World MSME Day: Experts Urge N’Delta Govs to Embrace Digital Economy

Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja

Governors of the six Niger Delta states have been urged to embrace info-tech and provide funding to support the growth and sustainability of MSMEs.

The Director of Agriculture, African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Martins Fregene, made the appeal in Port Harcourt at the 4th Niger Delta MSME Summit/Bootcamp, while offering tips to young MSME owners on financial management and access to funding.

Fregene noted that many lending banks were hedging from giving loans to MSME owners because of a number of uncertain issues, including a lack of clear tax record.

“Some of these banks are willing to lend, but they are afraid that MSMEs may not pay back,” he said.

Also the Director-General of the BRACD Commission, Ambassador Joe Keshi, decried the lack of government presence and support for platforms such as the Niger Delta MSMSE Summit which was set up to build a culture of entrepreneurship among young people.

“Sooner or later, government will not be employing people anymore. It is business that we will depend on,” Keshi, who was the Special Guest at the event which also coincided with the 2024 World MSME Day, said.

In his goodwill message, the CEO, Fibresol Nigeria Limited, Otuya Okecha, urged state governments and intervention agencies to create tech hubs to address digital illiteracy among MSME owners, noting that the over 60 per cent of the Niger Delta population were young people.

He also recommended to state governments to embrace digital stack models to gather data of citizens.

The CEO, Mosilo Group and Chairman of Heritage Times (HT), Moses Siasia, expressed regret that despite being the country’s economic mainstay, a lot was not happening in the Niger Delta region to empower young people.

He lamented the lack of deliberate policies from state governments for MSME development. 

Siasia said: “This is a purely private-sector initiative. We have done this for the past four years; we have seen the impacts made, and we will continue. Over the years, politicians have nourished young people in the Niger Delta region with failed promises. Leaders must deliberately create an atmosphere to give the young people hope and a voice. But we will no longer wait for the government. This initiative shall be sustained with the few strategic partners that have encouraged us over the years. We must begin to create opportunities for young people.”

He commended the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Bank of Industry (BoI) and Century Group for their consistent support of the Niger Delta MSME Summit over the years.

In his opening remarks, the Coordinator of the Niger Delta Young Professionals (NDYP), the organisers of the Summit, Gerald So-George, noted that the initiative had empowered over 2,604 individuals with personal grants, the 2020 COVID-19 Fund, NCDMB loans and CBN Agric Loan Scheme. Approximately 1,820 businesses had benefitted, creating a cumulative total of about 8,319 direct and indirect jobs.

The 2024 Niger Delta MSME Summit/Bootcamp also had strategic panel sessions where panelists shared their thoughts on how partnerships can push the growth of agriculture, and how funding can be unlocked. The event had over 1,000 participants from across the Niger Delta region.

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