February 2, 2023

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Arobieke

Grooming SMEs to drive industrialisation

Posted by Godwin Onyemaechi

Small and Medium-scale Enterprises (SMEs) are the economy’s backbone, providing livelihood to many people, including the poor and the low-skilled. To tap into the immense potential in SMEs, the Lagos State Government is offering incentives to operators in this segment of the real sector to boost entrepreneurship and drive industrialisation. The ultimate goal is to revive the state’s economy and provide jobs for youths.

The devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and its variants has underscored the benefits of having a robust small-scale manufacturing sector.

Experts believe that if Nigeria had vibrant Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) before the outbreak of the virus, its devastation on businesses and the economy would probably not have been on this scary scale. They also believe that if the manufacturing sector must gain traction, emerge competitive and drive industrialisation, the economy must be populated by vibrant SMEs.

To realise these, the federal and state governments are striking strategic and synergistic partnerships aimed at equipping the youth with the tools they need to set up and run their business and contribute to economic transformation.

Essentially, the partnerships involve bringing together a diverse community of young leaders, entrepreneurs, investors, corporates, policymakers, and creatives to brainstorm on how to get the youth engaged engagement in small scale manufacturing.

Indeed, across the country, SMEs play an important role in development, contributing a large part to national output and generating employment and growth.

The Lagos State appears to be leading the renewed public sector push to catalyse collaboration that seeks to support high-tech manufacturing with SMEs on the driver’s seat.
The state’s recent sealing of a strategic partnership deal to help SMEs across sectors unlock their growth potential and connect the wider business community, according to those conversant with details of the partnership, promises to change the state’s SME landscape.

One of the highpoints of the strategic partnership approach the state adopted to empower SMEs was the ‘Entrepreneurship Mentorship Forum’ organised by its Ministry of Wealth Creation and Employment. It was themed ‘Globally competent, globally competitive.The Commissioner for Wealth Creation and Employment, Mrs. Yetunde Arobieke, noted that the pandemic has revealed the vulnerability in global supply chains, prompting increased attraction towards transformation of the manufacturing base over the long term.

Mrs Arobieke said the Ministry has been partnering the private sector to instill the mindset, values, practical skills and connections young people need to be change makers.

She noted that there was no better time to galvanise youths towards creating solutions than now hence, the Lagos State Government was paving the way for a brighter and sustainable future for all by getting more sand small businesses into micro production. According to her, this will allow substantial scope for growth in domestic manufacturing.

This approach, The Nation learnt, bodes well for Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital. According to the commissioner, Lagos is one of the states experiencing significant growth in population. It is also at the core of the country’s economic growth.

And one fundamental change brought on by these is the accelerating trend towards e-commerce and online shopping.To Mrs Arobieke, therefore, enhancing the capacities of entrepreneurs and small businesses in the state was crucial to their response to their customers’ demands using the online platforms.

The commissioner noted that the world had become more inter-connected and interdependent, making it imperative for the government to increase efforts on a global scale by training and equipping the youth to combat societal problems and challenges.

“We have stepped up efforts by infusing various programmes and implementing policies, some of which the state Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has put in place; today’s programme is packaged to challenge and inspire our teeming vibrant youths whose success will largely be shaped by how globally competent and globally competitive,” she said.

She said the youth need the awareness, skills and knowledge to understand, navigate and flourish in this increasingly global economy. “This includes what we often refer to as ‘soft skills,’ such as problem-solving, adaptability, work ethic, and the ability to communicate in a business setting because they integrate academic knowledge with technical skills in real-world settings.

“Work-based learning programs, in particular, really help youths get acclimated to these behavioural skills.There must be conscious and concerted efforts to up-skill and retool ourselves to ensure that we are on track with global trends and standards to enhance the competence of tradesmen and artisans,” the commissioner said.

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In doing these, the state government believes that the deployment of collective facilities will make SMEs and artisans benefit from economies of scale, including sharing infrastructure and processing machines. Consequently, development of hubs is being prioritised because it is pivotal to investment and innovation.

Today, Lagos is among cities with hubs where development funding and collaboration across industries are given priority attention. And food is the star product of the micro enterprises in Lagos, providing a viable future with enhanced quality of life for everyone. The steadily increasing demand in the region for processed food products is driving companies in the sector to expand and modernise manufacturing methods.
[8/23, 08:13] godwinonyekachi0@gmail.com: Lagos parades many micro and medium enterprises, which are producing canned products from cassava, maize, peanuts, coconut and cassava. The commissioner said the government was working with youths dedicated to solving food and agricultural production challenges to help them come up with solutions. She stressed that getting more entrepreneurs to be involved in manufacturing and industrial activities was necessitated by urban expansion and the surging demand for jobs.

She noted that boosting the competitiveness of SMEs supports inclusive growth of the economy as well as promotes innovation and competitiveness through knowledge and technology transfer. According to her, SMEs are the backbone of the economy, providing livelihood to many people, including the poor and the low-skilled.

Today, the approach is enterprise training and entrepreneurship growth, with the state government establishing a sound institutional framework for training for entrepreneurship and for SMEs to be successful.This involves competent public and private training institutions partnering with the government with training programmes that meet the demands of enterprises.

According to the commissioner, the plan of the state government was to provide a holistic package of services targeting artisans, youth and SMEs in clusters in high-potential sectors. She outlined the services to include upgrading managerial skills, giving information on market trends, mentoring and providing access to networks.

She stressed that the ministry initiated the capacity building scheme, which was meant to up-skill the artisans to meet modern business realities and position them to be more globally competitive and productive. Because of the current economic volatility, the government, she said, was rolling out timely measures in support of industries, and in particular, SMEs, with focus on stabilising the economy and relieving people’s burden.

The commissioner said the government was allocating resources for the development of innovation and technology (I&T) and re-industrialisation, as well as the grooming of the local talent pool in the long run. This will forge new industrial sectors and job opportunities on a more diversified basis.

SMEs have been under immense pressure to keep up with the pace of change and become resilient against the effects of the COVID-19 crisis. However, much help has come the way of SMEs to enable them innovate, transform and ensure they emerge stronger from the crisis. For instance, the government, the commissioner said, has supported firms in the areas of financing, adding that the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund has given loans to many SMEs.
[8/23, 08:14] godwinonyekachi0@gmail.com: She said the government’s goal was to open up new opportunities for the growth of small manufacturing and the services sector. She added that as a major impetus for economic and social development, SMEs make contributions to increasing employment, improving people’s livelihood and promoting entrepreneurship and innovation.

The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Wealth Creation and Employment, Mrs. Kafayat Ajenifuja, said the government was building an ecosystem sustained by contributions from entrepreneurs, investors, companies and other stakeholders.

According to her, there are efforts to keep an eye on the future and funnel innovation, connect youths with opportunities on the market and then help them scale up. To continue to survive, she said SMEs have continued to take advantage of technological progress to grow and become the mainstay of the manufacturing sector.

Head of Entrepreneurship in the ministry, Mrs. Taiwo Abiose, said trainees were supported by guidance, counselling, and employment services for career development..

Experts shared best practices in supporting and encouraging the SMEs to join the technological revolution. The experts agreed that multi-stakeholder partnerships were central to facilitating innovation and creating resilience in SMEs. They emphasised the need to channel investment into the SME sector to make them ready to participate in the economy.

Consultant to the state Ministry of Wealth Creation and Employment, who is Chief Executive, W-Holistic Business Solutions, Mrs. Lanre Oniyitan, said many SMEs were not dynamic. According to her, SMEs have to be entrepreneurial and adaptable to achieve competitiveness.

Chief Executive, Nextgen Farms, Miss Kofo Durosinmi-Etti, urged entrepreneurs to identify and adopt models to spearhead growth and competitiveness.

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