The National Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (NASME) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) ITPO in Nigeria, have collaborated to boost small businesses in West Africa.
The organisations said this in a communiqué issued at the end of the 2023 West Africa Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) Exhibition they both organised in Abuja.
The two organisations said it was imperative to establish a collaborative platform that would effectively address the challenges faced by SMEs and propel its growth and sustainability in the region.
According to the communiqué the conference has helped to Increase visibility and market access for SMEs in West Africa.
“It strengthened partnerships and collaborations between SMEs, financial institutions, and government agencies and enhanced knowledge and skills among SMEs to thrive in a competitive market.
“It increased access to financing and investment opportunities for SMEs and advocacy for policy reforms that support SME growth and sustainability.
“There was also the adoption of the West Africa SME Exhibition as an annual event and signing of Memorandum of Association for the establishment of a unified West African MSME Forum /Council ” it said.
According to the communiqué, the event spotlighted various themes such as policy dialogues, awards and recognition and industry panel discussions on challenges and opportunities specific to sectors.
It said the event also centred on women and youth empowerment, and hurdles faced by SMEs in accessing financial resources.
The communiqué said one of the highpoints of the exhibition was matchmaking and pitching sessions where selected SMEs pitched projects spanning renewable energy, AI, clean tech, and food processing.
It said their proposals garnered positive investor’s attention as Sterling Bank’s Ms Bolanle unveiled a zero-interest financial opportunity for SMEs.
“The top pitch won various rewards, including enrollment in the MSME 4.0 programme, financial assistance, enhanced market presence and visibility, networking avenues, recognition and empowerment and access to empowerment capital, ” it said.
The communiqué said during the event, the Director-General, Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) Mr George Odii, announced a N1billion grant to NASME for youth-driven ventures in Nigeria.
It said the empowerment initiative would involve 15 ECOWAS member states with an emphasis on MSME 4.0.
It said Dr Enobong Umoessien, ECOWAS PPO Business and Enterprise Promotion Private Sector, also inaugurated the ECOWAS Small Business Coalition Steering Committee on behalf of the ECOWAS commission, with Dr Abdulrashid Yerima of NASME as the chairman.
BRANDPOWER reports that the event, which was a hub for networking, knowledge exchange, and policy discussions, had over 300 attendees from Nigeria and other West African member states.
The exhibitors were from both the Anglophone and Francophone regions of West Africa with key organisations such as MTN MOMO, Sterling Bank, DBN, and Police Microfinance Bank showcased their offerings tailored for SMEs.