The Nigerian Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (NASME) has emphasised the need to reposition Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) for opportunities provided by the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
President of NASME, Dr Abdulrashid Yerima, said this on Thursday in Abuja, at the 18th Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Summit and Exhibition.
The two-day event is with the theme “Positioning MSMEs for African Continental Free Trade Agreement Opportunities”.
Yerima emphasised that the summit was significantly targeted at coordinating and fostering the promotion of MSME development in Nigeria.
“It is important to draw attention to the huge potential of the AfCFTA for economic development through job creation, income generation and structural transformation of Nigeria’s economy in particular,’’ he said.
Yerima said that the summit would address major contemporary issues that pertain to national socio-economic growth and development affecting most MSMEs globally, with Nigeria as the reference point.
“It is to reposition MSMEs in Nigeria to be able to play very well in the African Continental Free Trade Agreement being that Nigeria has the largest economy and population in Africa.
“So we need to bring all our MSMEs together so that they can meet industry experts to tell them opportunities that are available in terms of funding grants and regulatory frameworks.
“They can take them through so that their products and services can be of the best global standard and they can get patronage, not locally, but in other African countries,’’ he said.
Alhaji Garba Guzo, former President of NASME, advocated proactive approach in addressing issues affecting the growth of MSMEs in the country.
Guzo said that it would go a long way in repositioning MSMEs for benefits provided by AfCFTA.
According to him, various levels of government should mandate their contractors and suppliers to prioritise the use of made-in-Nigeria goods and services in the execution of all government funded projects.
“The Federal Government should also strengthen the national MSME clinics to deliver MSME-friendly policies during the implementation of the national development plan 2021-2025.
“It is important that government should recapitalise government-owned development finance institutions including the Bank of Industry, Bank of Agriculture, Nigeria Export Import Bank to expand concessionary lending to MSMEs at single-digit rate of interest,’’ he said.
On his part, the Director General, Raw Material, Research and Development Council (RMRDC), Prof. Hussaini Ibrahim, noted that MSMEs which are the bedrock of any economy should be given adequate attention.
Represented by Dr Bolarin Olugbemi, Director, Planning and Policy Development Department, RMRDC, Ibrahim stressed that the future of investment rested on the MSMEs.
According to him, MSMEs are sustaining the economy by contributing almost 70 per cent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product.
While emphasising the need for MSMEs to working harder, Ibrahim pointed out the need for improved product quality and services to meet international standard.
He also tasked the MSMEs to ensure their products and services become more competitive.
“There are over 200 business organisations in Nigeria which make it extremely important for unity and partnership amongst MSMEs so as to uplift and keep one another afloat,’’ he said.
Mr Jani Ibrahim, 2nd Deputy President, Nigerian Association of Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) called for the removal of hurdles militating against MSMEs accessing funds easily.
“The problem of MSMEs is management and access to funds.
“It is discouraging when SMEs who desperately need funds are presented with over 46 requirements just to be considered for funds.
“We need to reduce the hurdles for MSMEs in accessing funds if they must continue to remain relevant in the economic scene,’’ he said.