By Stephen Ubanna
It is no longer news that the nation’s economy is at the brink of Collapse due to the Wuhan Town in Hebei Province of the Asian country of China emerged Coronavirus pandemic. The situation is so worrisome that the leadership of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, MAN, have given an insight of what is happening at the sector after a survey that ‘’ there is a sharp decline in the Manufacturing sector’’ .
The sharp decline in production had been attributed by business analysts to the Companies inability to access the international market, particular, the Chinese market, to procure needed raw materials and chemicals to sustain their plants because of the associated anxiety and uncertainty surrounding the global and the national economic dynamics as a result of the COVID 19 .
MAN Chief Executive Officers Confidence Index, CEOCI, on the economy between January and March , 2020, speaks volume. The Manufacturing Companies Confidex Index, MCCI, survey, according to MAN, in its most recent report shows a significant decline from 51.9 percent recorded in the last quarter of 2019 to 44.4 percent, which is a pointer that the economy is heading to a total crisis.
The lock down of Lagos, the nation’s Commercial nerve center, Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, and Ogun, because of its proximity to Lagos by President Muhammadu Buhari for two weeks and later extended by another two weeks, may not have helped matters, as many manufacturing Companies operating in Lagos and Ogun, particular, were forced to shut their plant to obey the government directive both at the Federal and state levels.
This may have informed why the Association had called on the Katsina state born Nigeria President to grant blanket waivers on import duties and Tax to manufacturers to take delivery of their raw material and chemical imports that had arrived the country since February 2020 and those that are due o arrive the country in July , 2020.
Investigation by the Value News show that the Container vessels carrying the imported raw materials and Chemicals for the Companies that had placed order for it may be arriving the Lagos and south east in July due to the COVID 19 problem. It is not surprising why the leadership of MAN are asking the president to grant members of the Association waivers for their imported raw materials and chemicals between February and July, 2020.
They may have been encouraged to do so as the President had granted blanket waiver to medical equipment, supplies and Pharmaceutical drugs importers to take delivery of their cargoes that had been abandoned at the ports since the outbreak of the disease in the country last February without payment of duties and taxes.
MAN also want the Buhari led government to Fastrack the provision of basic infrastructural facilities, particular, accessible road networks along the corridor of vital domestic trade hubs for transportation of raw materials manufactured products and agricultural products to the ports for export to the West and Central African countries, Europe and the North American country of the United States, US.
Given the support which many manufacturing Companies are currently enjoying in their respective countries in this trying and difficult times in order to resume production, the MAN leadership, has urged the government not to turn its back on the manufacturing sector to guarantee their survival in order not to throw thousands of their workers into the Labour market. Recall that between 2009 and 2011, 800 Manufacturing Companies had closed shop in the country. There are fears that the situation may be worse with the current health crisis.
In spite of the problem which the blue Chip manufacturing Companies may be have having in the recent time as result of the lockdown necessitated by COVID 19, ifie Sekibo, the Heritage Bank , Managing Director had said that the country’s economy could still bounce back to reckoning with the ‘’partnership, truth, character and commitment to businesses by the micro, small and medium scale enterprises, SMEs.
Sekibo, who could not hide his feelings noted that for the SMEs to continue to be in business and remain the ‘’bedrock of any vibrant economy the players must continuously reinvent themselves, complement each other, dream big, possess cutting edge ideas and think and before venturing into any business’’.
The Heritage Bank boss who spoke at a Virtual Conference Platform at the upgrade Submit 2020 on the theme: Converting Ideas into Reality with focus on ‘’SMEs’’, emphasized the need for the EMEs ’’ to look inward, learn and relearn , possess the spirit of self sacrifice and believe’’ .
Advising the Entrepreneurs to be bold and not be afraid to fail in any business venture, he opined that ‘’failure is not failing and therefore, should not give the investors the impression that they have failed in the business’’.
He regretted that the major problem of SMEs in Nigeria has been too much of individual focus , rather than holistic or intergenerational focus as obtained abroad, particular, China, where there are so many SMEs. Take for instance the production of Face Mask with the out-break of the COVID 19, in the country. 900 SMEs, were said to have emerged by assisting each other to produce for export to curb the spread of the deadly disease in the world. These SMEs are helping to revamp the Asian country economy which was at its lowest ebb as a result of the Corovirus pandemic, forcing Xi Ping , the Prime minister to give his words to pump over $400 back into the economy as part of the measures to bring the economy back on the path of sustainable growth.
It is not surprising why he has advocated the need for the government and Financial Institutions to empower the SMEs as an agent of development. He noted that the bank’s major cardinal point is providing support to young men and women to succeed in any area of their chosen business. , The Rivers state born top banker averred that ‘’this is the only way the society and the economy can grow, thereby moving the nation from poverty occasioned by COVID 19 to a prosperous economy’’.
Appealing to the SMEs to take advantage of their products for seamless banking transactions to boost their business like Stockit, HBPadie and the newly launched 24/7 alternative electronic Platform via USS Code *745#. He stated that the bank had encouraged hundreds of SMEs to adopt the self service Platforms like *745*0#, Funds Transfer within the bank to boost their business over the years.
He may have dampened the enthusiasm of some SMEs, who may have wanted to approach the bank for financial support when he revealed the areas of the economy in which investors could be helped. Fela Ibidapo, the bank Divisional Head, Corporate Communications disclosed that the sectors range from agriculture value chain businesses such as farming, poultry, snail farming, , cottage industry, mining, and solid minerals to creative industry, tourism, arts and crafts . This is in addition to Information Communication Technology, ICT.
Many believe what the bank is doing to support the SMEs are not new. This because Tony Elumelu Foundation, popular, TEF, alone, had committed, 100 million , between 2010 and 2020, which had been spent to sponsor 10,000 SMEs, in terval of 10 yeaar, on the average of sponsorship 1,000 young men and women Entrepreneurs that cut across the African Continent yearly. The Magazine Findings shows that at the end of the 10 years for the execution of the vision by Tony Elumelu, a Philanthropist and Chairman of the United Bank plc, a Pan African Bank , over 10,000 African SMEs had benefited from the Fund.
The Money Deposit Bank was said to have also been very supportive in propping SMEs in the country and the 20 African countries where it has functional branches. Recall that before TEF and UBA plc, began to give financial support to the SMEs, operating in the country, they were closing shop at the slightest financial problem. Take for instance between 200 and 2013, 130 SMEs manufacturing firms were said to have folded up. The situation has changed for good with the intervention of TEF and the banks, particular, UBA.