SMEDAN building bigger capacity, greater access to funding – Fasanya

SMEDAN, under Olawale Fasanya, promises to be highly effective as he is the first DG who is also a pioneer staff of the Agency. Thus, it is believed that, he should literally be hitting the ground running

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Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs)will soon receive a renewed boost in the coming months as the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) fine-tunes its processes, structures and operations to lift the fortunes of the key sector which is a major driver of employment and productivity. This is the promise of Mr. Olawale Fasanya, the Director-General of SMEDAN who has been having a series of stakeholder consultations across the country.

Fasanya said he kick-started his engagement with the Staff of the Agency and other MSME-enabling Stakeholders on assumption in June and will extend the engagement continuously with both local and international players. He said that this was necessary because the MSME space is very dynamic requiring regular engagements and feedback.

Fasanya said that “Essentially, the challenges of MSMEs usually border on access to finance, market, equipment, information, technical and entrepreneurial skills and workspace. These were some of the fundamental challenges that informed the establishment of the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) vide the SMIDA Act in 2003.”

He said “Part of what we hope to achieve during my tenure is to ensure that I have a capable, competent, skilled and healthy workforce. In this regard, I have instructed the appropriate Department to put in place specific training to bridge identified gaps among staff. I have also directed that every staff of the Agency must be afforded an opportunity to check their health status at least twice a year. This will help in early detection of ailments that could become life-threatening and with negative impacts on staff productivity.”

He added: “D-8 Centre for SMEs is a proposal we have submitted to the D8 Secretariat. D8 also referred to as Developing-8 is an international organisation specifically established for the development cooperation among the following countries: Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey. This is intended to help promote, encourage, advance and support the activities of MSMEs at the national level as well as within the D-8 region to further strengthen economic, trade and commercial integration and linkages.

Therefore, the establishment of the D-8 Centre for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) will unleash substantial development impacts. Synergies between and among the Centre and relevant national agencies/authorities, D-8 Secretariat and other bodies will provide tremendous opportunities for MSMEs to connect and jointly explore opportunities on transforming scientific innovations at the national level into development solutions for the D-8 family. In line with the foregoing, we are currently working with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Nigeria Export Promotion Council and other stakeholders to host a D8 SME forum in Nigeria towards the end of August 2022.”

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Still on capacity-building, Fasanya said that SMEDAN has made a submission of a request to the Commonwealth Secretariat to access the Commonwealth’s technical assistance on Women and Youth Support Programs with a specific focus on: a)The training of women entrepreneurs on e-commerce known as “Digital Boot Camp” for women to know how to design their website and carry out trade across borders; b)Participation in the activities of the Intra-Commonwealth MSME Association with the mandate to create a platform for MSMEs across the Commonwealth to meet, interact and trade through some partnerships and c) Technical support for research activities by the Agency.

The DG also said that there is a plan for phased movement to a more strategically located Headquarters within the IDC, Idu. According to him, the present location of the Agency’s headquarters has become very inadequate and not easily accessible because of the massive vehicular traffic. The relocation, which is to begin towards the end of the year will create space for the Agency’s proposed Micro Finance Bank, MSME Innovation Hub, Training Resource Centre, SMEDAN FCT office, etc.

On the finance intermediation side, Olawale Fasanya said that SMEDAN Micro Finance Bank which is aimed at addressing the peculiar challenges of MSMEs with regards to access to funds will be established soon. He said that the Agency had in the time past advocated for special Funding window for MSMEs but this has not been achieved even with the creation of some development banks. Consequently, we are partnering with some BMOs as investors for the seamless take-off of the Bank.

The Agency will also introduce its Matching Fund Initiative. This seeks to bridge the funding gaps experienced by MSMEs through partnership with interested financial institutions thus enabling MSMEs to access funds with a single digit interest rate. Efforts are also being made to leverage on international grants and funding for MSMEs.

The DG also plans on rolling out the implementation of the National Business Skills Development Initiative (NBDSI) designed to enhance the operational capacities of MSMEs in Nigeria through intensive training and distribution of starter packs. The Agency intend to empower a minimum of 90 participants in each State of the Federation. So, we should be able to produce a minimum of 3,330 new and existing entrepreneurs before the close of 2022. This has already commenced across several states of the federation.

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Also to be effectively executed is the “One-Local Government One Product” programme (OLOP) which seeks to develop enterprises in rural communities in line with the available resources for wealth creation through tailored enterprise management development skills and access to incremental technology. The target for this year is to assist 214 Cooperatives in 214 LGAs across 29 States of the Federation.

SMEDAN is also targeting to empower 10,000 beneficiaries spread across 9 States of the Federation with its Conditional Grant Scheme. This  essentially seeks to formalise some of the Nano/Micro enterprises that have growth potentials. He said “The package includes tailored capacity building, provision of grants and establishing relationships with the formal banking sector and other critical compliance institutions. The 2022 target is 10,000 beneficiaries that will be spread across 9 States of the Federation.”

SMEDAN will also be making critical interventions in the area of workspace. According to Fasanya, “one of the major challenges that have stalled most start-ups and hindered the growth of existing enterprises is the poor access to functional workspace. Our target is to re-purpose the 23 Industrial Development Centres (IDCs) into affordable workspaces for MSMEs located within the precinct of the IDCs.”

Nigerian students are not left out in SMEDAN’s plans to upscale the SMEDAN Tertiary Institution Entrepreneurship Development Programme (TINEDEP) which is a component of the Mind Shift Entrepreneurship Programme implemented in partnership with the Enterprise Development Centre (Pan-Atlantic University, Lekki, Lagos. Fasanya said “Our target for 2022 is to ensure that 25 tertiary institutions (Universities and Polytechnics) are randomly and competitively selected to participate in the TINEDEP program.”

Its objectives include but not limited to the following: assist students in exhibiting creativity and innovations; help students to identify their potentials early enough and help them develop it; stimulate students to value enduring wealth creating possibilities and become wealth creating warriors and channel the energy of youths to positive and productive ends, etc.

The SMEDAN boss also promised to support MSMEs to have access to both local and international markets and new technologies. The Agency has facilitated the participation of several MSMEs in different Fairs either within or outside the shores of this country. According to him, “The MSMEs Competitiveness Research is to understand the challenges that have over time limited Nigerian MSMEs from taking advantages of the global markets and other initiatives such as the AGOA and AfCTA initiatives. This is expected to address such challenges in a more coordinated and sustainable manner with the hope of increasing their contributions to the national GDP.

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The Agency is also working on the possibility of creating a pool of Business Development Service volunteers that will regularly visit MSMEs to provide critical support and advisory services. To complement this, the Agency is to deploy the technically trained staff of the Agency to deliver intensive Business Development Services to MSMEs.

On the agriculture sector, the SMEDAN Agric Development Enterprise program seeks to train farmers on necessary technical skills required to develop the value chain of specific agricultural products through the National Agro-Entrepreneurship Training Scheme. It also seeks to, through the Product and Marketing Enhancement Scheme, develop products to meet minimum export requirements. Fasanya intends to further grow this sector by ensuring that businesses benefit fully from interconnecting with those in their geographical clusters in order to optimise their turn-around time and become more profitable through savings in logistics and lower input costs.

SMEDAN will also push its Garment Cluster Initiative, targeted at providing support to those in the garment industry, through the delivery of tailored capacity building to garment makers with a view to going into mass production for both the local, national, regional and international markets.

Towards bridging the huge information gaps that exist within the MSME community, SMEDAN has built the capacities of Head Office, Zonal and State officers to offer Business Clinic in all the States. This is intended to provide diagnostic solution to business challenges in a structured manner.

Fasanya promised to ensure that under his tenure SMEDAN will provide diagnostic solution to business challenges in a structured manner. As part of the new approach, deliberate efforts will be made to ensure regular inter-Agency cooperation and networking with Stakeholders to leverage on available opportunities and close the gaps that exist among key players within the MSME space.

SMEDAN, under Olawale Fasanya, promises to be highly effective as he is the first DG who is also a pioneer staff of the Agency. Thus, it is believed that, he should literally be hitting the ground running