By EMEKA AGINAM
Recent study indicates that majority of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Nigeria become moribund after few years of operations, while fewer than 10% of all start-ups in the country thrive and grow to maturity.
The statistics become worrisome when juxtaposed with existing figures about SME density in the country.
The numbers show that 96% of all businesses in Nigeria fall within the small and medium enterprises segment, with a workforce of fewer than 300 people on the average.
Plagued by several challenges, Nigeria’s SME sector contributes less than 2% to Nigeria’s economy, compared with other countries at the same level of development, where there is structured access to finance and financial incentives, basic and technological infrastructure and a regulatory framework for building domestic expertise.
But at the end of the just concluded Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) held recently in Lagos, there were positive signals for new opportunities for SMEs and Tech start-ups following support from global sponsors and national partners, including telecoms giant, Etisalat Nigeria, to fill the huge resource and human capacity gap within the SME sector..
Global Entrepreneurship Week, the world’s largest celebration of entrepreneurs is organised in Nigeria by the Enterprise Develop-ment Centre , EDC, at the Pan-Atlantic University.
The objective of the annual event is to inspire start-ups and prospective business owners, through local, national and global activities which range from large-scale competitions and events to intimate networking gatherings.
However, the capacity building event connected participants to potential collaborators, mentors and even investors, equipping new businesses with information to create and exploit new opportunities.
The essence is to help businesses in this segment find solutions to their daunting challenges.
Accordingly, during the event, budding entrepren-eurs and owners of start-ups were exposed to the secrets of human resources management during a workshop which focused on the dynamics of recruiting, remunerating and retaining the right staff.
Keeping an eye on the future, the EDC also engaged the next generation of entrepreneurs with its Youth Entrepreneurship Dialogue, which exposed young Nigerians to the benefits of entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity through speeches and interactive panel discussions with owners of successful start-ups on the challenges and benefits of entrepreneurship.
“I was invited to join the panel as a result of the increased attention my business has received, since I won the 2014 EasyBusiness Millionaires Hunt” Idongesit Umoh, said.
According to her, “Etisalat is not just about the business of mobile telephony. They believe in the future of small businesses and are ready to support innovative ideas, so Nigerian entrepreneurs will benefit from the company’s involvement in initiatives developed to strengthen SMEs.” Also speaking, a Youth Corps member and prospective entrepreneur, Teju Ajidahun, who attended the Youth Entrepreneurship Dialogue, observed that her understanding of the nature of entrepreneurship changed during the discussions.
“I previously believed that the first thing I need to start a business is funding. After listening to all the discussants, I have come to realise that I was wrong. I am going to start working on my business plan and I hope to meet with some of the speakers later to get more insight”, she said.
This was followed by a Tech Fair showcasing user friendly, innovative technology for enhancing the productivity of small businesses, which concluded the week’s activities.
Manager, Special Programmes at the EDC, Betty Egbuna noted that the GEW is not just an awareness campaign for entrepreneurship.
“GEW’s uniqueness is in the potential it presents for networking and collaboration. We believe it is critical to engage all players along the entrepreneurship spectrum to help strengthen the sector in the long run,” she said.
Similarly, the Head, Business Market Segment, Etisalat, Bidemi Ladipo, highlighted that Etisalat understands that every business starts small and the company’s experience as a new entrant into the competitive Nigerian market has made it sensitive to the challenges faced by start-ups.
“Innovation is part of the Etisalat DNA and we naturally gravitate toward causes and initiatives that provide support for innovative businesses. We recognise that start-ups and small businesses are essential for economic development, so we will keep mutually involving inno-vative solutions specifically for SMEs,” he pointed out.
It would be recalled that GEM was launched in 2008 and is now celebrated annually, promoting and supporting entrepreneurs in 140 countries.