By Oluwatoyin Onigbanjo
Lagos – Mrs Aisha Abubakar, Minister of State for Trade and Investment on Tuesday urged African entrepreneurs to contribute meaningfully to inter-African trade to boost the continent’s contribution to global trade.
Abubakar, who made the call at the ongoing African SMEs Expo in Lagos, said that although entrepreneurs were being faced with some challenges, their contribution was essential to the growth of the continent’s trade.
She said that presently, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) were not contributing enough to the per capita growth and development of Nigeria and most African nations.
According to her, SMEs constitute up to 45 per cent of companies in the Nigeria but their contribution to the GDP has not translated to adequate job creation and improvement in living standards.
“The contribution of small and medium enterprises to the nation’s GDP is obvious, but it is just in numbers, it does not directly translate into the improvement of the average standard of living, because of major issues like poor competitiveness and poor capacity development.
“We have so many SMEs operating in the areas where Nigeria and African nations have comparative advantage, but we have so many issues like poor market linkages, low industrial capacity, and infrastructural challenges.
“This is why the present administration has been working tirelessly to first reduce the roadblocks which range from regulatory issues, increasing the industrial capacity and so on.
“A lot of work has been going on in this regard through a better synergy with relevant organisations like NAFDAC, Bank of Industry (BoI), and so on,” she said.
She said that in no distant time, the challenges would be a thing of the past.
Mr Waheed Olagunju, the Executive Director, BoI said that financing was a major challenge to SMEs capacity development, but character was very important for SMEs to attract credit.
Olagunju said that most SMEs operators could not manage one million naira or simple accounting for their business, yet they lament that banks had refused to lend them money.
According to him, this is why poor access to credit has been a major challenge to SMEs, and the nation is not getting the desired results from SMEs.
He said that BoI as an innovative bank assesses SMEs on a case-by-case basis, adding that many had not lived up to expectation.
He urged SMEs operators to seek for growth by joining associations, clusters and keeping proper accounts in order to maximise the enormous opportunities to create jobs and improve the people’s standard of living. (NAN)