|Minister of trade, Dr Olusegun Aganga|
The federal government recently announced its plan to launch a micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) policy. The policy document, to be known as the National Enterprise Development Programme (NEDEP), would provide the framework within which a stronger and more robust small and medium enterprises (SMEs) sector would be created. The programme is also expected to create 3.5 million direct jobs in 2013, and 5 million indirect ones by 2015.
NEDEP is neither government’s first attempt to help SMEs nor its first policy aimed at job creation. That none of its programmes seems to have worked – from SMEDAN and DFRRI to PAP and NDE – is cause for concern. Yet, it is acknowledged across the world that MSMEs form the bedrock of all thriving economies. Nigeria, a country with enormous human and natural resources, has not exploited the opportunity provided by these resources.
The 2012 Enterprise Baseline Survey conducted by the Pro-Poor Growth and Promotion of Employment Programme in collaboration with SMEDAN and the German Development Agency revealed that there were 17,284,671 SMEs in Nigeria. These SMEs employed 32,414,844 people and contributed 46.5 per cent of Nigeria’s GDP in nominal terms, it said. It is only better imagined what would happen if the sector was given as much support as was given the south-east Asian SMEs in the 1980s. There would be a “growth spurt” for our economy.
For Nigerian MSMEs, there are the issues of lack of adequate infrastructure (especially electricity) and access to financial services (especially credit). Will the new policy address these? While the thorny issue of the provision of adequate infrastructure for the country might be difficult to resolve, there exist the National Microfinance Policy and the more recent National Financial Inclusion Strategy, both developed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in collaboration with other stakeholders to address the issue of access to financial services. With NEDEP, will entrepreneurs now benefit from these CBN policies?
The minister of trade, Dr Olusegun Aganga, has noted that, for Nigeria to record a growth rate of 10 per cent, it needs a strong MSMEs sector in the next decade, as MSMEs are the best vehicles for inclusive growth, the creation of local demand and consumption as well as jobs. NEDEP, if well articulated, has a chance to point the growth and development of the country’s MSMEs toward the right direction. It is time the different government agencies converged to form a force strong enough to ensure a “growth spurt” in the MSMEs sector. Government must eschew its usual lackadaisical attitude towards the implementation of policies and programmes, especially those targeted at eradicating poverty and its very ugly consequences.