We are here to promote and develop our Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SME’s) as well as give them access to equipment and financing that will enable them to grow their businesses.
l bring a diﬁerent outlook. We are here to actually take this Ministry to the next level. l tell our SMEs that this Ministry belongs to all of them. I want them to have ownership in the Ministry and I motivate them to see the Ministry as a machinery deliberately put in place by the Governor to guide and give them all the necessary latitude they need to flourish within their ranks so that they go back to their different communities and become ambassadors of the Ministry, in spreading the message that they are not alone — that Government is with them and recognizes their critical role in the growth of the economy.
So we are confident that we can actually motivate and direct them to their success. l bring a private sector driven experience. I really believe in setting goals and achieving them. I bring a different way of doing things to marry with what has been done before, so I am confident that with that combination, we will achieve success in this Ministry and in others tha overlap with us as per functions and interest.
Our mandate is to develop and promote Small and Medium Scale Enterprises. That’s what the Governor wants to do. I believe this is the only Ministry in the whole of Nigeria that is created to particularly focus on SMEs and that is a thing of working in a field that deals heavily with numbers, it is important to have the data that you can fall upon in terms of organizing the people that come into this sector. The banks and ﬁnancial institutions need numbers, in terms of people who are actually its pride for me. l feel that we can use this Ministry to not only impact on SMEs in this state but at the Federal level as well. The SME sector is extensive and very involved in every sector. Therefore, through constant innovation and broad collaboration, we will seek out and assist the SME’s in the various sectors and find the template that is suitable for their growth.
THE JOURNEY S0 FAR:
in terms of achievements, the Ministry has begun registering SMEs. Now this might not seem very important but it is very important to have data because since we are I working, so that they can have confidence in giving out their funds.
So that was already largely done. We would like to diversify that effort in terms of gender and location, things that will help us in locating our SMEs, to interact with them and also increase recovery for the loans that they may receive.
SME’S IN RURAL AREAS: We plan on touching the deepest and darkest comers of the State. We
want to spread the good news that we believe in every single individual, no matter how small the enterprise may look. l want to break it down into its bare facts. A micro-SME could literally be one person — one person can have a businessthat could be selling fruits or any other products or wares. That person is an SME. lf that person is in a rural area, that person has ownership in this Ministry. We are not interested in just these big businesses and catchy names. We are interested in that individual that needs help and that needs assistance and guidance on how to grow their business. So the one individual may be a farmer; that farmer is a business man and we are interested in collaborating with that individual.
PROGRAMMES AND STRATEGY:
We have invited them in. On my first day of work, there was the Enyimba Business Fair in Aba, where the Ministry had collaborated with Zenith Bank and Fashion ONE, which is a channel on DStv. They came together to use the funds for the creative industry from CBN to give to these leather and garment manufacturers in Aba. Those kinds of events, once they are publicized, they will naturally bring people.
As I stated before, an individual SME is an ambassador. So what they’ll do is that they’ll take that message that “Hey! The Ministry is holding this event. They say they have single interest loans and they are offering these services. Come and see what’s going on”. We use these events and these fairs to garner attention and bring them into our Ministry. We want to register all of them in our Ministry. We want to know who they are, what they are doing, where they are, and what their problems are. It could be Infrastructure. It could be Power It could be money. We want to know what all their problems are because what we do is we marry these issues and form a solution that will help them proceed.
USING THE CLUSTER MODEL T0 ENHANCE THE PARTICIPATION OF SMES IN BUSINESS:
That’s exactly the way that we want to work. These clusters have accountability and leadership.
Before your visit today, we had a meeting with LAGMAS, the leather producing Cluster in Abia State. The reason they came was to first of all, appreciate the Governor for my appointment and to also appreciate this Ministry fortaking some of their members to Lagos for the recently concluded Zenith Star Fair. The Zenith Star Fair was just another step in this MOU that I discussed before.
The first step was the Enyimba Business Fair. The Entrepreneurs in Aba, Umuahia and environs came in. They registered. They received Certificate of Participation, whic gave them access to single digit interest loans.
Now, from that pool that came to the Enyimba Business Fair in Aba, we selected about 30 Entrepreneurs male and female, in the leather and garment industry that went to Lagos. LAGMAS members were part of the people that went to Lagos. So what we did was that we provided them with transportation, with upkeep. We provided them with all these, in order to make them successful. So when they saw that we were not only saying that we would do things but that the government was actually doing things, they were confident. What made this message very strong was that the Governor himself came to Lagos and gave his talk not only on the Made in Aba but also on galvanizing the creative industry in the State. So when LAGMASS saw that and they came here with their Executive that in itself represents what we are trying to do. So, LAGMAS will take that message and spread it to their people and say “listen, the Governor said he’d do this, that he’d support us. He’d help us We want to avoid this atmosphere of distrust that exists between the business community and the Banks. There needs to be some form of synergy. When that happens, we can actually grow the economy and that’s what we want to spread to everyone that comes to this ministry. Once they come to us with this kind of structure, we’ll be able to better work with them, to get them to the point where the Banks can give them the funds and the equipment that they need. That’s very important.
MINISTRY OF SME AS CATALYST
With the CAC registration and look what happened. They took us to Lagos. They supported us. They organized this thing. They opened us to new, different markets and we came back better, safe and sound and we are here to spread the message”.
Oh yes. Look. See, there’s nothing as debilitating as the lack of information or education. It doesn’t mean you didn’t go to school or that you are stupid but doing business itself is a different kind of school. So when it comes to receiving money, you dont know what to do with it if you are not ready. For example, I you give you N500, 000 and l tell you; “use that N500, 000 and grow your business”, but you have no idea what to do. You know what happens? You squander your money, you don’t grow your business and you become poorer We are interested in telling them how to use that money, to grow it and to come backto receive more.
There has to be a cycle. it has to be a psyche that they are not in this for themselves but they are in it for the entire community they represent.
It’s a collective. Everyone beneﬁts when they do well but it one person fails, then the entire chain will fail. We are only as strong as our weakest link. We don’t want anyone here to be weak. So we pick up everyone that comes here and we say to them; “We believe in you”. We want them to believe in themselves and that’s how we want to be – the catalyst in this situation.
ABIA SME FAIR
The Governor himself is in the forefront of this effort. He has often stressed the need for us to have a trade fair of our own and as we speak, plans are in advanced stages in various Committees for an Abia SME Fair The reason why a trade fair is so important is that most of these sectors that our SMEs are involved in need exposure. They need to have that platform that other investors will come in and say “oh, this is what’s going on. Lookthere’s made in Aba. There’s leather There are garments. There are all sorts of things and they are all here in Aba”. This is not only the responsibility of our Ministry. There the Ministry of Trade and investment, the Ministry of Women Affairs and so many other Ministries that would be involved in this Committee that will bring this trade fair and obviously, all Abians will benefit. They’ll stream to wherever we’ll place this trade fair and they’ll all get information and they’ll feel pride that there’s a trade fair that will enable them to show off their goods, to beat their chests and say that made in Aba is something that’s here to stay. So that’s what we are working on as we speak and l guarantee that it’d be something that l’ll push until its fruition because it is something that’s very important. SMEs are one of the pillars of this government and in any government, in my opinion. You have infrastructure, healthcare, education, SMEs and Agriculture. Without those, you are not going anywhere and the Governor has said it himself and we are here to drive that ambition.
LEVERAGING ON TECHNOLOGY TO DRIVE SME MINISTRY:
Sure. We have begun to publicize the Ministry’s activities using different mediums such as Facebook and Twitter. So we are using these mediums to push out our messages.
We don’t have time for excuses and we want to deliver on our mandate.
We will rise up our businesses to a global market and that’s what the Governor is interested in. If you’ve seen, everywhere he goes, from Lagos to the U.S, he is wearing made in Aba clothing and people admire them. People want to buy them. I have people that call me from the U.S and ask me what I am wearing, where can they get it from. Those are the things that we will give our SMEs access to.
As long as they are organized, they are responsible and they are ready to work, this Ministry and every other Ministry that dovetails with our work will push them upto the world stage.
MESSAGE TO ABIANS:
I ask Abians to believe in the vision of Governor Okezie Victor lkpeazu. This is a collective exercise and everyone that’s here, from me to a driver that
moves around in this state is in this
vision. We all have to raise our levels.
We can no longer make excuses
because the decisions we make
today, we’ll live with tomorrow. So its
better that we make better decisions
now and we are truthful to ourselves
at all times. When we gather in the
Executive Council, we don’t talk about
how to make life difficult for Abians
but howto make life easierforAbians.
So Abians should please come. They should seek information and demand answers an we will give them overdose of answers. That’s why we are here.