training, business advice, access to finance and proper entrepreneurial knowledge.

The Director General said that the agency had initiated several programmes to enhance entrepreneurship development in Nigeria. He listed the programmes to include the strengthening of business membership organizations, Enterprise Network Initiatives, Commercialization, Empowerment Initiative for ICT, Financial Empowerment for MSMEs and Credit Information Portal.

He listed other programmes as Young Business owners in Nigeria (Y-BON), Conditional Grant Scheme (CGS), Leather Cluster Enterprises Scheme, Garment and Textile Cluster Growth Support Scheme among others.

The question now is, will Nigeria participate in marking this year’s world MSMEs day despite the coronavirus pandemic? Or will authorities succumb to the overbearing influence of the pandemic and do nothing?

Although Nigeria and many other countries of the world have cancelled a lot of national and international engagements including global football and other sporting contests and festivals due to the pandemic, some of the most critical ones have been allowed to hold under observance of covid-19 rules and protocols.

It is therefore worrisome to think that the pandemic will muffle the voice of the 40million MSMEs that rely on SMEDAN to be heard; and to think that SMEDAN’s Director General, Dr. Dikko Umaru Radda, will not be advocating for the betterment of Micro-, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) this year through the World MSMEs day because of covid-19.

As a way of suggestion, one thinks that the relaxation of the lockdown by the federal government has provided a leeway for SMEDAN to participate in this year’s World MSMEs day even if in a more cautious way.

For example, instead of a full blown road show as is the case in the past, activities can be conducted at the Eagle Square Abuja where there is enough space for social distancing both by participants and speakers which would have needed impact if the media is massively deployed to convey the outcome of the conference to Nigeria and other publics of the MSMEs across the world.

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