VP’s Speech At The 25th Edition Of The MSME Clinics In Delta State

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Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, I bring you very warm greetings from President Muhammadu Buhari, who has asked me to congratulate the people and government of Delta State for hosting this 25th edition of the National MSME Clinics, today.

I salute the Delta State Government, led by His Excellency, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, for the unflagging commitment and support to MSMEs across the State.

Delta State is hosting the 25th edition of the MSME Clinic since it launched in 2017. You will all agree with me that 25 is a special number, this is, in one sense, the ‘silver’ edition of the Clinic. Congratulations to Delta State, our silver jubilee state. I have already seen a wide range of businesses, from product packaging to health services, agro-processing and related trades. Delta State is certainly booming with business initiatives and ideas.

And, of course, listening to the Governor’s speech, we’ve heard so much about the initiatives that have been taken by the State; the Youth Agriculture and Entrepreneur Programme, The Step Programme, amongst other programmes. The idea of MSME Clinic is one where we attempt to bring government regulatory agencies, in particular, closer to the people by assembling them all in one place. All the regulatory agencies that have anything to do with business registration or with business operations generally, and would have any impact whatsoever on the business experience of MSMEs. The Clinics afford MSMEs a platform where they can bring their challenges for the intervention of regulatory agencies, rather than having to go from agency to agency trying to solve these challenges.

Also, through the MSME Clinics, we have launched what we call One-Stop-Shops for MSMEs. These One-Stop Shops bring all the relevant agencies together in one place, in one state so as to enable MSMEs access their services on an on-going basis with relative ease. So, what we have tried to do, is that we try to ensure that in some of the states that are ready to partner with us, we have in one place, permanently, all of the representatives of the regulatory agencies. So that MSMEs can go there and have a lot of their issues resolved. We would be happy to partner with the Delta State Government to implementing this here also in the State.

The vision of President Buhari when he established this scheme, and his insistence also that it must be in partnership with the States of Nigeria, was to encourage host States to go into a situation where they are able to create sub-national versions of the MSME Clinics, and also to encourage even legislators at National and State levels to organize and host their own versions of the MSME Clinics in their constituencies across the states and of course across the country. By doing this, we expect that leaders will be able to better understand, the issues surrounding small businesses, and to regularly receive feedback on the regulatory bottlenecks affecting MSMEs within their various spheres of influence, and within their various areas of interest. As well as alert the agencies responsible, to enable them to roll out the required interventions and solutions.

I am pleased to note that some states have already begun to launch their own version of the MSME Clinics, and on the 7th of November 2019, Ogun State will launch their own version, and there are several other such initiatives that are being launched. And I know that Delta State which has done a lot already in MSME clinic will very soon, launch its own version of the MSME clinic.

In 2018 as part of efforts to deepen the impact of the Clinics, the MSME Clinic Initiative began launching “Shared Facilities” for MSMEs across the Nation. The purpose of these Shared Facilities is to provide reasonably-priced access to world-class business equipment for MSMEs, in cluster-style spaces.

What this means is that SMEs are spared the financial burden of having to buy their own equipment in order to be able to do business. Where possible, these shared facilities have been pre-certified by relevant agencies, removing the need for SMEs to pursue these certifications by themselves.

By taking away the burden of acquiring, managing and maintaining this equipment, the MSME Clinic intends to further catalyse the growth of MSMEs. We already have pilot editions of the Shared Facilities, one has kicked off in Bauchi state, and another in Oyo State in 2018 and 2019 respectively, and there will be more to follow shortly.

Let me note that the inspiration for the Shared Facilities came from our interactions with MSMEs during past National Editions of the Clinic. One of the common and recurring complaints by MSMEs across the country was about the ease and cost of access to production and operating equipment.

The Shared Facilities project is a partnership between the Federal Government, interested States, the Bank of Industry, Nexim Bank, and the Private Sector. The Federal Government intends to launch one facility in each State and then encourage the States to go on to replicate these facilities state-wide.

The Federal Government under the current arrangements that we are making is aware of the many complaints about regulatory approvals for business. We are working with the leadership of all of our agencies, NAFDAC for example, is one of the agencies we are working with to see that MSMEs get faster, more efficient and generally more satisfying services in exchange for the fees they are charged. Indeed, in some cases, we believe that the fees have to be reduced so that more small businesses can have access to the kind of regulatory support that they require. Nobody should have to wait endlessly for regulatory certification, and we will continue to push the reform agenda to deal with this. The good news is that Regulators are becoming more attuned to the notion that they are first facilitators before being the commercial police and standards enforcers that they tend to be. To get more MSMEs to formalize their businesses, the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) offered a special 50 percent discount on business name registration for MSMEs, and they extended that period to a 90-day period. That has ended now, but it led to a situation where several small businesses were able to register their businesses. Also, NAFDAC has started action on a planned increase in tariffs on MSME related products and the President specifically ordered that should stop, on account of the fact we felt that this may be unduly burdensome for MSMEs.

On access to low-cost financing for MSMEs, various government agencies and institutions are hard at work – The Development Bank of Nigeria (DBN), Bank of Industry (BOI), NEXIM, the new NIRSAL Microfinance Bank, and others. We are also working with commercial banks to see how we can quickly achieve single-digit interest rates for loans to MSMEs, with a tenor of between 5 to 10 years, and a repayment moratorium of a minimum of one year in each case. I think it is important for us to understand that everyone recognizes that without access to capital, without access to cheap capital, it is really impossible to do the kinds of thing that we expect our MSMEs to do. So, this is an on-going concern and we are really open to various ideas and suggestions from anywhere to be able to in these credit facilities at the lowest possible interests. The Central Bank is working on this, there are several policy initiatives trying to ensure that we are able to bring these credits at least at a sub-ten interest rate.

Let me close by reminding our federal government regulatory agencies that President Buhari is determined to create a Nigeria, in which small business owners are nurtured and encouraged to thrive and prosper. Nigeria is an economy driven largely by small businesses and it is clear that there can be no real national growth and development if we do not ensure that our small businesses grow and develop. It is as simple as that.

If every small business in Nigeria added just one more employee, the dent we would see on our unemployment figures would be much bigger, much larger than if one single, large conglomerate were to employ even 10,000 people. So, we really strongly believe that MSMEs are the engine of growth of our country. We are therefore very fully committed to ensuring, that we remove all the obstacles that stand in the way of MSMEs to give them all the support that we can possibly give them.

Once again, let me congratulate the government and people of Delta State on your successful hosting of the 25th edition of the National MSME Clinic. And I want to thank His Excellency the Governor for hosting this edition, and also for his support to all Federal government projects at all times. We really want to thank you for the collaboration and for that sense of responsibility you have shown in ensuring that we are all able to work together for the common good of our country and our people. Let me on a lighter note say, that in all our clinics, we have never seen a clinic banner that is as large as this. I think this is a proper 25th edition banner.

Thank you very much.

God bless you

Laolu Akande