SMEs : Tony Elumelu Laughs Last As Government At Various Levels Cue Into His Policy Of Promoting Small Businesses

 By Elizabeth Chukwuma

Tony Elumelu: Chairman, UBA And Founder, Elumelu Foundation

 When Tony Elumelu , popular, TEF, Chairman  United Bank For Africa, UBA, plc, a pan African Bank and founder ,of  Tony Elumelu  Foundation, which he endowed with $100 million, to support  the growth of African Entrepreneurs  in the Small and Medium Scale Industries, for a ten-year period, the government both at the state and the Federal levels , which ought to have thrown their  weight behind it had  failed to do so.

 But five years of promoting of promoting the Foundation without government support,  thousands  of   SMEs Entrepreneurs , were said to have got the required  financial assistance  in Nigerian and other African countries to start their own  Enterprises, and thus generating employment Opportunities in their respective  countries.

Note that SMEs  have been globally  recognized  as engines  of rapid economic growth, wealth creation, employment generation and social inclusion. Ifeanyi Okowa, the governor of Delta state foresee the SMEs  as ‘’incubators of innovation  while providing  opportunities  for increased  participation  of women, particular,   in micro businesses. Indeed,  this is what Elumelu  may have realised early enough to have  launched the  Foundation.

Defined as businesses with less than 10 employed persons   and annual turnover of N20 million, Okowa, the Delta state governor, believes that’’ they are feasible  and attractive  to the mass of the people  seeking entrepreneurship, self- employment , livelihood incomes  and economic participation’’.

Yemi Osinbajo , a professor of Law and the country’s Vice President  and Godswell  Akpabio, a former governor of Akwa Ibom state and minister of Niger Delta Affairs,  may have  unveiled the new thinking of  President Muhammadu Buhari’s  Aministration  when  they spoke at the 25th edition of the SMEs Clinic organised by the Delta state government  recently.

Given the new thinking of the  Buhari Administration  towards  promoting the growth of the SMEs in the country, the Office of the Vice president which  was said to have partnered with the state government in organizing the SMEs’ Clinic in the state was  said to have have described the SMEs as the fastest way of  growth of a country.

The Delta state SMEs’ Clinic may have been seen as a talk-  shop over the last 25 years of its existence as it had not made  any appreciable impact in the state  compared to TEF, which had made an appreciable impact in the African Continent. This is evident going by the  way some  African Heads of  States and Government who understands the role of the SMEs in the  growth and development of a country’s economy , as they  made overtures to it by showcasing the  incentives that  could be enjoyed by the SMEs, if the Foundation could extend the facility to their  respective countries. Paul Kageme, the President  of Rwanda  w, is one of such African leaders.

This could also be said of the Aliko  Dangote Foundation, which many believe are also making appreciable impact, particular, in supporting   Women  , in the north. Many believe that it is not too late for the  Katsina state born Nigerian President  to have realised that Macro and SMEs are the fastest  ways to give meaning to the  country’s economy  and reduce the rising unemployment .

Osinbajo, who  may have  gladdened the heart of Nigerians when he spoke at the Asaba  25th edition of the SMEs Clinic  organised by the Ifeanyi Okowa led  government in the state , that  the Buhari’s Administration  is determined  to create  a Nigeria  where small businesses  are nurtured  and encouraged to thrive  and prosper has to prove it.

 Many believe that it  is not enough to make populist list Statements  in a gathering in order to win the heart of the people  to support government policies but to match its   policies with action.  The Vice President , who could not hide his feelings believe that  ‘’if  every  small business  could just  add one more employee , the gap that single action will fill   in the country’s unemployment  figures  will  much larger  than if one single  Conglomerate   were to employ , 10,000 people’’.

Nigerians are watching to see how  the Vice President , will be able to convince , the President  and his Economic Management Team, which has  the likes of Godwin  Emefiele, the Central Bank of Nigeria ,CBN, governor, Charles Soludo, a  Professor and former CBN , governor, among others to remove such Obstacles, which he has identified  as standing on the way of the SMEs so that they  can have opportunity  to thrive and grow.

Ifeanyi Okowa: Governor Delta State

 He was said to have assured those that cares to listen  that the government  are already  making all the necessary efforts to ‘’ensure  a single digit interest rates  for the SMEs’’, which  will go a long way to add meaning to their growth  in the country if Emefiele and other members of the  Bankers’ Committee , would agree to it.

Given  the importance of the SMEs to the growth of the state and the nation’s economies, Business analysts would want the Vice president, who had seen  the  impact of the SMEs,  in the country’s economy  and other parts of Africa, in the last four years,  to drum it into the ears of the state governors to take  a cue from Elumelu, Dangote and the Delta state government, to throw their weight on Micro businesses and the SMEs in their respective states in order  to  promote their  economies and create  employment opportunities for the people.

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