The Chairman, Nigerian Association of Small Scale Industrialists (NASSI), Lagos Chapter, Mr. Segun Kuti-George, while making a case for SMEs investments said that none of his members had been able to access neither the government loans nor the bank’s loan.
He said that the association has taken deliberate efforts to assist its members in writing presentable proposals submitted to the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency (SMEDAN) for processing.
Also speaking to Sunday Independent, Mr. Olufemi Egbesola, President, Association of Small Business Owners, (ASBON), said that none of the members of the association had accessed any loans.
He said that most of the small-scale operators have turned to relatives to get funds to start or expand their businesses, since the government and banks loans were not forthcoming.
“To me, I think the process of accessing the loans is too tedious.
“You are asked for this, we bring, tomorrow they ask for something else, collateral documents and so on, even after fulfilling all the requirements, we still have not heard anything,” Egbesola said.
Mr. Adetokunbo Kayode, President, Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), says the management of the funds for Small, Medium and Enterprises (SMEs) by banks in Nigeria is a weak link in the financing of small businesses.
He said: “We all appreciate government’s interest to support SMEs, especially on the issue of funding. But the management of the SME funds by the banks is a very huge issue, a weak link in the chain.
“We all know our banks are not structured to fund SMEs. The organised private sector is therefore, ready to help canvass and develop new concepts of alternate funding mechanism for SMEs. This will include finance leasing, peer certification for scrutiny of facility for SMEs.”
Kayode also called on the Federal Government to fully operate the National Economic Council and urged state governments to replicate same.
According to him, that is the body that will help plan the economy, where critical policies are determined.
He said this would bring the era of reactionary and ad hoc policies to an end.
He advised that government at all levels should imbibe the ideal that governance was for the welfare of the people, and that to achieve that, there must be a national vision.
According to Ismail Aniemu, a maritime business analyst, the Chinese economy thrives more on SMEs.
He said Nigeria has very much advantage to do same with her population.
This according to him, it borders on the fact that the government cannot provide employment for everybody.
He said that SMEs would ensure mass production of what the populace use at various micro levels.
Aniemu, however, is worried about the funding of SMEs saying they are very inadequate.
“The government has not even provided enabling environment for SMEs to thrive. Some SMEs require power to operate. The operators of these SMEs are burdened by additional cost, of owning maintaining and fueling generators.”
He said that another challenge they face is access to credit facilities, adding that one may have an idea for expansion, an idea of how to reach those that will patronise the product, but may not have access to get there.
He lamented that Nigerian banks are not SME-friendly.
“Nigerian banks are more comfortable giving credit to established big companies. The SMEs have not enjoyed much of that. Government initiative of giving traders money amounting to N10,000 as far as I am concerned is a joke because no serious SMEs will operate and break even with a N10,000 injection. Are you talking about frying akara, or are referring to such persons and say you are boosting the SME of the economy?
Aniemu emphasised that N10,000 to traders money initiative to give out money is good, but the sum involved is nothing to write home about.
He gave several instances, starting from paying rents, saying that those operating SMEs in shops or spaces cannot be talking of renting a space with less than N100,000 to N150,000.
“What are you going to put there for your logistics?  What is left to you to fall back on before market begins to pick? “
He said that government through various programmes should begin to sensitise the people to be able to identify the trade they want to embark on.
He said another interventionist programme like ”Empower” which employs graduates and pay them N30,000 per month, “if you ask me, those empower graduates who they deploy to teaching and some other things, some of them are gifted in entrepreneurship but they need credit facilities. Why not give them a loan of N200,000 and see what they can make out of it. Give them interest free loan and give a period of one year to pay back. It makes more sense because funding is not there at all.
Talking about the employment the SMEs have generated in society, Mrs. Mary James, a trader said they are struggling on their own to generate employment.
According to her, “even when there is no enabling environment, the average SMEs has been able to employ over 40 per cent of Nigerians.”
She said looking at it from the people that hawk wares in the traffic, saying that they fall on this category.  I can say they have between 30 to 40 per cent of the total employment.
She is worried that the government also has not provided enabling environment for such businesses to thrive saying that she had seen shoes that were made in Aba that can compete with those imported from Italy.
“I have seen them, but the truth remain that the government have not really done enough to encourage these people in adding value. They are competing but they are not yet there. The journey is still very far. This is because you are competing with the people who are bringing products into your country from advanced economies, people who have 24 hours non-stop power supply, people who have good roads, who have good access to market, people who have quality internet to advertise, their government are much more than encouragement for them to thrive.
“In our case, the face the challenges of sourcing for funding, sourcing for location, problem of access road to where you are operating from, access to credit facilities, with all these challenges, you are already discouraged. People just have to be resilient to survive,” Mrs. James enthused.
Speaking on the key things the government should do to impact positively on SMEs, Mrs. Eniola Adenekan, a businesswoman insist that the government should first and foremost, get the power right.
According to her, almost every technology driven business rely on electricity.
“So if you get power right, cost of production is reduced.  The government should also identify those with the programmes that can sell and provide credit to them to run. The government has been providing credit in some sectors like the agricultural sector, but it is slow in comparing the population that needs it, with what has been disbursed. You have not touched up to 10 per cent of the people that require it.”
Another aspect according to her is enlightenment, which said: “Even if you have a skill, or you desire trade, there is nothing wrong with the government boosting your skill. Much has not been done in that area,” Eniola noted.
Credit: Sunday Independent