German Envoy Advocates Support for SMEs, Starts-Up

…says they are the backbone of the economy

Funke Olaode

Nigeria has been urged to offer increased support to Small Scale Enterprises (SMEs) including starts-ups in the country, with those enterprises described as the backbone of the nation’s economy. The Consul-General of the Federal Republic of Germany, Mr. Weert Borner, made this call recently during an event tagged the Nigeria-German Start-Up Exchange Dinner Reception hosted at the German Consulate Office in Victoria Island, Lagos.

According to Boner, him, the impact of start-up and small enterprises in engaging human capital on a large scale by creating jobs has led to the growth of various economies across the globe.

While throwing more light on why the SMEs should be prioritised, the German envoy noted that if you study both Nigerian and German economies, there is a kind of parallel in terms of using SMEs and starts-up to lift the economy.

“If you go into statistics, most companies that are creating most of the jobs or are offering most of the vocational trainings are not the big ones, they are the many small ones. And the startups are definitely part of it, there are many young, innovative people creating those business models for the present and the future,” he said.

The German-Nigerian Startup Exchange Programme, the first of its kind, was conceptualised early this year between March and April when 10 start-up entrepreneurs and founders from Nigeria went to Germany for 8 weeks. In return, 10 start-up entrepreneurs from Germany also visited Nigeria.

According to Borner, the collaboration between the two countries is a win-win situation as the exchange programme provided insights for participants on how companies operate while broadening their horizon about possibilities, adding that listening to the testimonies of the participants indicated it was a successful collaboration. “The states in Germany have been in a constant transition from the old heavy industries, coal, steel, etc. to a much more diversified, high tech and cleaner industry on a grand scale. “And of course, startups are part of this development, some of the companies here in Lagos, German companies as well as Nigerian companies, also offered factory visits and special meetings during which they got a deeper impression of those data.”

Borner further seized the opportunity to thank members of staff at the German Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Ministry of Economic and Innovation and the Nigerian-German Chamber of Commerce for supporting the initiative.

In an exclusive interview with THISDAY, one of the participants and Managing Director, Phiozah Ltd, Princess Echefu, an engineering service provider, was thankful to the organisers of the programme. “It was an eye-opener for us. You know when you are in a small pond, you think you are doing so well. Now, going there, and seeing other startups and what they do, we learnt a lot. We were able to have meetings with other start-ups in some of their start-up hubs. We had pitch sessions where we presented our ideas. And the goal actually is to look for a bridge between Nigeria and Germany in terms of collaboration when it comes to business and grow from there. So, the programme has inspired and makes me want to do so much more, it has provided me with the motivation to grow.”

Corroborating Echefu, Chief Executive Officer, Africa Medical Market Place, Augusta Okafor, who runs an e-commerce B2B platform that connects global medical manufacturers, suppliers and distributors across 54 countries, with the whole essence being to reduce avoidable deaths, said it has been quite an innovative experience. “The experience for starts-ups has strengthened our knowledge on how to do things better. And most importantly, there were situations of building bridges which are very impactful for what we do.”

Speaking about the German Consulate, she added: “They have done a very good job, not just for their citizens but for us as Africans. The experience garnered have opened new vistas in terms of opportunities. And since we came back from this trip, our businesses have never been the same.

Thanking Nigerians for their warmth and hospitality, a German, Kai Wageringel of Detechgene who is part of the one-month Start up Exchange Programme to Nigeria, said he is going back to Germany with good memories. “It is been amazing actually. I mean I came here a bit stereotypic, a bit more close, a bit shy, but the Nigerian people, they force you to open up. I mean, they are so warm and so welcoming and it is really easy to open up. It is so amazing. I personally have learned to be a lot more open and communicate with people better,” he said.

Explaining what his company does, the Detechgene based in Cologne, Germany, said he provides point of care diagnostics, adding: “The kinds of test kit systems similar to the ones that people used during the pandemic. Only that we aim to make much more accurate and more precise test. It is a lab-like precision but you can do it at home.”

Praising Nigerian youths’ tenacity and vibrancy, Wageringel said Nigerian start-ups terrain has a lot of potential and as a company, he would like to harness some of that potential. “Well, in terms of what the market here looks like, I feel it has a great potential, for point of care diagnosis specifically. The test systems that are being used here can be optimised and that is why we are so grateful for the opportunity here. We were able to already make some contacts, to get into the industry and we already got in contact with some people who distribute test equipments to hospitals.”

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