Tuesday, 19 July 2016

A NEW TRACK FOR SMALL AND MEDIUM ENTERPRISES IN ANAMBRA

 
 
Written By Ifeanyi Afuba
 

It appears to be the case that while the generals and other senior officers hold sway and give the marching orders in the army, it is the lieutenants and captains who actually fight the battles and win the victories. Some may differ on the extent of validity of the above but the message gets across. The lowly and sometimes overlooked cadres may turn out the indispensable unit in the smooth functioning of a system. This scenario describes what tends to be the fate of micro, small and medium enterprises in Nigeria’s economic prioritisation.

A pleasant departure came with Governor Willie Obiano’s formation of the Anambra State Business Agency as a specialised financial institution to act as a stimulus to the optimal performance of micro, small and medium scale businesses. This was in obvious recognition of the strategic role of micro businesses in growing the economy. In earnest resolve to strengthen entrepreneurship at the grassroots of the state’s economy, the working Willie on 22nd June, 2016, launched a one billion naira soft loan facility for the subsector. The fund is a joint contribution of the Anambra State Government through the Anambra State Business Agency [ASBA] and the CBN.


The institution of a financial support for the grassroots line of the state’s economy follows the successful operation of a similar scheme for medium scale firms for one year now. In June 2015, Governor Obiano had flagged off the pioneer intervention with a one billion naira lifeline for middle players in the economy. 45% of the fund was set aside for manufacturing; 35% for agriculture and 20% reserved for other subsectors. Limited liability companies with satisfactory business proposals could access from 5 to 50 million naira. With an attractive interest rate of 9% per annum, it is no surprise that the facility has been handsomely subscribed.

According to Clement Chukwuka, Managing Director of ASBA, ‘the SME project is working fine to the glory of God. Its impact is huge. It has created not less than 1, 250 direct jobs and about 5000 indirect jobs. Some have been able to bring in their equipment, by the time they roll out products, they will create thousands more of indirect jobs. The GDP of the state is growing.’


Notable results so far from the SME intervention fund have come in the areas of rice, vegetables and fish production. Through ASBA’s sponsorship, Anambra State presently boasts one of the best rice mills in Africa located at Amichi. Today, the Face of Africa rice otherwise known as Anambra rice, a highly successful product of the ASBA brand, needs no introduction. Its nutritious and tasty quality is a self advertising profile. On Thursday, 21st January 2016, the ASBA agricultural link achieved the feat of exporting 2.5 metric tonnes of pumpkin and bitter leaf to Europe.

Funding has always been critical to the thriving of micro businesses. Most operators in this field lack the vital education and capital to power their undertaking. With the introduction of the ASBA menu however, things are changing. Individual artisans and entrepreneurs can draw as much as five hundred thousand naira from the fund. Cooperatives have a limit of five million naira loan facility. The programme is being pursued relentlessly because of its several potential benefits. Experience has shown that a properly guided artisan with five hundred thousand naira working capital is likely to employ two staff in his enterprise.

Perhaps, the strongest point of ASBA’s role in this revolution is the elastic reach of their sponsorship. The agency vets and amends business proposals where necessary to increase their feasibility levels. In recognition of the limited exposure of many grassroots entrepreneurs to modern business trends, skills acquisition is emphasized. To this end, the agency has trained 250 candidates at Mgbakwu Agricultural Settlement and 500 youths at Science and Technology Incubation Centre, Nnewi. As provided in the ASBA blueprint, a batch of 15,000 graduands is being assisted in setting up the businesses and finding market for the products. An outstanding instance here is the collaboration between the agency and local shoe manufacturers. The project involves the construction of 1500 shop – spaces for these experienced craftsmen who will be empowered to boost their output. A cornerstone of the bargain however is that the products will no longer bear Made in Italy and Made in Brazil but boldly MADE IN ANAMBRA.

It is to be remembered that the Willie Obiano administration had covered considerable ground in the area of mega industries. Flowing from the state’s current investment boom, major industrial complexes in agriculture, manufacturing, power generation, hospitality and tourism are in various stages of development. On completion, the mega industries will need input sources. ASBA’s micro, small and medium enterprises look set to feed the mega enterprises as well as feed the population directly.

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