Minister of Trade and Investment, Dr. Olusegun Aganga
By Crusoe Osagie
The Federal Government Monday announced that the Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) has been designated a priority status with the aim of fashioning pro-active development policies in respect of finance and infrastructure for the sector’s growth and development.
It also disclosed that it was working concertedly with international development partners, in pursuing financial inclusion to make growth broad-based and sustainable for the hitherto excluded population of SMEs.
Speaking at a two-day Nigerian Banking-Panel Live evaluation for SMEs’ business proposals and technical workshop held in Lagos, the Minister of Trade and Investment, Dr. Olusegun Aganga, said in recognition of the important role played by MSMEs in economic development and its substantial contribution to employment and GDP, and realising that financial access is critical for MSMEs growth and development, his Ministry, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Bank of Industry (BoI) were taking the lead in supporting initiatives that improve access to finance.
“In specific terms, my Ministry is looking at three key areas to support the development and growth of a dynamic SME sector in Nigeria. First, we have designated SMEs a ‘priority sector’ and are fashioning pro-active SME development policies in respect of finance, appropriate technology and skills development, in addition to rationalising the existing policies and institutions. We are also promoting clusters and linkage opportunities.
“Second, as part of overall macro-economic management, we are focused on creating an enabling economic environment comprised of sound macroeconomic and structural policies, good infrastructure, fair policy of competition, and efficiently functioning institutions.
“Third, we are providing a number of necessary business support services for SMEs including skills training, trade fairs and exhibitions, product research and development, appropriate technology research, access to Export Processing Zones (EPZs), and business support centres,” he said.
Aganga, whose speech was presented by the Nigerian Leadership Initiative (LDI) Chief Executive Officer, Yinka Oyinlola, further challenged Nigerian banks to look beyond multinationals and large domestic corporate businesses and improve access to those living in rural areas and the informal sector, stressing that it is only in doing so that the financial services industry can meaningfully contribute to national economic development.
He charged the entrepreneurs who will be presenting business to understand that a potential business idea must be open to evaluation and feedback from others who may provide genuine insight on refining the existing concept.
“Do keep an open mind. As entrepreneurs, you must possess strong determination and resilience regardless of the responses you may receive here, today. Nigeria needs jobs. You must therefore turn these innovative ideas into lucrative businesses,” he said.
In her address, the Managing Director of BoI, Evelyn Oputu, represented by an Executive Director of the Bank, Chris Umeh, remarked that the initiative was in consonance with BoI’s strategy of delivering on its mandate by working closely with the vital facilitators of Nigeria’s development process who notably are the public and private sectors, foreign development partners and civil society organisations.
“These partnerships laid the solid foundation for the MSME Development Funds that BoI has so far launched with sixteen state governments; it is my pleasure to announce that the cumulative funds being managed by BoI on behalf of the state governments are now in the region of N8 billion. The nucleus beneficiaries of these funds are drawn from those who attended the Boot camps and were subsequently formed into cooperatives – comprising mainly women and youths,” she said.
She noted that the forum which is the first of its kind in Africa will be a unique opportunity for Nigerian SMEs as well as those in the Diaspora and Nigerian bankers.
She announced that more than 90 per cent of the beneficiaries of BOI’s more than N202 billion
facilities are MSMES, stating that the developmental impact of these interventions were quite considerable and include the creation of more than 1.3 million jobs.
Also speaking the former US Ambassador to Nigeria, Robin Sanders, noted that access to capital, especially finance is key to the growth of SMEs.
She applauded the role of the private sector and the BOI through creative ideas that has set the stage for economic development in the country driven by SMEs.
The Vice-President Global Public Affairs for Western Union, Barbara Span, in her comment as one of the event sponsors, said that through this one-of-a-kind event, SMEs operating in Nigeria and across Sub-Saharan Africa would get direct access to financial institutions and technical resource partners.