The National Director of BNI Nigeria, Mr. Chimaobi Agwu, last week in Lagos, stated that very few countries have succeeded in implementing strategies for sustainable SME development. Mr. Agwu echoed this at the welcoming address to the 2015 National Business Conference hosted by BNI Nigeria and held at the LCCI Conference Centre in Alausa, Ikeja. He said that while everyone appreciates the role of SMES very few are actually being practical in alleviating the problems of the sector. Urging support from the large corporate as well as the various tiers of government, he said that “unless the sector is given the right support and enabling environment, we would continue to be an import dependent country for a very long time to come”.
Delivering his address, Mr. Agwu observed that estimates suggests that more than 95% of businesses across the world are SMEs, accounting for approximately 60% of private sector employment. This buttresses the need to continue to develop the SMEs as the foundation of the economy. In Nigeria survey from SMEDAN shows that SMEs contribute 47% of the GDP and 25% of employment, a situation below the global average of 52% and 60% respectively. Commenting on this, Mr. Agwu said what makes the figure from SMEDAN very interesting is the fact some sectors have no large corporates but only SME operators, an example being the Nollywood film industry. Thus, if the right framework is implemented, the growth and employment issues could become forgotten issue.
Making his presentation, the Director General of Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr. Muda Yusuf, said that in realization of the role and place of SMEs in Nigeria, the Chamber has initiated various programs for the sector’s development. This includes training and mentoring programs, incubation center, support in securing funding, assistance in quality assurance and the annual Lagos International Trade Fair. He stated that an efficient SME sector improves the competitiveness of large companies and to this end, the Chamber is collaborating with Obafemi Awolowo University, University of Lagos, the German Government and the Industrial training Fund on vocation training for members companies of LCCI.
The bank of Industry, BOI, on its part said that it is in a bid to address some of the challenges hindering the growth of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the country that it signed service agreement with 122 Business Development Service Providers (BDSPs) to drive the SME sector in the country. Speaking at the conference, Mr. Obaro M. Osah, Regional Head, BOI, Lagos, said that “beyond providing financing support, the Bank of Industry also provides business and financial advisory services to both current and prospective customers”.
He said that “the BOI-USAID AGOA Resource Centre is one of the arms through which the Bank provides this service, while the Bank has a strong partnership with the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) under the National Enterprise Development Programme (NEDEP). BOI also recently signed an MOU with 10 SME-friendly Commercial Banks to support SMEs with on Working Capital needs”, he concluded.
Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Specialty Natural Flavors Company and pioneer Chief Executive Officer of Teragro, the Agribusiness subsidiary of Transnational Corporation of Nigeria, Dr Jide Adedeji, urged business owners to look inward and focus on the most essentials to succeed. According to him, business is a risk and business in Nigeria is riskier because the enabling environment and supporting framework are weak.
The 2015 National Business Conference which attracted members of the private sector, business owners and entrepreneurs is an annual event hosted by BNI Nigeria and meant to address some specific issues confronting businesses as well as providing an interactive and networking forum. Concluding the conference, Mr. Agwu urged business operators to leverage on networks and relationships such as provided by BNI as this can expand their business. He stated that “business at its core is based on relationships and that is what successful business owners have consistently done over time to remain relevant and succeed.”