By Olawunmi Ashafa, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)
Since gaining independence 63 years ago, Nigeria has been grappling with development challenges, despite its natural endowments in human and material resources.
Several strategies of successive civil and military administrations have met with limited success.
Apparently, this position explains the recent gathering of stakeholders in Ilorin to brainstorm on the way forward towards local production meeting the needs of the nation, as opposed to what some have described as the current waste of foreign exchange on importation .
The forum was organized by one of Nigeria’s leading business platform stakeholder organizations – the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN).
Former Director General, Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), Amb. Ayoola Olukanni, was the guest speaker at the SMEDAN retreat.
The retreat was organized for a strata of the agency to diagnose the theme: “Strengthening Institutional Capacity for Greater Impact on the Nigerian MSME Ecosystem”.
Olukanni, a diplomat with practical experience across the world, minced no words in highlighting the reasons for Nigeria’s stunted growth since independence.
He noted that the topic of the speech could not have been more relevant in today’s economic landscape.
Before the discovery of crude oil at Oloibiri in the Niger Delta in the 1950s by Shell D’Arcy, after 50 years of unsuccessful exploration, the mainstay of the country’s economy was mainly agriculture and a few other natural resources which dotted various regions.
Apparently, due to the discovery of oil wells in the Delta region, the groundnut pyramid of Kano, the coal deposit of Enugu and the natural riches of Jos like columbite which dates back to the 1940s were left in ruins. margin of black gold.
However, the country continues to sink into abject poverty despite political development reforms in all sectors of human activity, but whose implementation continues to slow down.
Experts recalled the sad implementation of Operation Feed the Nation, a strategy deployed by the military regime of Olusegun Obasanjo in the 1970s to boost agriculture, while the situation was the same for the Green Revolution of Shehu Shagari government, which swallowed several millions of the country’s hard-earned revenue. revenues under the Second Republic.
However, few significant accounts of the Buhari-Idiagbon era are remembered in terms of that regime’s economic policies and war against corruption and brutal practices, both in the public and private lives of Nigerian citizens.
Ibrahim Babangida’s leaders have flattened the economy by allowing themselves to be tempted by the lure of the International Monetary Fund.
This ultimately plunged the economy into a coma despite the oil bonanza recorded during the eight years of rule, with very little results due to the high-level corruption that characterized this regime.
However, a quick review of the post-Babangida regime shows some seriousness, because while the Sanni Abacha government attempted to fight corruption with the creation of the “Failed Banks Tribunal”, its economic policy was not very different from that of his government. predecessors.
Abacha had been accused of using the apparatus and instruments of the state to fight his perceived enemies by taking them to Kirikiri prisons and other detention camps across the country, all in the name of elimination of the “corruption haven”.
Despite the opportunities, Obasanjo’s civilian administration initially showed the serious green light from a regime ready to revive the economy for posterity following the reliefs requested and granted by international monetary agencies in debt cancellation.
Here again, corruption and financial indiscipline ultimately eroded debt cancellation.
Buhari’s civil administration is faring no better than that of Umaru Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan, apparently due to a lack of economic acumen, although there are similarities with the management of public offices in other African countries where the economy has failed like that of Nigeria.
Nigeria, like other developing countries, has faced slowing growth and increasing debt levels.
The World Bank also advised African governments to immediately focus on macroeconomic stability, domestic revenue mobilization, debt reduction and productive investments to reduce poverty and boost shared prosperity through bailout policies. medium and long term.
Endorsing the world bank’s position, the African Development Bank (AfDB), led by Nigerian Akinwumi Adesina, notes that Africa is currently facing an annual gross domestic product (GDP) deficit that could exceed 127.2 billion dollars by 2030.
According to the AfDB, this will happen if current trends in climate finance towards Africa continue, noting that the continent could lose up to 12 percent of its GDP.
While statistics from the National Bureau of Statistics (BES) show the importation of at least 10 products, including crude palm oil, vegetable products, animal products, meat, fats and vegetable oils, steel products, plastics, clothing and textiles from various countries. countries worth N18.12 trillion between 2016 and 2022, draining the country’s foreign exchange reserves.
Experts, including Olukanni, were quick to advise the Bola Tinubu-led administration to develop what they called a systemic economic recovery program, to bring the country out of the doldrums.
For Nigerians, it is more necessary than ever for the government to develop economic growth and development strategies to eradicate poverty through wealth creation and greater fiscal stability.
Olukanni noted that the issue addressed “highlights the pivotal role that micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) play in promoting economic growth, creating employment opportunities and driving innovation.
Noting that the ”theme also recognizes the essential role that SMEDAN plays, as a leading agency, in promoting and supporting the growth of these businesses”.
Olukanni asked participants to view the retreat as a catalyst for a transformation agenda driven by a shared commitment to uplift the Nigerian MSME ecosystem.
“Let’s harness the power of collaboration, innovation and inclusive growth to shape a future where Nigerian entrepreneurs thrive, jobs are created and economic prosperity is shared by all.
“As we explore avenues to build institutional capacity, may we remember that our efforts reverberate beyond these walls, impacting the lives of countless entrepreneurs, families and communities,” he added .
While recognizing the privileged position of the sub-sector, the guest speaker noted that with over 40 million MSMEs contributing to employment and accounting for about 50 percent of the country’s GDP, the platform also served as a backbone of the economic configuration of the country.
He said: “Their ability to quickly adapt to market changes, drive local innovation and foster entrepreneurship makes them a vital force in shaping our country’s economic future.”
As direct pathways to enhanced capacity, Olukanni said it was essential to consider actionable corridors that can amplify the institutional capacity of SMEDAN for greater impact on the Nigerian MSME ecosystem that can serve as guiding principles as the country is navigating the complexities of an evolving economic landscape.
They include “holistic capacity building” which will integrate technical skills fostering a culture of continuous learning, adaptability and innovation.
Collaborative partnerships with government agencies, private sector players, academia and international agencies to leverage expertise, resources and networking for knowledge exchange and cross-sector initiatives.
Other areas are partnerships with government agencies, the private sector and academia, while international organizations can leverage expertise, resources and networks to create a multiplier effect to strengthen the impact of the SMEDAN.
Similarly, SMEDAN can explore innovative financing models, including venture capital, impact investing and crowdfunding platforms, connecting MSMEs to financing sources tailored to their needs. The agency can bridge the financing gap and drive sustainable growth while women and youth empowerment should be adopted for national growth and development.
According to Olukanni, the potential of MSMEs is expected to extend beyond national borders by fostering the growth of MSMEs in states and local governments, creating MSME councils, making it easier to do business and promoting clusters. regional entrepreneurship for economic growth.
He further explained that interacting with international organizations, leveraging global best practices and participating in cross-border initiatives could expose SMEDAN to new ideas, technologies and opportunities that can translate into local impact.
Request SMEDAN to adopt robust monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to assess the results of its initiatives.
According to him, by measuring progress, identifying successes and learning from challenges, SMEDAN can refine its strategies and optimize its interventions for the growth and development of the national economy. (NAN Characteristics)
Edited by Folasade Adeniran
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