The significance of SMEs for any country, especially Nigeria, cannot be overemphasized. It is, therefore, not surprising that SMEs constitute one of the bedrocks of economic development in the country. This makes it a sector that should be given utmost priority by the government.
To get started, the government needs to make funding more accessible to small and medium enterprises at low interest rate. Reason being that they need capital to thrive and nurture their businesses. Despite the global consensus that SMEs are crucial to economic development, access to funds remains a militating factor against the growth of SMEs in both developed and developing nations of the world.
The federal government of Nigeria with the support of the World Bank and the African Development Bank have tried in the past to assist SMEs through various credit schemes and loans structured to fund Small and Medium Enterprises, some of which are World Bank SME loan scheme, African Development Bank Export Stimulation Loan scheme; CBN Rediscounting and Re-financing Facility, National Economic Reconstruction Fund, Bank of Industry and the Graduate Employment Loan Scheme initiated by the National Directorate of Employment. Moreso, there are other ways that SMEs can be funded which are through Bootstrapping, loans from banks, moneylenders and grants from government institutions and non-governmental institutions.
Source: Nigerian Institute for Social & Economic Research
According to NISER findings, about 73% of SMEs raised their funds through Boostrapping (personal savings), about 2% obtained their funds from financial institutions, while 0.21% obtained their funds from other sources.
Here are some ways that SMEs are can access funds in Nigeria.
Accessing loans from banks
Banks (Commercial, Merchant & Development banks) offer credits to Small & Medium Enterprise in Nigeria. Before giving you a loan, they need to ascertain that you are creditworthy, and your business would have gotten to a particular stage. Also, you need to know that before applying for a loan, your small-scale business must conform with the goals and interest of the financial institution you want to apply to. Other things banks put into consideration before disbursing a loan are a well-written business plan, a financial record, collateral, and a guarantor. Nevertheless, many financial institutions are sceptical about giving SMEs loans because of the associated risks. Some prefer to pay the fine imposed for not meeting the target of giving SMEs loans than run the risk of being exposed to them.
Funding from Small and Medium Industries Equity Investment Scheme (SMIEIS)
Another source of funding for SMEs in Nigeria is the Small and Medium Industries Equity Investment Scheme (SMIEIS) Fund. This type of funding is designed to finance SMEs through venture capital. This initiative is from the government and its aim is to advance SMEs to drive industrialisation, poverty mitigation, sustainable economic development, and creation of employment. Venture Capital financing provides funds as a loan to SMEs with the idea of converting the debt capital into equity in future. Venture capital may be regarded as an equity investment where investors expect significant capital gains in return for accepting the risk that they may lose all their equity. To be eligible for equity funding under the scheme, a prospective beneficiary shall have the following:
- Be registered as a limited liability company with the Corporate Affairs Commission and comply with all relevant regulations of the Companies and Allied Matters Act (2020) such as filing of annual returns, including audited financial statements.
- Be in compliance with all applicable tax laws and regulations and render regular returns to the appropriate authorities.
Grants from non-governmental organisations/foundations
Business grants are another source of funding and they are mostly given by NGOs and foundations. These grants can be accessed by individuals, firms/company, business, or corporations to develop their businesses or scale up operations. One of the best ways to get finance for business or ideas is getting a grant. While a loan is a good alternative, a grant is far better than a loan. It gives you the peace of mind to build and grow your business or idea. It is like getting “free money.” There are many organizations that offer grants in Nigeria, Africa and worldwide. Some of these organizations are the Tony Elumelu Foundation, Bank of Industry, YouWIN, AYEEN financial grant, etc.
This is a situation where business owners resort to funding their businesses with their savings and revenue without the support of venture capitalists or bank loans. Apart from personal savings, financial support for businesses, especially at the startup stage, can also be sourced from relatives and friends.
Getting loans from microfinance schemes/moneylenders
Due to the rigorous processes and high interest rates demanded by commercial banks, Microfinance banks were established to assist small businesses in securing loans. SMEs are eligible for Microfinance loans if they meet the requirements stipulated by the bank.
In conclusion, SMEs constitute the driving force of industrial growth and development in the country. The government should focus on and nurture the sector by making funds at low-interest rates more accessible to players in it to help them thrive.
What Enterprises must do to build a resilient brand in Nigeria
SMEs and businesses that want to survive must think beyond growth to remain in business and the only way to that is to build a resilient business.
Olatunde Olajide is an Associate Partner at Verraki Africa, a tech firm that provides business solutions to drive inclusive high-quality growth for the nation’s Small and Medium Enterprises, big firms, and governments.
In this interview with Nairametrics, Olajide urges SMEs and other enterprises to improve their technology resilience and build resilient organisations. Excerpts:
What is the biggest technology gap you have seen in the response of businesses to the pandemic?
I will like to answer this question from the perspective of how some industries have reacted. I think it was clear that several industries were more ahead of the curve than others in terms of digital readiness. For example, we know that the banking sector already put in play digital offerings on digital channels, ahead of the pandemic, and so it was easy for them to easily upgrade some of the services and just maintain that during the pandemic.
We also know that the telecommunications industry was also digitally ahead, with digital channels and offerings.
What sectors were taken unawares?
Unfortunately, it wasn’t the same experience for other industries, e.g education. There was a World Bank survey last year that tried to understand the impact of the pandemic on education, and the results revealed that only one-third of the sample survey of primary and secondary school students were able to engage in any form of virtual education during the lockdown.
The ability to participate in a virtual class was dependent on several factors. First, is the hurdle of cost, which may be less of an issue for pupils in private schools, but a significant challenge for the bulk of students who are in public schools. During the lockdown, the government eventually came up with several initiatives, e.g., for students to listen to the radio and television. But at the beginning, it was not too easy and it took some weeks of catching up for that sector to even make any headway regarding their readiness.
The health sector also experienced some delays. During the lockdown, it was almost impossible to have consultations done, till after they were able to use the channels that we typically use for communication to start consultations.
Can these gaps be bridged?
These gaps are still very much with us but to a large extent, we can say that they are gradually being bridged.
What other technological challenges have your observed?
Security is a clear area of challenge. Working from home entails that employees sign in and work from different locations with the resultant challenges of unsecured Wi-Fi and likely security breaches.
How would you describe the last decade in terms of the Tech space?
Over the last decade, the world has seen several disasters. We saw the tsunami that happened in Japan about 10 years ago and the level of destruction on live television. We also saw how Ebola ravaged Africa between 2014 and 2016 and disrupted education at the time, for about three months. We also had Occupy Nigeria in 2012, the #EndSars protests in 2020, and the biggest pandemic we have experienced, COVID-19.
So, we have had a decade of disruptions, disasters, and unplanned incidents and I think it is obvious that the world will continue to see these disruptions in several ways. No one thought of COVID-19 and the incredible extent to which it would disrupt life as we knew it.
One of the focus of your firm is resilience. Why is the message of resilience pertinent at this point?
SMEs and businesses that want to survive must think beyond growth to remain in business, and the only way to that is to build a resilient business. Let me quickly illustrate with the analogy of a camel. A camel is an animal typically found in the desert, but it has evolved as an animal that survives in extremely hot and cold weather, interestingly. And that’s how businesses need to be built and modelled for the long run.
Are you saying enterprises should not aim at becoming unicorns in a short time?
While it is good to grow very quickly, and become a unicorn in a short time, it is increasingly more important – given the trends we are seeing – to build a resilient business.
More organizations must think, “How am I going to survive whatever is going to come next? What is coming after COVID-19 and how do I survive it? How would I maintain my business? How do I diversify my focus and make sure that my products are accessible across different geographies?
How do I build a diversified strong team where I can attract and get the best talents regardless of wherever they are, to do the work we need them to do? How do I embed the message of resilience into the business model?”
These are questions every business and entrepreneur must begin to ask and answer. That’s why this message is very important; organizations need to start thinking along these lines to embed resilience into every fabric of the organization to be able to survive existential threats.
So, going further, resilience then means sustainability, safety, adaptation, flexibility, and long-term thinking. Several enterprises and governments are beginning to prepare resiliently, e.g., the Lagos State Government has a Resilience Office.
How is technology resilience different from disaster recovery?
Disaster recovery is essentially what it is. There is a disaster, so how do I recover from it? Resilience is different in the sense that you think through the systems to withstand the disaster and continue your business and operations without shutting down.
Resilience is the ability of the systems you have put in place to withstand operational stress, cyber attacks, and any kind of change that may come in. As Niyi Yusuf mentioned recently, the level of technology resilience of an organization is more or less equivalent to the resilience of the business. And this more so in this period where businesses are pivoting to digital.
The unrelenting nature of cyber attacks is also important. Statistics show that every day, hackers are devising new ways to infiltrate security systems. Cyber attacks come in different shapes, forms, sizes, etc.
As you are investing in technology to improve the security of your environment, hackers are also investing in developing different ways to penetrate the security of your enterprise.
Business leaders must think of building technology infrastructure that is resilient, flexible, easily adaptable, and can enable the business to make changes as quickly as possible.
Another reason is because of digitalization. When the 2008 financial crisis came, there were significant regulatory changes and now we have seen regulatory changes as well with the likes of fintech and all that. With increasing digitization, a lot of organizations are leveraging fintech, fintech products, building their digital products, and all that.
Customers’ expectations are also dynamic. Today, most people have smartphones and can do transactions with them. Organizations should be able to provide services regardless of the device their customers use.
What should MSMEs/ corporates/ do to build technology resilience?
To build technology resilience, the first thing is to evolve your business model to become flexible and resilient. I think SMEs have that advantage of learning over businesses that may be struggling to adapt.
But they are several angles from which we can look at this. First thing is that resilience begins with the people, so you need to make sure you get the right people and build the right capability in the team to be able to manage the resilient infrastructure that you are going to put in place.
When we talk about capability, we are talking about skills, know-how, incremental hiring, contracting, etc. Every organization also deals with vendors and these vendors contribute to your delivery of services, both internally and externally.
So, corporate and SMEs should focus on vendor management. Also, it is important to think about the culture of resilience and making resilience a part of the DNA by integrating it into the people in the organizations, the systems, the processes, the goals, objectives; essentially working resilience into everything about the business.
Organizations should also improve their processes. At the beginning of the pandemic, some organisations had digital solutions. Unfortunately, the solutions were designed in such a way that, you couldn’t use them outside the office.
They had to re-architect the solutions to enable their workers to use the infrastructure outside the office, which took some time. Corporates and MSMEs need to have flexibility in mind when designing their processes to be able to ensure that these changes do not impact their businesses.
How does Verraki support its clients on their digital resilience journey?
As advisors, we have to be ahead of the curve in terms of technology capabilities. At the beginning of the pandemic, two of our clients approached us to help them on their digital resilience journey. One was upgrading a digital product and needed help on quality assurance to ensure that the project was delivered. We also had another client that realized the need to digitize during the pandemic and started that process.
We supported the client with conducting quality assurance by conducting reviews of their DevOps application development and delivery processes on Azure Cloud, as well as Azure Stack infrastructure setup, and provided recommendations on the whole end-to-end Azure application development process.
We also provide thought leadership and practical experience/scenarios that resonate with our clients. Because of these, they see us as a trusted partner for solutions designed to improve business and digital resilience.
FG to support MSME contribution to economy to boost development – Minister
The Minister said that the FG has schemes aimed at improving the post-pandemic climate for SMEs in Nigeria.
The Federal Government declared that it is working with stakeholders to improve MSME participation in the economy through improving the business climate which will create jobs.
This was disclosed by Amb. Mariam Katagum, Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, at the 7th EMPRETEC Global Summit, on Tuesday, themed “The Role of Entrepreneurship, MSME and EMPRETEC in post-COVID-19 Resurgence.”
The Minister stated that the MSME sector of the economy is the growth engine of any economy which contributes to its development, job creation and export, amongst others.
“An MSMEs survey indicates that Nigeria’s SMEs contribute nearly 50 percent of the country’s GDP and account for over 80 percent of employment. No doubt, the sector is pivotal to Nigeria’s growth, including reducing poverty and unemployment levels.
It has, therefore, become more apparent that supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses by creating opportunities for MSMEs to thrive is essential for increasing productivity, creating jobs, and boosting our economy.
This is why the Government is working with stakeholders across all sectors, to create the enabling environment for entrepreneurs and MSMEs to ensure that they grow now and into the future,” she stated.
On economic sustainability
The Minister said that the FG has schemes aimed at improving the post-pandemic climate for SMEs in Nigeria. She also disclosed that the FG launched the National Policy on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), a framework for the resolution of the challenges faced by the sector.
The programmes launched by the FG includes the Survival Fund and Guaranteed Off-take Schemes, operated by a Steering Committee in the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment.
“The Government of Nigeria had, prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, initiated the MSMEs Clinics scheme as a strategy, aimed at providing support for the MSMEs in the country.
At the clinics, operators in the MSMEs space are engaged by regulators and business advisory experts, on issues ranging from entrepreneurship, skill development, finance, quality & standards, and on how to facilitate and grow their businesses and enterprises,” she added.
What you should know
Nigeria’s unemployment rate as of the end of 2020 rose to 33.3% from 27.1% recorded as of Q2 2020, indicating that about 23,187,389 (23.2 million) Nigerians remain unemployed.
A combination of both the unemployment and underemployment rate for the reference period gave a figure of 56.1%. This means that 33.3% of the labour force in Nigeria or 23,187,389 persons either did nothing or worked for less than 20 hours a week, making them unemployed by our definition in Nigeria.
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