Today, we are looking at the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic, otherwise known as COVID-19, on Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the country. Although the COVID-19 lockdown has since ended in Nigeria, many small and medium entrepreneurs are still counting their losses.
Our correspondent went out to interact with different entrepreneurs in Port Harcourt about the ravaging effects of the pandemic on businesses and the way forward for SMEs and the economy at large. Below are the excerpts of their views and suggestions.
To Mrs Chinanu ldong-Esit Umanna, the Manager of Health Care Equipment Limited, in Port Harcourt, the SMEs “faced and are still facing challenges”, even after the lockdown.
Umanna said the issue of expired hospital materials, drugs and foodstuffs in the market deserved government’s urgent attention to safeguard the health and lives of the masses.
“Government needs to retrieve expired dugs, hospital equipment/consumables, foodstuffs and cosmetics from the SMEs and exchange them with new ones for the sake of the masses who are on the receiving end.
“The business men and women have lost so much that only the God-fearing ones would want to throw away the expired goods, when they have little or no business capitals.
“Selling expired drugs and equipment causes loss of lives and general damage to the society. So, government should act fast. Some go as far as changing the date of the goods”, she alleged.
Umanna stated the need for multinational companies to also help in retrieving and replacing expired drugs to help the SMEs which are battling to survive.
She also noted the need for credit facilities and sponsorship by mega companies to grow small and medium enterprises.
Mrs Umanna, however, reiterated the need for owners of businesses to be faithful in paying back money for credit supplies and loans to encourage government and mega companies that had made moves in this direction, adding that failure of one SME can affect other genuine ones.
Mrs Joy Nwakanma, Manager, Farijoy Technical Enterprises, Trans Amadi
The Manager of Farijoy Technical Enterprises, Trans Amadi, Port Harcourt, Mrs Joy Nwakanma, who deals on building materials and safety tools, said the re-opening of closed borders would go a long way in revamping SMEs.
Mrs Nwakanma, who is the Financial Secretary of Elekahia Pillars Association, noted that most building materials and technical tools came from outside the country.
According to her, the SMEs are suffering untold hardship due to unavailability of materials and business capital to start with again after the lockdown.
“SMEs paid for both house and shop rents during the lockdown without running their businesses for over five months. These payments were made from business capitals; this is why many shops are closed.
“There is need for the government to give entrepreneurs loans to enable people bounce back and be productive which will have outstanding effect on the economy of the country”, she said.
She also stressed the need for the government to establish factories that would produce local building materials, if the borders must remained closed, to promote SMEs in the country.
“We heard of loans, we filled forms and provided all the necessary documents but up till now, nothing has been done, but people are accessing the loans without stress especially in the northern part of this country.
“What we lost in five months cannot be recovered easily but a step in the right direction can go a long way in helping us and the society at large”, she added.
Mrs Nwakanma said that there was also the need for the government, associations, cooperatives and regulatory agencies to organise regular reorientation seminars for small and medium entrepreneurs in order to better the economy of the nation.
She advised business men and women not to give up in the face of the present challenges but to buckle up and continue to make efforts towards revamping their businesses.
Mr Simeon Ndubuisi, Sales Manager, S-Mone Global Company
To the Sales Manager of SI-MONE Global Company, Port Harcourt, Mr Simeon Ndubuisi, the pandemic resulted in increasing the cost of the goods, especially the technical and welding tools.
Ndubuisi said that the pandemic slowed down businesses and increased the rate of unemployment which was already a problem in the country.
“Technical equipment we bought at N100,000 now cost N180,000, while those we bought at N800 now go for N1.8 million turning the customers and SMEs to complainants.
“The youths are angry because things are very expensive and many shops are closed down because they used their business capital to survive during the COVID-19 lockdown”, he said.
The way forward, according to him, is for the government to assist small and medium entrepreneurs with grants and low interest loans to boost businesses.
He said, “I have applied for the Federal Government youth loan but have not been given anyone.
“Another way for SMEs to recover from the present economic situation is for the government to re-strategise and fund the system which will in turn restore the economic situation of the country to normal”.
Ndubuisi also noted the problem of high exchange rate on businesses, adding that the financial situation has sent many to early graves, while some shops are closed down.
“I planned to have branches in Abuja, Uyo and Lagos which will result in employing more workers but I am handicapped due to lack of funds.
“If I employ people in the three branches, it will also help to reduce unemployment in the society. If government helps the SMEs, the society will be a better place and crime would definitely reduce,” he stated.
Women Entrepreneurs And Business Efforts
Years back women derived pleasure in being full time house wives, working from one side of their homes to the other all day long.
They laboured in house keeping, sweating to take care of their children, husbands, relatives, homes and other things that mattered to their husbands, without being seen as support or contributing to the upkeep of their homes.
This scenario rubbed off on womanhood as parents found in difficult to train their female children but rather exposed them to trade and contribute to the training of their male siblings, with the strong saying that, “Women’s Education Ends In Kitchen”.
However, things started changing as the likes of Lady Koti and others stood their ground to achieve success in education, business and even politics changing the saying to, “ What A Man Can Do, A Woman Can Do Better.
The latter challenges women to make moves to acquire education, skills and whatever would help them to compete favourably with their male counterparts.
There is now no field where you will not see women taking their places beside their male counterparts at the professional and non-professional levels.
This week’s Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) edition, looks at how women are meeting the challenges of combining their duties as house wives with the provision of financial support to their families.
To Mrs Beauty Edafinkomi, who deals on Ok children clothing in Mile 1 Market, “it is disastrous for a woman to be full time house wife in this present age. A woman must work to support the family, no matter how small.
“When a wife is not doing anything to support her husband financially, it exposes a man to depression, especially in this harsh economic situation of the country.
“Without support, the man gets angry over little things and most times becomes aggressive when he thinks of house rents, school fees, upkeep, health and other financial pressures facing him without support”.
The children wears dealer reiterated that gone are the days when women sit at home doing only house chores.
Edafinkomi who has been in business for over 20 years now, said that, “majority of people selling in the market are women, adding that her business gives her joy, as well as make her independent.
“When I sit down, check and know that I have been able to survive without begging people for anything, it also helps me to take care of my family, while maintaining my intergrity as a christian”.
On how she has survived over these years, she said it has been the grace of God, hard work, commitment and consistency, adding that, “since President Muhammadu Buhari came into office, the prices of things have been unnecessarily very high due to border closure and other operational policies.
“Some women want to do business but have no capital, so government should help women especially widows by giving them soft loans. This will in turn impact the economy of the country”.
An entrepreneur in the medical industry, who owns Goodcare Medical store, Mrs Goodluck Uchemadu, a nurse by profession, said women are trying these days in business compared to those days when we had many full time house wives.
“Many women are even doing better than men in business. Maybe because of the hardship and challenges in the country.
“I have been in business for eight years now. To be an entrepreneur is good and it gives one confidence even before people who know you are contributing to the upkeep of the family.
“Even if your husband as a millionaire and tells you to sit at home and take care of the children, you can start doing online businesses and be solving some problems instead of asking him for every of your needs”, Uchemadu said.
According to the nurse, being active in business activities also helps one to stay healthy and keep fit, in addition to burning excess fats in the body system.
On the secret of business success, she said many women/men do not separate their business money from the one used for family upkeep, stressing, “there is need to keep records of business transactions. Keep records of your gains, losses, in and outflows of your capital.
She called on government to support business women/men with loans and grants, which she said would result to business expansion, creating more employment that would better the society.
A young mother/entrepreneur, Mrs. Gbenewa Pretty Godfirst, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Pentagon Touch Fashion Home said, “there are so many reasons why some women stay at home.
“After all, I work from home. Not everyone at home is idle. Gifted women need financial push. Being idle will lead to poverty. And I urge women to get up and work with their hands and relieve their spouse of some burden, so we will have less widows in the society.
“Apart from the challenge of the capital of a standard business, I will say women are putting in more effort in business than men. Most men prefer to die poor doing a white collar job than going into business. Especially those with certificates,”
The CEO, who said she started sewing at the age of seven with needles, noted that skills put food on people’s table, except the lazy ones who want to be begging to survive.
Skills have reduced unemployment “drastically. And I think the government should empower youths financially.
Mrs. Godfirst, who designs and makes shoes, bags, hangers, caps and more with Ankara materials said, in five years time, “I see God establishing me with the exact picture. He had given me. My products will be in every home in Nigeria”.
She noted that the traditional marriage wears of herself and her husband, even her maids were made by her, adding that finance has been her major handicap from attending fashion festivals.
By: My Business with Lilian Peters
Can Combining Business, Academics End Employment Menance?
Waiting for white collar jobs after education in Nigeria has driven many into frustration and depression. The rate of unemployment in the country keeps increasing that it has become very necessary for students to plan ahead of time.
This and other harsh economic situations necessitated The Tide visit some higher institutions to feel the pulse of students on being self-employed and reliant. Excerpts.
The Managing Director of Eddy World Skills, Mr Ihua Anebo Edwin, who is a master degree student from Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, said ,”I went into business since 2016, because I came to realise that unemployment is becoming the problem of the day”.
To Edwin, who is studying Home Economics and Tourism Hospitality Management, the need to start early would help him to overcome the problem of the day in the area of being self-employed.
“Instead of waiting for employment after my education, l will employ others to work for me and expand more. My target is for my business to grow more”, he said.
The MD, who is a fashion designer and also bakes, however noted that doing business in addition to academic pursuit is never an easy task but takes determination, “when you consider what you want to achieve in the future.
“I will continue with the business even after my education. This is why I work tirelessly to move out from the alarming unemployment list which is affecting the economy of nation”.
He noted that the harsh economic situation, in addition to high cost of things in the market, affects the progress of the business, coupled with the academic pursuit.
”Managing the business is a very big issue, sometimes I need to close down the business for academic work so that l will perform well in my examination.
“God has been helping me to meet up my targets. To be an entrepreneur in the university is good and helpful. The big companies we see today started as Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs)”, he added.
To the Chief Executive Officer(CEO) of Divinity Accessories, Divine Azubuike, who is an Electrical Engineering final year student of Federal Polytechnic Owerri, said doing business in the school gives him joy.
Azubuike said, “I started doing business since 2018, to make my own money and help myself in solving both my problems and other people’s problems”.
The CEO who salls wrist watches, belts, necklace and other accessories noted that being an entrepreneur in the higher institution makes one to be self reliant, in addition to becoming an employer of labour in the future.
On the effect of the high cost of things in the society, he said the, “ the price of dollars is affecting the business due to the fact that we buy and sell.
“With the value of dollar going so high, our purchasing power is reduced and profit is also affected.
“it is stressful, managing the business and pursuing my academics. Meeting up is some times difficult,
“I will love to continue my business as a side hustle except if it becomes bigger and better. My target is to own a large accessories shop that would employ many people”.
He reiterated that the rate of employment in the country called for students to take proactive measure in preventing depression after their education.
The CEO also advised students to try and do something for themselves, saying that complete dependence on parents makes a student to be lacking and backward.
Another entrepreneur, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Pearl’s Collection, Miss Shalom Ngozi Enyiazu, who deals on fashion said “, My Entrepreneurship ambition started in April, 2020 propelled by the desire to be a bit independent during the lockdown.
Pearl’s Collection CEO, said, “business amongst students has been quite challenging, but good as well. The only problem is that buyers tend to negotiate prices of items well below the selling price and some times you will end up running at losses”.
She said satisfying her customers and facing her education have not been easy, especially with the economic situation in the country.
Enyiazu, who is a level 300 English student of Ambrose Ali University,Ekpoma, Edo State, sells “unisex wears, shoes, sneakers, classic beddings and duvets and also import wears, bags and shoes from turkey and China.
“My target is to have branches at different cities in the nation and I am on the verge of meeting my target” .
On whether she will continue as an entrepreneur after her education, she said she would continue with both her business and career to make ends meet, taking into consideration the poverty that is ravaging the nation.
The CEO also noted that being an entrepreneur removes a person completely from moving up and down looking for white collar jobs after graduation.
My Business with Lilian Peters
SMEs And Loan Opportunities
In Nigeria, there has been gross under performance of the SMEs sub-sector which has impacted negatively on economic growth and development. This low output among other factors can be largely attributed to poor business financing.
To solve this problem, federal and state governments mapped out loans and grants to help the sector which, if achieved, would go a long way in boosting the economy.
The Tide went to town to examine the accessibility of loans by SMEs.
The Managing Director of Franco Bookshop, Mrs Franca Kalu, said she has heard and even filled different forms at different times without any tangible results.
Franco Bookshop boss noted that, “after COVID-19 last year, the news of the mapped out loans was a relief to many of us. I filled the different forms from different groups, thinking that I will use it to revive my business and overcome the terrible effect of the pandemic.
“Can you believe that up till now nothing has been done. We even paid some money to collect and return some of the forms. It is by the grace of God that my business is surviving”.
Mrs Kalu noted that she needed the loan to grow/expand her business, saying that there is need for the loan to be given to those it is meant for, in order to achieve the purpose of the loan, which is to grow SMEs.
“I heard that some people have received the money and many others whom the loan are meant for, are yet to see it.
“The best thing for government to do is to use people’s Bank Verification Number(BVN) which contains detailed information about everyone, to push the loans into business hands to avoid diversion of this fund.
“My business needs money and I know that if I am given loan l will do better than l am doing. It will be wrong for those in charge of the loans to do man know man”, she added.
To the Managing Director KAIEUN Concept, Mr Kenneth I. Akoma, the said business loans to the lock up shops owners around Mile 1 only exist in camera.
Akoma noted that he had applied both for federal and state government loans from different angles and wondered why the loans were difficult to come by here, while those in other geopolitical zones access the same loans with ease.
The MD said, “if not for God’s grace and intervention, it would have been difficult for me to continue after the lockdown; because l spent 98 percent of my business money on feeding and payment of shop rents.
“Government knows where the SMEs are. They should send delegates to the people to sensitise them and ensure that the loans are given to the people it is meant for and not the other way round.
“Many business men and women don’t even know that such loans exist and so the need for sensitisation. Many business men and women operate from hand to mouth”, he said.
He reiterated the need for the loans to be given to SMEs, saying that “business capitals are the problem of many businesses. If government shows concern and ensures that the problem is solved, the money would not go back to the hands of politicians and others.
“There is also the need for mentorship in the sector to ensure proper management and utilisation of the loans, when it would comes.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of NENOG Farms Nigeria Limited, Mr Nnadi Emmanuel Nwogu, said there was the need for SMEs to work with institutions to grow their businesses.
The CEO, who said the farm has the largest export demand for cassava produce, noted the need for government to support SMEs with business loans to enable enhanced performance in the sector.
This he said, would have multiple effect on Nigerian economy and also contribute meaningfully to the nation’s GDP.
“If Rivers State will take advantage of what the company has, it would drive away hunger from the state”, adding that SMEs are the life wire of every economy.
He also advised SMEs to leverage on the current available loans in the federal and state systems to help their businesses and also stressed the need to form co-operatives for easy access to business loans.
The CEO noted the need for business owners to partner with mega establishments for mentorship, which he said resulted to speedy development.
Business5 days ago
ANLCA Raises Alarm Over Foreign Dominance Of Business
Business5 days ago
Clearing Cost For Containers Jumps By 67%
Business5 days ago
SON, NCDMB Collaborate In Local Content Promise Greater Efficiency
Business5 days ago
NPA Bans Barge Movement At Night
Business5 days ago
Debt Servicing Gulps 86% Of Nigeria’s Revenue S’Africa Pays 20%
Business5 days ago
PenCom Declares Contributory Pension, Sustainable
Politics5 days ago
Section 84(12): Buhari, Malami Drag NASS To S’Court
Politics5 days ago
Enugu 2023: Ekweremadu Raises Alarm Over Alleged Plot To Arrest Supporters