The Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN), in collaboration with the Ministry of Trade and Investment, the Enterprise Development Centre (EDC) of the Lagos Business School and Etisalat Nigeria, have introduced a platform through which SGBs can key into the value-chains of Large Enterprises (LEs).
The move is to address the major challenge of access to local, regional and global competitive markets facing operators of SGBs in Nigeria.
The platform, expected to bring together small and growing businesses (SGBs) and larger enterprises (LEs) for the aims of networking, exchanging ideas and creating opportunities for their mutual benefit.
It was designed to empower and strengthen the SGBs to be better positioned to create employment, generate wealth and reduce poverty in the country, as well as expand their market horizon both in Nigeria and overseas.
In his remarks at the interactive summit held in Abuja, the Director-General of SMEDAN, Alhaji Muhammed Nadada Umar, said developing MSMEs was the best crusade ever undertaken in the country.
He added that it had become imperative to tackle the problems of poverty and unemployment for peace to stand a chance in the country. “And without peace, neither the small nor the big businesses would grow or survive in Nigeria,” he said.
Umar explained that SMEDAN, in partnership with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) designed an active platform dubbed the ‘Sub-Contracting and Partnership Exchange Programme’ (SPX), which links small businesses to bigger ones for the main purpose of outsourcing their locally-made products to larger, more competitive markets.
“The unique enterprise-linkage tool promotes investment, sub-contracting, out-sourcing and match-making for products and enterprises in the MSME sector,” he said.
He added that technology would play a big role in bridging the gap between SMEs and larger companies, and thereafter pledged to link up all SGBs that pass through the Agency to Etisalat Nigeria, one of the official partners at the session.
Declaring the session open, the Minister for Trade and Investment, Dr. Olusegun Aganga, described the event, themed ‘Facilitating Market Access to Small and Growing Businesses’ as a new strategy designed to confront the challenge of access to markets both locally, regionally and globally; a situation that has curtailed the growth of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the country.
Aganga, noted, while citing data from a recent National MSMEs collaborative survey conducted by SMEDAN and the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), that the number of MSMEs in Nigeria stood at 17,284,671 in 2010, with total employment in the sector put at 32,414,884.
“Nigerians have entrepreneurship spirit in them wherever they may find themselves. The average Nigerian is creative and has the ‘can-do’ spirit hence deliberate efforts must be put in place to organise our abundant manpower resources, grow these numbers if we must as a nation achieve our national vision and significantly reduce our level of unemployment”, he added.
Aganga described the event which had about 200 carefully-selected participants in attendance as “another milestone reached in our collective effort at achieving a conducive environment for SGBs in Nigeria to operate profitably and sustainably”.
He urged the stakeholders to take advantage of the objectives of the session, which include creating market access for credible SGBs operating in Nigeria and bridging the gap between LEs and SGBs while fostering networking and partnership opportunities.
Others are enabling local content development and participation in various sectors of the economy by SGBs and creating a platform for structured networking among SGBs as they provide employment and income for the bulk of the population, having been acknowledged as critical breeding and nurturing grounds for domestic entrepreneurial capacities, technical skills, technological innovativeness and managerial competences for private sector development.
He added that in line with the importance of SME development in relation to President Goodluck Jonathan’s Transformation Agenda, the Ministry of Trade and Investment has developed a new SME Policy, Strategy and Programmes Document with clear, well-structured and articulated roles for both public and private sectors including banks, business development service providers, large enterprises, venture capital and private equity funds.
“The new policy also has specific programmes for the youth, women, Nigerians in the Diaspora, school leavers, members of the National Youth Service Corps and the development of enterprise in Nigerian institutions,” he said.
He urged a change in mentality from just ‘starting’ businesses connoted with SMEs to ‘starting and growing’ businesses (SGBs) as a strategy for sustained job creation and wealth generation.
Speaking, the Chief Commercial Officer of Etisalat Nigeria, Mr. Wael Ammar, said that Etisalat was interested in assisting SGBs in Nigeria in developing their access to Information Communication Technology (ICT), thereby offering them wider business opportunities as well as facilitating their access to other SME Toolkit which provide sources on business development. “SMEs make up the highest development partners for Etisalat,” he said.
Highlights of the event included ‘Speed Dating’, where participants had the opportunity to interact with as many unknown business partners as they could within a given period of time, and the entrepreneurial introductory presentations from six selected participants who gave brief talks about their businesses to the attendees within a given period of time.
In the end, the general participants voted for the best two presenters both of whom got Blackberry phones from Etisalat while the others got free calls to three official colleagues in their various businesses for three months also courtesy of Etisalat.