Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
The federal government has said small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) serve as the engine of growth and development of the nation, stressing the need to create awareness for the country to reap from the potential of the sector.
This came as it sensitised SMEs in the metals sector in the South-south geographical zone of the country on ways to improve their operations and access the N200 billion set aside to boost the operation of SMEs.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Abdulkadir Mu’azu, stated this at a one-day workshop on Simulation and Promotion activities of Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the Metals Sector held in Port Harcourt.
Mu’azu, who was represented at the event by the Director, Artisans and Small Scale Mining Department of the ministry, Mr. Patrick Ojeka, said the federal government’s focus was to diversify the economy with mineral and metal as a frontier.
He said the conduct of the workshop was appropriate and aimed at strengthening the developed strategies towards the growth and development of the SMEs in the sector.
“This sensitisation is for each geo-political zone in the country to sensitise those in foundering and fabrication industry for them to know their role in the economy and to contribute to the GDP of the nation.
“Government is making efforts to open channels for SMEs to access the N200 billion fund set aside for them to enable them improve their operations. The government is equally matching words with action in providing the windows which is the essence of this workshop, so that participants will be aware of the funds available for them,” he said.
According to the Permanent Secretary, government was focused on diversifying the economy using the mineral and metals sector as frontiers, thereby stimulating operators in the sector to improve their economy.
He said: “Government’s focus is on diversifying the economy with mineral and metals as frontiers, therefore, the conduct of this workshop is appropriate, aimed at strengthening the developed strategies towards the growth and development of the SMEs in the sector and to contribute to the GDP of the nation’s economy.
“This workshop will also identify the SMEs in the geo-political zones of the country and create a database of them and also encourage them to form and register themselves into associations and cooperatives with a view to approaching the government development and funding institutions for necessary interface and support to grow and develop the sector,” Mu’azu declared.
He stated that the ministry had analysed the major roles of SMEs in the metal sector and summarised the basic challenges ti include lack of capacity, non-availability of modern specialised equipment and funding.
“This workshop is expected to address these challenges and encourage entrepreneurs at the small and medium scale levels to improve their capacities to utilise metals and steel through the establishment of more furnaces of larger capacities leading to increased metals production and improved skills.
“This forum will also stimulate the SMEs on the approach and requirements for accessing grants and loans for the SMEs clusters. By this, metal sector cooperative societies can be established to ensure easier access to funding (Funding is the central challenge because of the stringent conditions of accessing funds from banks),” he added.
In his welcome address, the acting Director, Steel and Non-Ferrous Metals of the Ministry, said the workshop was to identify the metals sector SMEs in the selected states, inspect their operational processes and administer questionnaires to the operators to extract necessary information.
This, he said, would enable the ministry create a data base of SMEs in the various zones to help in the disbursement of funds and necessary information.