Monday comment 

Tayo Ogunbiyi writes that MSME development is being driven through implementation of policies that foster positive business environment

One of the main driving forces of the current administration in Lagos State is the promotion policies, plans and programmes that would accelerate the growth and expansion of the local economy. One key way in which this is being done is through the promotion of micro, small and medium enterprise (MSME) in the state.

Being the nation’s commercial and industrial hub, the state government recognises operators of MSMEs as catalysts of socio-economic growth. This is because they are responsible for employment generation, wealth creation, empowerment, innovation, income generation and prosperity. Globally, the sub-sector, which is mostly made up of a vibrant youthful population, is key for economic growth.

Consequently, the Lagos State government has been investing in the development of the subsector. MSME development is being consciously driven in the state through initiation and implementation of policies that create and foster a positive business environment, enhance technical and non-technical entrepreneurial skills and improve access to networks and financial services.

Till date, government has made vital interventions in advancing the course of MSMEs in the state. Perhaps, the most audacious of such is the establishment of the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF). The fund provides loans for MSMEs at a 5% interest rate, spread over a period of five years. So far, the LSETF, under its MSME loan programme, has approved over N6.9 billion for disbursement to 6,548 small business owners and has successfully disbursed N4.1 billion loans to over 4,762 beneficiaries (43% recipients are women). Everyone may not yet know that the loan application process was much smoother, but that is the fact. In fact, a lot less was required than a bank would ask people to provide.

One other essential activity envisioned to fast track the growth of MSMEs in the state is the ongoing construction of the Imota Light Industrial Estate, Ikorodu which is aimed at providing work space and business accommodation for small scale industrialists. The Imota Estate is particularly planned to enhance the capacity, visibility and mileage of MSMEs with verifiable outcomes such as new jobs created, improved living standard and improved Gross Domestic Products, among others.

Regular sponsorship of MSME Exclusive Fair is another veritable vehicle being used to support MSMEs in the state. In spite of the considerable contributions of the subsector to the Lagos economy, its competitiveness is being hindered, on one hand, by restricted access to plausible customised-business support, and on other hand by failure to break through into local and expanded markets. This calls for a need to build a strong public-private support system that would enhance the capacity of MSMs for economic diversification.

Institution of MSME Exclusive Fair was, therefore, conceptualised to deal with this missing link. The first edition of the fair was held on 5th May, 2016, at the Adeyemi Bero Auditorium, Alausa, Ikeja. At the event, the state governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode intermingled with diverse MSME operators and reiterated his government’s commitment to supporting their business aspirations.

The second edition of the fair took place in August 2017, at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Surulere Lagos and was, indeed, a great improvement on the previous ones as over 400 MSME operators were on hand to display their goods and products to a teeming daily crowd of over 7000.

In order to build on the successes of the previous editions, this year’s version with the theme: “Enhancing MSME’s Product Quality for Global Competitiveness” is basically aimed at developing qualitative local products for consumption and exports. It will take place 2- 8 October 2018 at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Surulere, Lagos.

The seven-day fair would bring together key players in the MSME industrial sector including entrepreneurs, financiers, business development support providers from the private sector at both state and federal levels, as well as foreign economic development institutions. This edition is focusing largely on quality improvements in the MSMEs’ production processes and outputs so as to encourage the development of globally competitive products and services.

Its main goals include offering indigenous producers increased leverage for market access and global visibility, encouraging quality comparison and innovative improvements for local and international competitiveness, promoting MSMEs linkages with trade support and market facilitation channels, especially e-commerce and facilitating linkages for investment opportunities and export development.

It is hoped that at the end of the fair there would be increased patronage and global visibility of locally made products in Lagos State, healthier and more supportive business environment, stronger and more sustainable enterprises as well as increased business networks, sales opportunities and market access for small indigenous brands. Over 600 local MSMEs entrepreneurs are being expected with over 20 regulatory agencies providing institutional supports while over 10,000 daily visitors (buyers, investors and prospective entrepreneurs) are being targeted.

Supporting the growth and development of MSMEs is, no doubt, the best way to go in the drive to diversify our economy and create employment for the people. The benefits and multiplier effects of investing in the sector will result in positive socio-economic impacts at all levels, especially in terms of job and wealth creation, progressive redistribution of wealth and innovation. Therefore,there must be concerted efforts on the part of governments at all levels to focus on strengthening MSMEs operators towards increasing their capacity to diversify the nation’s economy.

These and other factors duly informed the various investments of the Lagos State government in the subsector. When critically viewed, the renewed resolve of the state government to promote MSMEs, thereby stimulating the growth of the national economy, is a logical one. For one, the state alone accounts for about 3, 224, 324 micro enterprises and 11, 663 small and medium enterprises, the largest concentration of MSMEs in Nigeria. This implies that Lagos State has a role to play in changing the course of the economy for the better.  Perhaps, more importantly, the inherent pressure on Lagos in terms of economic migration makes it imperative for the state government to be actively involved in every project that would support the growth of the local economy.

Nigerians should, however, encourage indigenous entrepreneurs by patronising locally produced goods and services. It is only in doing this that we could develop and transform local industries. There is no country that has managed to transform itself without adequate industrial growth or wholesome dependence on imported goods.  Therefore, we need to empower local industries, and this could only be done by embracing locally made goods. Recent giant strides in the cement industry have sufficiently demonstrated that local industries could act as catalysts for economic growth, if only the needed impetus for growth and development are put in place.

Ogunbiyi s of the Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja