LACK OF ACCESS TO FINANCE, SKILLS; MAJOR CHALLENGES TO SME GROWTH …. GOV DICKSON.
Bayelsa State Governor, Hon. Seriake Dickson Wednesday identified lack of access to finance and skills as major challenges militating against the growth of small businesses in the State.
Governor Dickson, who stated this at the opening ceremony of the 20th International Conference on Small and Medium Enterprises at the Banquet Hall of Government House in Yenagoa, tasked delegates to the conference to proffer solutions to the challenges bedeviling the sub-sector.
He announced government’s desire to inject N20 into Small and Medium Enterprises development, which would be further expanded to the tune of N30 billion.
The Bayelsa State Chief Executive, said a bill would be forwarded to the State House of Assembly to provide a legal framework for the establishment of an SMEs Trust Fund.
According to him, “the move is to guarantee the security of the funds for stakeholders and develop a robust SMEs programme for the empowerment of the people.
Governor Dickson, who hailed the World Association for Small and Medium Enterprises, WASME for granting Bayelsa the hosting right, said the conference was taking place at a period, when efforts were being intensified to diversify the economy beyond the oil and gas era.
Enumerating efforts made by his administration for wealth creation and poverty reduction in the state, Governor Dickson said with the Bayelsa Geographical Information System BGIS in place, the citizenry could easily access finance with their assets.
In his address, Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment, Dr. Olusegun Aganga, represented by the Director General of Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria, SMEDAN, Alhaji Bature Masari, commended the state’s untiring efforts at developing the entrepreneurial ability of the citizenry as well as building the innovative capacity of enterprises in the state.
He noted that SMEs provide employment opportunities to 32.4 million Nigerians and stressed the need for all stakeholders to tackle the problems facing the sector.
In her remarks, Director General of Securities and Exchange Commission, Dr. Arunma Oteh, described the state’s SME fund, SME Council and Micro Finance Agency as laudable steps, that would boost entrepreneurship.
She, however, suggested that government should consider the setting up of business incubators to provide, not just financial support to SMEs, but also nurture them to grow into bigger productive engines of growth.
The Senior Special Assistant to Governor Dickson on SMEs, Mr. Ebiekure Eradiri, remarked that, the government has created an SMEs database to effectively manage the sub sector, noting that, Bayelsa was the 7th state to respond as well as comply with the Federal Government’s directive on the establishment of the SMEs state council on NEDEP.
In a keynote address, the United Nations Aids Ambassador and Chairman/Co-Founder of Africa Rising Foundation, Mr. Ndaba Mandela, said Africa Rising is an organization dedicated to creating a conducive environment for entrepreneurs to thrive in the continent.
According to him, SME is the centre of any economy and the foundation is established to ensure, that young people have access to technology and information to empower themselves and take full advantage of the opportunities that exist.
“Where opportunities do not exist, the foundation creates them. Africa is rising, has helped to groom young minds, so that their dreams will soar beyond reality and Africa can prosper.”
Acting Managing Director of the Bank of Industry, Mr. Waheed Olagunju, said the conference would provide the opportunity to achieve the objectives of NEDEP to enable Bayelsans become more productive, noting that for over 50 years, the bank has been supporting SMEs in Africa and other parts of the world.
Speaking, President of the World Association of Small and Medium Enterprises, WASME, Alhaji Babale Girei, dwelt on the concept and challenges of SMEs, stressing that, small businesses have been the engine of growth for every country and represents over 90 per cent of industrial enterprises of most developing countries.
SMEs constitute the backbone of the developed and less developed economies and has been identified as a highly potential sector for employment generation and provision of livelihood to millions of people in Africa, Asia and Latin American countries. FROM SAINT:
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