Okechukwu Enelamah, minister of industry, trade and investment, has expressed the willingness of his ministry to collaborate with the private sector to develop the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) sector, which he notes is critical to the development of the economy.
He however observed that the capacity of MSMEs to perform its role as the engine of growth of the economy was hampered by challenges such as lack of access to finance, modern technology, and market with unfair competition to imported goods, among others.
The minister made this declaration at the national stakeholders workshop on review of MSME policy held in Aba, the commercial hub of Abia State, recently.
He reiterated the critical role MSMEs play in the economic growth and development of many economies, and assured stakeholders of government’s readiness to support the sector.
Emelama, who was represented at the forum by Francis Alaneme, deputy director, Industrial Development Department, Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, explained that government was realistically addressing the indentified problems through the implementations of policies and programmes targeted at the MSMEs.
According to the minister, the kind of MSME activities that drive economic growth go beyond a cool idea or an improvement on old practice or product, stressing that review of the current national policy on MSME, which has been in operation for the past five years, is to meet current realities in the national economy.
Towards this end, the ministry scheduled stakeholders’ engagement in the six geo-political zones of the country to harness input into the revised policy.
The outcome of the workshop will be presented at the national validation workshop to be held thereafter.
Areas of reforms for the development of MSMEs in Nigeria, proposed by the National Council on MSME, are easy access to finance, improving regulatory environment for MSMEs, enabling business support services, improved access to markets for MSMEs and technology, research and development.
This stakeholders’ workshop will work on these five traumatic areas and it is hoped that the outcome of the engagement will lead to a policy framework that will further increase the contribution of MSMEs to the country’s industrialisation.
Henry Ikoh, commissioner for industry, who represented Governor Okezie Ikpeazu at the forum, stated that the present administration in the state had provided a conducive business environment for MSMEs to thrive through the provision of adequate security, massive road construction, promotion of made-in-Aba goods and the establishment of Education for Employment (E4E) skill acquisition programme.
He stated also that the state sponsored 30 youths to China to understudy modern shoe making methods to improve on the quality of locally made shoe and other finished leather products.
He observed that workable policies would enhance MSMEs development in the country.
The commissioner for SMEs, Abia State, who was represented, by Darlington Kalu, president, African Association of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (AAMSME), applauded selecting Aba as host of the forum, noting that Aba was the MSME hub of Nigeria and the West African sub-region.
According to Kalu, “This is one of the states in the country that has carved out a ministry for MSME, which is an indication of the state’s seriousness in the promotion of the sector.
“This is also as we are working with the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment to promote MSME in the country.”
He explained that the state ministry of Small and Medium Industries, within a short time of its creation, had given a consent to the establishment of an African MSME Developing Management Centre in the state to develop the capacity of entrepreneurs in Abia and beyond.