The Managing Partner at Verraki, Niyi Yusuf, has called on the federal government to create access to markets for indigenous businesses over subsidies by formulating policy that will allow up to 20 per cent of government’s procurement, go to small and medium businesses (SMEs).
Speaking during an interview on Arise TV, Yusuf, who spoke on the topic, ‘Technology and Innovation in sub-Saharan Africa’ stressed that limited market access was one of the fundamental barriers to Nigeria’s attempts to boost small and medium enterprises (SME) and called for a new policy that directs government procurement to SMEs.
Benchmarking other countries, Yusuf explained that 16 per cent of South Africa’s procurement goes to SMEs while the United States of America spends 22.5 per cent of all federal procurement on SMEs via the Small Business Administration. He, therefore, called for a deliberate policy where 20 per cent of the federal government’s procurement should go to indigenous SMEs.
According to him, this would create access to markets for indigenous businesses and foster expansion.
Speaking on the impediments to technology and innovation in Nigeria, Yusuf, proposed steps to enable government foster innovation in-country. He said a major bottleneck to innovation and innovative practices in Nigeria was the lack of a structured process to foster innovation. He further explained that innovation remained an intentional process, not an accidental occurrence and most Nigerian companies and institutions prefer quick solutions and do not dedicate enough time and resources to support innovation. He also identified a cultural fear of failure but stressed that one of the biggest constraints to innovation in Nigeria is the lack of investment in STEM education – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.
“Technology innovation will be driven by technology and STEM education plays a major role in achieving this. With STEM education at the basic levels, we can begin to lay the foundation for pervasive innovation.
“In South Korea, kids learn software programming in kindergarten; while for most Nigerian kids, kindergarten is where they learn ‘A for apple’ and ‘B for ball’.
“If South Korean kids, from kindergarten, already start programming, you can imagine what they will be doing at eighteen. We need to invest in STEM education and Research and Development.
“We should create linkages with the private sector to enable commercialisation of research outcomes, and then the government should provide access to markets.
“When we do all these things, we will remove some of those barriers to innovation’ he said.
Yusuf, charged the Nigerian government to improve Ease of Doing Business, provide access to the market, support SMEs through federal procurement like other developed countries such as the United States and massively support Research and Development through grants, comparable with South Korea that spends 4.39 per cent of its GDP on research and development.