By Elizabeth Chukwuma
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.
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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