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SMEs Remain The Hope Of Nigeria’s Economy – Entrepreneurs

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Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Insight Visualization Company (an architectural company), Mr. Samuel Effiong, has said that Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) remain the hope of Nigeria’s economy.
The CEO, who said this in an interview with The Tide in Port Harcourt yesterday, said the economy would be better if the SMEs would be well positioned and taken care of, adding that funding SMEs’ friendly policies will go far in achieving a healthy business driven environment.
This, he said, “would automatically boost the economy and make a better nation, and also reduce to the bearest  minimum the insecurity situation ravaging our nation”.
He reiterated the need for deliberate steps towards this end, saying that all the statements by leaders should be put into practice.
“Banks should also understand that SMEs form the major part of their customers, and that their growth would also bring more money to the banks”, he stated.
He expressed worry over the unbanked  population in the rural areas, adding that financial inclusion pursued by Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) are yet to be achieved.
He, therefore, called on entrepreneurs to make efforts to improve themselves and also keep good financial records to enable them access loans and grants.
In his contribution, the     Managing Partner of DANJOY Enterprises, Mrs Joy Dan Eke, said business financing among other factors have continued to limit the growth and expansion of SMEs in Nigeria.
“The High Cost of Credit facilities in addition to high interest rates,  maintenance costs and the demand for duly registered collateral obligations have played a major role in limiting the performance of SMEs.
“Inconsistency in government policies and bureaucratic bottlenecks experienced in the administration of incentives and support facilities from all levels of government are not left out.
“Also, the presence of multiple taxes as a result of levies and other tax expectations from the Federal,  State and Local Government Areas play a great role in slowing down the growth rate of SMEs in the country.
“Lack of or limited infrastructures like power supply, good roads, transportation system, raw materials and export constraints further fight against enterprises’ success”, she said.
Stressing that Nigerian government needs to sit up like other countries if they want to solve the problem of SMEs, she noted that businesses are well financed in some parts of the country than other parts, a situation, she said, that needs to be corrected in the interest of economic development.
Another entrepreneur,  Mr. Chidi Ikeji, who deals on building materials, said other countries who understand the power of SMEs set things on ground to better the smooth running of businesses which in turn drive the economies of those developed nations.
He stressed that entrepreneurs in Nigeria are exposed to various challenges, such as multiple taxation, lack of friendly policies, and  insecurity.

By: Lilian Peters

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Google Targets Africa’s Retail Businesses In New Initiatives

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Google has announced new initiatives to support small retail businesses in African countries, Nigeria inclusive.
The initiative is part of a month-long commemoration of International Micro, Small, and Medium-sized Businesses Day.
This, according to reports made available to The Tide’s source, includes a one-hour virtual training event, Shopping Small Business Summit, aimed at helping SMB owners develop skills and tools to compete online.
Topics,  the report say, will include e-commerce trends and digital marketing, and are open to all who register at g.co/events/shopping mall.
Google has also partnered with an open online course provider, Coursera, to develop an online career certificate course in digital marketing and e-commerce for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and is offering 1000 scholarships to Africans who wish to attend.
The certificate course is the latest in a series of initiatives aimed at preparing participants for entry-level jobs.
Google’s Country Director for West Africa, Juliet Ehimuan, said: “E-commerce presents an opportunity for small businesses in Africa to reach new customers and grow.
”Through the digital marketing and e-commerce career certificates and specialised training and 1000 scholarships, we want to assist small businesses in Africa to gain the expertise to connect online, expand their customer base and scale up.
“This month also sees the debut of Local Opportunity.  Finder is a new tool that evaluates a Google Business Profile and makes personalised recommendations for changes that a business owner may make to enhance how their business profile looks to consumers in Google Search.
“Also, the free, one-week-long Hustle Academy will this month  focus on essential skills that will help small and medium-sized retail businesses (SMBs) and  build the skills they need to grow”, she said.
Africa’s growing young population and urbanisation present huge expansion opportunities for small retail businesses.
South Africa has almost 2,000 shopping malls covering over 24 million square metres. Wholesale and retail are the third-largest contributors to Nigeria’s GDP, with more than 90 per cent of the industry made up of informal merchants, while Kenya, with an e-commerce market growth rate of 44 per cent in 2021, has seen a steady rise in the number of outlets over the last five years.
E-commerce markets in Kenya and Nigeria increased by 40 per cent and 30 per cent, respectively, in 2021, while online sales in South Africa increased by 66 per cent from 2019 to 2020, reaching more than $1.8 billion.
The report said: “As more consumers on the continent continue to search for goods and services online, it is critical that small retail businesses learn how to better harness online tools for growth.
“Google’s ongoing commitment to supporting small businesses in Africa is visible through initiatives such as Google Hustle Academy, Google Business Profile, Market Finder and Market Kit.
“The programmes  commemorating International SMB Day this month reaffirm Google’s dedication to ensuring that small retail businesses on the continent acquire the necessary digital technology tools and training to thrive and be more resilient”.

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Sanwo-Olu Advocates Economic Diversification, Non-Oil Exports 

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Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has called for economic diversification in Nigeria, saying that the country should shift from overdependence on oil and gas, to agricultural produce, solid minerals, chemical products, furniture and clothing as well as tourism, among others.
He also stressed the need for Nigeria to discourage over-reliance on mono-economic revenue, which is oil and scale up its exports, noting that a situation in which oil and gas consistently account for the bulk of government revenues and foreign exchange earnings, is not an ideal one.
Sanwo-Olu, who made the call at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) RT 200 Non-oil Export Summit in Lagos, said Nigeria has so much potential to scale up its exports, shifting from over-dependence on oil and gas to agricultural produce, solid minerals, chemical products, furniture and clothing, among others.
Commending  the CBN for organising a summit to promote non-oil exports in Nigeria, he said Lagos State is delighted to host the maiden edition of the strategic meeting.
“Lagos State is home to the biggest and most important sea ports in the country. There cannot, therefore, be any conversations about growing non-oil exports in Nigeria, without bringing Lagos State and our transport and logistics infrastructure into the picture. This is why I am pleased that Lagos is hosting the maiden Summit.
“For us as a government, a lot of the work we have been doing and still doing is aimed at improving the state of transportation infrastructure, to enable imports and exports, and generally bring down the cost of doing business.
“When goods for export get stuck on the roads and can’t make it to the ports, we have a big problem on our hands.
“There is a big price that the economy pays for these dysfunctions at all levels – from the small and large businesses whose goods are being exported to the people in the business of exports, to the users of our roads who have to waste valuable time in traffic because of worsening gridlock.
“It is, therefore, our responsibility, as governments, to ensure that we make the business of exporting (and also importing) as seamless as possible. Nigeria has so much potential to scale up its exports, shifting from over-dependence on oil and gas to agricultural produce, solid minerals, chemical products, furniture, clothing, and so on”, he said.
While stressing the need for Nigeria to scale up its exports, Sanwo-Olu said, “a country in need of foreign exchange has no business downplaying the importance of exports.
“We can do a lot to strengthen the Naira and our external reserves by focusing on our non-oil exports. This diversification also gives us immunity from the severe shock of depending on a limited pool of exports.
“I commend the Central Bank for making this a priority, through the launch of the Race To US$200 Billion FX Scheme (RT200), among other laudable initiatives.
“The RT200 FX Scheme seeks to generate as much as US$200 Billion in FX earnings, specifically from non-oil sources, over the next few years.
“I am aware that, so far, the Central Bank has approved the payment of billions of Naira to more than 100 exporters who have taken advantage of the scheme and have scaled up their non-oil exports of finished and semi-finished goods in line with it.
“I have no doubt that this scheme will grow from strength to strength, and deliver to an extent beyond the expectations of the Central Bank and the Nigerian economy.
“I urge exporters to readily take advantage of it. I also urge the Central Bank to continue to fine tune and strengthen this process, while also thinking of new and innovative initiatives that will achieve similar outcomes,” he stated.

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Fuel Hike Hits Agric Value Chain

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Chief Executive, Niji Group, Kolawole Adeniji  has said diesel price increase is hitting  the agriculture sector hard, and that fuel price increase is having a negative impact on agricultural production.
Farmers’ input costs, according to him, are skyrocketing, while fertiliser, pesticides, and herbicides,  have  seen staggering increases.
Expressing concern that this would impede  farmers’ ability to produce more food, he  said the diesel price increase came on the back of a sharp increase in other input costs.
He reiterated that diesel proce hike  has increased agricultural input costs, saying farmers are paying more for fuel.
According to him, consumers would be negatively affected, with the price increases set to drive up food inflation due to the additional transport costs, as well as adding additional strain on consumer spending due to increased personal transport costs.
President, Association of Micro Entrepreneurs of Nigeria (AMEN), Prince Saviour Iche, called on the government to intervene on the diesel price hikes to save jobs.
He said if nothing was done to help the industry, Nigeria  must brace for more job losses.
He noted that  diesel  price increase is putting pressure  on the entire small and medium scale business value chain and could lead to increased job losses.
According to him, profit margins were gradually shrinking, and it would be difficult for them to continue to absorb costs in the medium term if the situation does not improve.
“A lot of entrepreneurs are on life support. Don’t be surprised if we start buying a sachet of water for N20″, he said.
A  printer, Pastor Badebo Solomon, said the situation is grievous. According to him, “ If we are buying diesel for   N800 per litre and N24,000 for 30  litres, what can we achieve running the generator  for two hours? It is taking away the profit. It is sad the government is not  doing anything about it.’’

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