It is a given that 2020 has been one of the most trying years for business owners and entrepreneurs. Some businesses have been crushed completely, with some left barely breathing.
The year started with the announcement of the increased VAT rates, moved on to the coronavirus pandemic and its attendant challenges, the global oil crisis and its implications on national revenue, and just after the easing of the lockdown, the recent increase in fuel price. What do all these connote for Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises that were already groaning under stiff economic policies and trying to survive the hard days? Your guess is as good as mine.
Taxation in the middle of a pandemic
Amid all of these challenges, the government (through its agencies) trying to widen its tax net and improve revenue, with more duties and tax options being imposed on Nigerians. Just recently, as courier and logistics business operators were still trying to grapple with the implications of the increased NIPOST license fees, when NIPOST and FIRS went on a social media war of words over which agency is constitutionally justified to collect the Stamp Duties.
There is also the recent rental tax announced by the government, a move still being protested by unions who have argued that this pandemic period is a time for the government to give out palliatives, not widen its tax net.
What do the multiple changes and challenges in 2020 mean for MSMEs?
In a recent tweet on his handle, Partner & Chief Economist at PwC Nigeria, Andrew Nevin (Ph.D.) noted that the current circumstances will stifle the entire economy and constrain MSMEs from growing, as it is quite difficult to grow in an economy that is not growing.
“… The complexity and cost of governance and the fiscal crisis is leading to a situation where successful companies in the tax net are subject to more and more taxes, which means they cannot grow and some companies in the formal economy will try to move back to the informal economy, further compounding the issue,” Nevin tweeted.
… the complexity and cost of governance, and the fiscal crisis is leading to a situation where successful companies in the tax net are subject to more and more taxes, which means they cannot grow …
— Andrew S. Nevin, PhD (@nevinomics) August 7, 2020
Nevin also noted that even though the SMEs employ over 80% of the country’s workforce, the startups in Nigeria hardly get to the point where they are valued at over $1 billion. And this is because the uncertainties of doing business in Nigeria are quite high. Gokada, for instance, had a thriving business environment and was set to break even when the new policy was introduced banning motorcycles across major routes in Lagos. This, he said, shows the uncertainty of the business environment in Nigeria.
… a very good example is GoKada … they invested heavily in Lagos, and the Governor was supportive .. then for perhaps very good reasons security requires that the business is banned … and the GoKada investment has been lost …
— Andrew S. Nevin, PhD (@nevinomics) August 7, 2020
In addition, attracting global capital to scale a unicorn requires more money than are readily available for risky companies in Nigeria. The challenging business environment and the ‘reputation’ associated with the Nigerian flag makes it very hard to get sufficient external capital.
According to him, SMEs entering the formal sector means higher productivity and monitored payment of taxes. Yet, entry into the formal sector is still a choice most small businesses do not want to embrace due to the economic environment.
“… if the cost and complexity of entering the formal sector is too high, then the SME will elect to stay in the informal sector with all the attendant issues, including that they can be subject to harassment by the authorities,” he said.
He noted that the large SME sector arises partly from unemployment and people rushing into entrepreneurship as a means of livelihood; as well as the difficulties to grow a large and strong business.
“These type of statistics always tell us the sector is huge but it is huge because it is too difficult to grow big companies, so this is not a sign of strength. The best structure for the economy is to have strong large companies that then create room for SMEs to be part of their ecosystem.
“Large companies raise standards (look at quality of Dangote companies for example) and raise productivity and create opportunities for others so large SME sector is sign that business is too difficult because if Nigeria was functioning correctly, we would have 100+ Dangotes in the Economy,” Nevin tweeted.
Explaining the challenges of MSMEs in Nigeria, Chairman and Managing Partner at Ofuani Maidoh & Co, Clement Ofuani, noted that small businesses in Nigeria have more pressing challenges to deal with than the government-imposed fiscal burdens.
Ofuani told Nairametrics in an interview, that the harsh and hostile operating environment makes for a more serious challenge for small businesses.
“Epileptic electricity power supply, inefficient transportation system and insecurity impose more operating costs on MSMEs than the fiscal taxes listed,” he stated.
Ofuani, who served as Senior Special Assistant to President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua on Policy, explained that the Finance Act waives income tax for companies with turnover below N25 million, thus granting fiscal reliefs to most small businesses.
“The stamp duty on rental agreements and other agreements are additional burdens as is the increase of VAT to 7.5% but the below-the-table taxes paid by MSMEs in form of unreceipted ‘taxes’ to the security personnel along the transportation corridors, and to bureaucrats for normal government services are the greatest frustrations that make Nigeria uncompetitive in global commerce and as an investment destination,” Ofuani stated.
Amid all of these formal and informal challenges, it becomes very difficult for the small start-up to grow beyond its startup stage and become a big company.
The on-going pandemic and recent policies have done little or nothing to address these challenges and despite the palliatives, loans, and support schemes being launched by the government at various levels, most of these small businesses will still find their growth stunted by some of these “unreceipted taxes”.
How to register for FG’s N75 billion MSME survival funds
FG released guidelines to access the N75 billion MSME Survival Fund.
The Federal Government (FG) has released the guidelines to access the N75 billion Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Survival Fund and Support Initiatives, which took effect from September 21, 2020.
The scheme, which is the core of the N2.3 trillion stimulus package of the Nigerian Economic Sustainability Plan includes the N60 billion MSMEs Survival Fund and the N15 billion Guaranteed Offtake Schemes.
This disclosure was made in an official statement by the Federal Government through a series of tweet posts on its official Twitter handle.
The statement from FG read, “As the portal for the registration of prospective beneficiaries of Survival Fund opens, interested Nigerians in the Payroll Support Scheme are to note that the site will be open from 10 pm Monday, September 21, 2020.”
The statement says that the registration for the payroll support will start with the educational institutions at 10 pm Monday, September 21, 2020, and will be followed by businesses in the hospitality industry by 12am Friday, September 25, 2020.
The portal will also open for other categories of small businesses from 12am, Monday, September 28, 2020. It should be noted that the scheduling of the registration for prospective beneficiaries is to ensure that the process is seamless and hitch-free. The registration of every sector is to continue until Thursday, October 15, 2020.
To register for this initiative, the Federal Government has also provided a portal for entry. Potential beneficiaries are advised to log on to https://survivalfund.ng to complete their registration.
As part of the registration process, the beneficiaries are expected to provide personal registration details, activate their account, register their organization after they have successfully activated their account.
Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) Number, Bank Verification Number (BVN), SMEDAN Number, a Tax ID (optional) and the organization’s bank account details will be needed.
Completing the Payroll Support Registration, beneficiaries’ first name, last name, email, mobile number and Password will be required. Also, their Date of Birth, residential address and residential Local Government Area will also be provided.
These 2 MSMEs initiatives namely MSMEs Survival Fund with payroll support track and the Guaranteed Offtake Scheme were introduced by the FG as part of the efforts to support businesses overcome challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The MSMEs Survival Fund scheme is a conditional grant to support vulnerable micro and small enterprises in meeting their payroll obligations and safeguard jobs in the MSMEs sector. The scheme is expected to save at least 1.3 million jobs across the country and specifically impact on over 35,000 individuals per state.
The scheme will be implemented over an initial period of 3 months and is targeted at employees of MSMEs and self-employed individuals with 45% for female business participation and 5% for special needs participation
The Guaranteed Off Take Stimulus Scheme is expected to perfect and sustain the income of vulnerable micro and small enterprises from the economic disruptions of the Covid-19 pandemic through the implementation of various initiatives aimed at boosting the production capacities of small businesses as well as the provision of grants.
The duration is also for an initial period of 3 months and is targeted at micro and small businesses registered in Nigeria.
Registration for #PayrollSupport will start with educational institutions at 10pm on Monday Sept 21, 2020, and will be followed by businesses in the hospitality industry on Friday September 25 beginning from 12am.
— Government of Nigeria (@NigeriaGov) September 21, 2020
FG to provide financial support for 1.7 million businesses, individuals in next 3 months
FG had announced specific programmes aimed at cushioning the impact of COVID-19 on MSME businesses.
The Federal Government has announced plans to provide financial support for 1.7 million businesses and individuals across the country within the next 3 months.
This disclosure was made by the Minister of State for industry, Trade and Investment, Ambassador Mariam Katagum, at the virtual commissioning of the Fashion Cluster Shared Facility for Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) tagged, Eko Fashion Hub, in Lagos.
Katagum disclosed that the initiative is borne out of the Federal Government’s continued commitment to helping cushion the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy by saving existing jobs and creating new job opportunities.
The minister said that President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, through the Economic Sustainability Committee, had announced specific programmes aimed at cushioning the impact of COVID-19 on MSME businesses.
She said, “The Federal Government is fully committed to empowering Nigerians; more so in the face of the COVID-19 Pandemic. In this regard, the government, through the Economic Sustainability Committee had announced specific programmes aimed at cushioning the impact of COVID-19 on MSME businesses.
“These programmes include among others, the N75 billion MSME Survival Fund and Guaranteed Off-take Schemes of which I have the honour to chair the Steering Committee for the effective implementation of the projects.
“The project, which will run for an initial period of three months, is targeting 1.7million entities and individuals and has provisions for 45 per cent female-owned businesses and five per cent for those with special needs. The registration portal for the schemes is set to open on Monday 21st September 2020 and I urge you all to take full advantage of the schemes.’’
The Nigerian Economic Sustainability Plan which was produced by a committee headed by the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, is a response to the health and economic challenges which foisted on the country by the outbreak of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Aside from developing robust monetary policies and fiscal measures to enhance oil and non-oil government revenues and reduce non-essential spending, the plan also includes a N2.3 trillion stimulus package for the economy.
Katagum said that the schemes were at the core of the N2.3 trillion stimulus package being implemented by the Federal Government. She said that the commissioning of shared facilities was also expected to provide succour and relief to the teeming micro-businesses in need of space and infrastructural support
NSE, IFC promote participation of women-owned and run SMEs under the Nigeria2Equal programme
The NSE and IFC hosted the webinar to review support for women-owned businesses.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt economic activities all over the world, the informal sector (specifically small and medium enterprises, SMEs), have been at the centre of the crisis.
In view of the strong representation of female entrepreneurs within the SMEs space, The Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) hosted a webinar in collaboration with the International Finance Corporation to address the theme, Supporting SMEs and Women-Owned Businesses in Corporate Value Chains.
Speaking at the webinar, the Divisional Head, Shared Services, NSE, Bola Adeeko noted, “Entrepreneurs in Nigeria face significant challenges in accessing finance to sustain or expand their businesses. With the high level of female participation in entrepreneurship (OECD in 2019 puts female participation at 58% compared to male’s 45% male), experts anticipate that the COVID-19 crisis will hinder the progress made in advancing women’s entrepreneurship in Nigeria.
“To this end, we are pleased to have brought together an expert panel of discussants who have made an indisputable business case for gender-inclusive practices in corporate value chains and highlighted strategies for improving the participation of women owned and run SMEs.”
Looking at the current SMEs landscape, the Executive Director, Fate Foundation, Adenike Adeyemi indicated that, “When we look at the micro segment, we see that the number of women-owned businesses is equal to men-owned businesses.
“However, as we move on to the SMEs segment, we see a drop in female participation to less than 25% which suggests that women are either dropping off or not growing as quickly as their male counterparts.”
In identifying some of the constraints female entrepreneurs face, Nigeria Country Director, WeConnect International, Yeshua Russel said, “While it is imperative that concerted efforts are made to link women to the value chains of large corporations in order to empower them, there are barriers that must be addressed which include inadequate technical capacity; low level of collaboration among women-owned businesses; and lack of access to finance.
“Consequently, we need to create more structures and systems that can educate and incorporate women to raise their level and quality of participation.”
The Director, Corporate Affairs and Sustainable Business, Ghana and Nigeria, Unilever, Soromidayo George further expounded on this saying, “From our experience with Ebola and other epidemics, the economic impacts of a health crisis will have a disproportionate impact on women which will widen the gender inequality gap.
“This is particularly attributable to the harmful social norms that limit the expectations of what women can and should do especially along familial and business spectrums. We must, therefore, articulate organised ways to tackle these expectations and lay the right building blocks to achieve gender equality.”
All the panelists during the session agreed on the fundamental needs of businesses, particularly women-owned businesses as articulated by Executive Director, Business Banking, Access Bank, Ayodele Olojede.
She noted that, “In building and nurturing women-owned businesses, it is important to adopt a holistic approach that focuses on the four fundamentals of finance, information, market and technology.”
Taking this a step further, the Director, Enterprise Development Centre, Lagos Business School. Peter Bankole emphasized, “Capacity building must go beyond training in the development of women-owned businesses. Women are fast and adaptive learners but must also be given the support of mentoring and hand-holding to reach their highest potential.”
In closing out the event, the Head, Corporate Communications, NSE, Olumide Orojimi emphasised the need to continue the conversation beyond the webinar.
He said, “Bridging the gender inequality gap is a journey and it is one we must all contribute to actively. We at the NSE are proud of our efforts at advancing female participation within our operations and our ecosystem and our collaboration with IFC is one of the efforts we are truly proud of.”
It would be recalled that The Nigeria2Equal initiative was kicked-off in May with a webinar that explored the gender implications of COVID-19 for women as employees.
The conversations that ensued during that webinar highlighted the differential socioeconomic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on men and women, with women predicted to face more negative impacts.