MSME in Nigeria need more than Funding – Dr Wale

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Dr Olawale Anifowowe

Dr Olawale Anifowose is the General Manager, Programs and Partnerships with the Enterprise Development Centre of the Pan Atlantic University, Managing Director of Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Nigeria and a member of the Executive Committee for GEN Africa and member of the executive advisory board for Nigeria Climate Innovation Centre. He is an alumnus of the Lagos Business School and also an alumnus of the US State Department, International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) on SME Development. He is a member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing UK, a certified Microsoft BYB trainer and also Entrepreneurial Coach from Learning and Skills Management Centre (LSM), United Kingdom. Olawale led the setting up a youth mentoring program -Startup Hub for fresh graduates in 2015. Olawale facilitates Sales/Marketing and Soft skills modules at EDC.

He specializes in Business networking, program development, startup mentoring, marketing facilitation, strategic planning, Business plan evaluation, business modeling, curriculum design, SME capacity building

His deep knowledge in Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Development led the insight into the Nigerian SME contained in this interview with OUR ECONOMY TODAY. Except

How can you compare the SME in Nigeria to that of countries like India, Bangladesh and Thailand

It is always interesting when we begin to compare the SME in Nigeria to some of the countries you mentioned. It is important to put certain things in perspective. That maybe we make us understand how different we are in some regard.

In Nigeria we have a population of 200 million and Indian have a population of a billion people. In Nigeria, there are about 14,000 millionaires while in Mumbai alone there are about 68,000 and with other cities like in New Delhi, is about 353,000 millionaires. That shows you how different that country is from Nigeria. According to NDIC, 98% of Nigerians have less than N500,000 in their accounts. Only about two million people are earning more than 10,000 dollars which is about 3.3m a year. So I always get careful when am comparing Nigeria to other countries.

In Nigeria today, Small business account for more than 60% of employment. It is better we start to compare States in Nigeria rather than comparing Nigeria with other nations. Better still let’s talk about our policies how they affect the SMEs. Example is the recent border closure, I personally expected Nigeria to put in place adequate mechanism for production and distribution of rice before closing the border. These are some of the issues we need to be talking about.

I know EDC have championed the course of SME for some time now, how will you appraise your impact so far?

One of the ways one can measure impact is when you see the people and the businesses thriving. In actual measurement, the much we have done still seems nothing compared to the so much more that still need to be done. Some of those things which people consider as fantastic is seen by us as a drop in the ocean. Imagine if EDC is not just to provide training but also provide funding opportunities. We found out that after providing these training on strategy and processes, the trainees becomes more hungry and want to scale up and that requires adequate funding. Accessing funding is one of the major challenges a lot of businesses still face. I know the government is doing something to provide funds through BOI, Development Bank and other channels. However, consider that there are about 13 million MSME in Nigeria and only about 38 thousand have been able to access funds. You can see how small it is that we consider as progress.

As critical as funding is to MSME, there are other bigger challenges. Small business owners still complain of things like double taxation, high operating cost, poor market structure and so many others. I give you a example, There is a product in Nigeria – a yoghurt which has been in the market for some time now with 3 to 4 outlets in Lagos. The owner of that product had the opportunity of opening a similar business in the US. The progress she made within one year makes the progress she has made in Nigeria in over three years a joke. All she needed to do is to get into a food incubator program and with that program she was provided with every tool and channel she needed to get her product to the market. There is already a well established channel with middlemen and retailers. Simply agree on a price, say 30 dollars, the middle man takes 5 dollars and the retailers takes 2 dollars making a market price of 37 dollars. With this channel, you can focus on quality and don’t have to bother about marketing, tax and every other irregularities that plague Nigeria SMEs. In Nigeria, small business people still do end-to-end and this surely creates gaps in quality. MSME in Nigeria need established structures and channels. Government Agencies need to provide these for the environment to be conducive. MSME in Nigeria need more than funding.

(Cuts in) How can this conducive environment be achieved?

Through policies. I do sincerely hope that the newly constituted economic team will have their reports and submissions implemented. Come to think about it, there are have been several committees in the past whose advices where not implemented. I advice that government should try and implement work of experts put together for a purpose.

How is EDC collaborating with other bodies in working with SMEs?

We realize very well that it is almost impossible to achieve the vision and mission we have in EDC of building a network of entrepreneurial leaders that are committed to continuous learning process and business integrity without collaborating with other stakeholders especially the government. We are an organization that works with partnership. In the last 16 years that EDC has been established, we have continuously partner with anyone with clear objective on building the SME in Nigeria. For example, EDC has worked with the World Bank in the last ten years and that helped us to set up a lot of things we are doing right now. EDC co-ran YouWIN program with other establishment including the World Bank from the Jonathan Administration even to the first year of the Buhari Administration. We have equally worked with other international organizations such as OXFAM, Coca-cola Africa Foundation, IFC and more recently with the Mastercard Foundation with an initiative to create 30million jobs for young people in Africa over the next ten years. In Nigeria, they focus on Agriculture and the Creative Industry.

EDC has worked with virtually with all the financial companies in Nigeria. Partnership is a necessity if you must make impact on the economy; no one organization can have it all, you have to partner. We are continuously going to partner with individuals and corporate organization to scale up the SME sector of Nigeria

What do we expect from EDC next?

We are looking at bringing together business services providers, business support organizations and small business promoters under one umbrella to discuss and develop a focus to work together for the growth of SME in Nigeria.

EDC decided to engage the Global Entrepreneurship Network, an organization developed by the UK and the US about ten years ago. EDC became part of the Network in 2010. The network hold entrepreneurship congress in different countries every year. Having attended several of these annual congresses, EDC decided to look at setting a local version of the Network in Nigeria as an umbrella to harness every resources available to the SME in Nigeria. That program is coming up from 16th to 22nd with series of activities across the country. A good number of government and private organizations are working with us.

We discovered that just holding trainings and providing funding for people is not enough. How can those businesses from entrepreneurship programs be supported and sustained?

This is also one of the areas that EDC is looking at even in our collaborations. It is true; you have trained someone and provided capital to start up the business, but 6 months, 1 year down the line what happens? EDC in this regard has developed a number of online tools and resources to help business owners to continue to learn and keep in touch with us, some are free while some require a token to sign up. Scaling it up, we have SME tool kit Nigeria which is an online toolkit that offers all of these learning resources, templates for different aspects of running your business; hiring, marketing, accounting, business planning and so on. The toolkit is enhanced with videos and even online market place where you can place your product for visibility.

Government should be thinking of how to use technology in an innovative way to engage young entrepreneurs to monitor and help sustain their business. They should engage technical experts to set up advanced technological platforms

Parting word

Nigerians need to love our own. We have a population of amazingly creative young people that need to be supported to excel especially in the creative industry. Today we all eat Chinese food and Thai food all of which were projected to the world through films and music. We need to take possession of our own and develop young Nigerians talents. Honestly, the creative industry need a deliberate attention to grow it

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