Christmas period is fast approaching. In the next few days, the entire country will be in a festive mood with the citizenry engaging in buying and selling for the yuletide.
Many operators of the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the country have started stocking their shops with goods, mostly food items and Christmas gifts, in anticipation for yuletide patronage.
In this week’s edition of My Business, The Tide looks at the viability of SMEs during this year’s Christmas period, especially in the face of the recent lockdown occasioned by Coronavirus pandemic, the EndSARS protests and the new economic recession in the country. How have SME operators managed to stock their shops in preparation for the Christmas period and what are the chances of getting good patronage?
Our senior correspondent, Lilian Peters’ chats with some SME operators in Port Harcourt provide answers to these questions. Read on:
Pastor (Mrs) Joy Ezekiel Udoh of ‘Joyce Fashion’, said the sign of season sales were yet to be seen compared to the previous years.
She said, “ both the buyers and shop owners are complaining of lack of money in the system to even stock their shops.
“We only went to market to handpick small goods to keep the business going. Those that managed to buy did that on credit”.
She noted that the increase in price of fuel has further complicated the situation, as the cost of transportation of goods has gone up by 100 per cent.
The owner of ‘Joyce Fashion’ noted that the pump price of N170 per litre “is adding to the sufferings of the business men and women who have not even recovered from COVID-19 and #EndSARS losses.
“The situation is not funny, government needs to help the poor masses”.
A shoe dealer in Mile 3 Market, Diobu, Mr Uchenna Mgbeoji, said the year has already gone, “because COVID-19 changed everything in addition to the #EndSARS protest.
“Things are very expensive in the market and everybody is in trouble. By this time in the previous years, the season was at the peak for Christmas sales but now, the shops are empty because we do not have the money to stock our shops.
“The fall of Naira and the closure of Nigerian borders also contributed to what is happening to SMEs these days.
“SMEs manage to stay in business without making gains. How do you see business men and women staying at home for more than six months in the name of Coronavirus and #EndSARS protest?
“Remember that we paid shops and house rents, in addition to security and other fees. Now, schools have opened, how do we cope with all these problems?”, he asked.
The shoe dealer who also manages a fish pond said that the cost of feed has gone so high that the feed that used to cost N5,300 now cost N7, 300.
“In other countries like Dubai, government takes care of the people but here in Nigeria, the people take care of government which does not care whether you make gains or not”, he said.
The Managing Director of Bernice Boutique, Ewere Ochie, said, “I prefer the time of President Goodluck Jonathan when the Dollar was N170 with the Nigerian borders open for business.
“The prices of clothes are too high in the market, coupled with the transportation hike due to fuel increase.
“They said we are in second recession, as if we had ever gotten out of the first one. This government has failed us. We are only living by the grace of God.
“All we see (hear) are promises upon promises without the fulfillment. Since President Buhari took over office, l have not travelled out of the country to buy clothes for my boutique”.
Bernice Boutique Director said that there was no basis for comparison between this year’s Christmas period and the previous ones in the face of recent COVID-19 pandemic and the #EndSARS protest, which according to him, affected the economy and livelihoods.
“Most people lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic and even borrowed money to pay school fees for their children. So, which one would they use for clothes?
“Sometimes, we open from morning till night without anybody coming to ask for even prices. It is that bad.
She said that SMEs operators, in addition to the cost of running business, suffer the payment of different fees to different bodies who often come to embarrass them.
Experts Advocate Diversified Funding Portfolios For Entrepreneurs
Some investment experts have tasked entrepreneurs on embracing diverse funding portfolios available in the capital market, government institutions and other sources to engender scalability and sustainability of their businesses.
They gave the advice recently at a Youth in Business Forum (YIBF) with the theme: “Accessing Government and Institutional Funding,” in collaboration with Morgan Capital Group, in Lagos State.
The Senior Vice President, Business Development, FMDQ Group, Ms Jumoke Olaniyan, said the possibilities of growing money by taking advantage of debt instruments and equity in the financial markets by startups, were endless.
Olaniyan said that some of the products in the financial markets included equities, debts, securities, bonds, commercial papers, promissory notes, alternative assets.
She, however, stressed the need for entrepreneurs to be eligible and their businesses properly positioned via the adoption of the eight Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) octagon principles to spur investments.
Olaniyan said, “This is why it is important that your documents, financials, strategies and other business model metrics would be reviewed for the different stages to access capital.
“Crowdfunding short term products are easier to access at this startup stage before you grow in stage to bonds and other higher investments.
“The SME octagon principles, which looks at governance, transparency of business documentation, business structure and separation of business funds from personal funding would keep you in check for operations.
“Management must be open to advise from professional parties and the business must have its unique selling point.
“The drivers of the business, which is the impact of supply chain and demand on your business, must be noted and, lastly, discipline, which encompasses all the other points seeing that money business is a trust business, must not be neglected.”
A member, Rising Tide Africa, a group of female angel investors, aimed at supporting startups, Mrs Hetty Ugboh, said the group was committed to supporting businesses from seed to pre-series investments with funding of between $20,000 and $100,000.
Ugboh said companies with developed products and markets under the finance, agriculture, healthcare, education, technology or an essential service, would be considered for investments.
She, however, stressed that such startups must meet at least three of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in its operations.
“There’s a need for the right board, advisors and the individual passion for the business to ensure a scalable product.
“Paystack started with angel investors and venture capitalists, but because their idea solved a problem, they got investments from several investors globally running into millions of dollars,” she said.
The Managing Director, Morgan Capital Group, Mr Dipo Olomofe, said the invested funds must be used to expand the businesses and must not be diversified to other affairs.
Olomofe also tasked start-ups to adopt accurate financial models to help revenue projection for MSME during pitch for investments.
In his part, the Managing Director, Infrastructure Bank Plc, Mr Ross Oluyede, said given the potential role of the SMEs in developing Nigeria’s economy, successive governments had pursued several policy options towards promoting the sector.
He, however, noted that a good number of SMEs in Nigeria were not aware of the existence of the different sources of funds for SME development; the incentives available for them; and how to source funds from banks.
He stated that entrepreneurs must be able to identify and understand policies on how to access the various government intervention funds beneficial to the business.
“To stimulate long-term private sector funding for the transportation space, the Federal Government provided N25 billion, which can be assessed through the bank and it has been playing a catalytic role over the last 10 years.
“This means there are diverse government sponsored intervention funds available for SMEs and the Youth in Business to take advantage of.
“However, poor business planning, inadequate record keeping are part of the challenges facing applicants for government intervention funds,” he said.
AfDB Advocates Increased Finance Against Climate Change, Food Insecurity
The African Development Bank (AfDB), has called for increased financing to reduce the effects of climate change and food insecurity in Africa.
AfDB President, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, made the call when he led a delegation from the bank to the just-concluded 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York.
A statement issued by the bank’s Communication and External Relations Department in Abuja, said Adesina played an active part in discussions leading to an international declaration to end malnutrition and stunting.
The statement said climate change was a recurring theme in many of the bank’s discussions, especially the need for urgent financing for the countries most at risk.
Speaking at the second ministerial meeting on climate and development, the AfDB president joined U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry and other participants.
“They joined in urging developed countries to deliver on the pledges they made at COP26 in Glasgow under the 2015 Paris Agreement.
“Adesina echoed the call for urgent action and warned that Africa was suffering.”
The statement quoted Adesina as saying “Africa is choking, and is in serious financial distress for what it did not cause.
“There must be a greater sense of urgency, not in talking, but in doing and delivering resources that the continent needs very desperately.”
The AfDB President also called for a restructuring of African economies to be productive with education, infrastructure, and energy.
Accordingn to him, it is to make sure we have productive sectors that can use people’s skills and absorb that into the economy.
Kerry said, “we are late. we must act. I’m fed up with saying the same thing too many times in the same meetings. Business as usual is the collective enemy. Its time for action.”
The general assembly, however, allowed the bank group to demonstrate particular leadership in efforts to end hunger, nutrition, and stunting across Africa.
SMEDAN Trains, Empowers 40 Retirees On Special Skills
The Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) says about 40 retirees from Ondo State were trained and empowered under specialised skills development for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME).
Director-General/CEO, SMEDAN, Mr Olawale Fasanya, at the closing ceremony of the specialised skills development for MSME in Akure, said the programme took place in the six geo-political zones in the country.
The Tide’s source reports that the retirees, who were indigenes of Ondo State and drawn from Federal and State civil service, were empowered with vulcaniser machines, sewing machines and shoe-making tools, according to their areas of specialty.
Fasanya explained that the programme was specially developed to address boredom and lack of financial security, which were some of the major challenges confronting retirees.
He said it would support the retirees in attaining a stress-free retirement period and also ensure the development of new skills towards self-reliance and financial independence.
“I implore you to ensure you utilise the knowledge acquired from the vocational and entrepreneurship training to start or improve your existing business and take it to the next level.
“Most importantly, the equipment the agency is providing for you to run your business is expected to be used for the business and not to be diverted to other uses or sold out rightly.
“The agency’s business development service team will always be with you and support you to effectively translate the newly acquired knowledge, information and equipment to visible and concrete improvements in your business,” he said.
Fasanya also assured stakeholders that the agency would continue to support all entrepreneurs toward ensuring job creation, wealth creation, poverty alleviation and food security.
Earlier, the Commissioner for Commerce, Industry and Cooperative Services, Mrs Lola Fagbemi, lauded SMEDAN for the various training and opportunities offered to the state in the past.
Fagbemi, who was represented by Mrs Funmilayo Akinola, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, urged the retirees to use the training to benefit themselves, the state and Nigeria in general.
“The state is looking for a more robust collaboration in the area of training our MSME/artisans, likewise, we strongly relied on the agency’s expertise to develop our local technology,” she said.
Responding on behalf of the trainees, Mrs Comfort Bosede, from Ilaje Local Government Area, appreciated SMEDAN for the training and promised judicious use of the tools given as empowerment for the retirees.
“I was trained as a vulcaniser and I am delighted to be the first female vulcaniser. We were taught both academically and practically.
“We were taught to market our business, then to keep records to know our income and gain. Also, we are to plan and register our business,” she said.
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