FG restates commitment to industrialisation drive via SMEs

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President Muhammadu Buhari has reiterated the Federal Government’s commitment to drive industrilisation focusing on Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

Buhari said this while declaring open the 17th Abuja International Trade Fair with the theme: “Creating an Export-Ready Market through SMEs Digitisation.”

Represented by Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Buhari recognised the importance of SMEs to the economy and said that developing the sector remained one of the priority areas of his administration.

According to him, the SMEs segment is critical to the stimulation of economic development as no economy can thrive without robust trade.

Identifying the significant role trade plays in the economic growth of a nation, Buhari said that it helps to build wealth and improve foreign reserves.

“Trade is key to ending poverty across countries, raising standards of living and improving productivity.

“Nigeria is estimated to be home to more than 40 million MSMEs which, together, contribute about 48 per cent to our Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

“Many of us just see SMEs as the Mama that fries akara or the friendly ‘malam’ that owns the kiosk on our street. That is not the case; some of the fastest growing Fintech start-ups in Africa are SMEs.

“This trade fair provides an opportunity to change the narrative of what SMEs are and demonstrates how innovative they can be.

“Here present, I see enterprises with the capacity to produce in large quantities. I see enterprises that employ large cross-sections of our youth population.

“I see enterprises with the capacity to export. I do not see small businesses here; I see future mighty businesses,” the president said.

He expressed the Federal Government’s determination to help SMEs achieve their full potential.

According to him, the government has developed strategic policy interventions, enshrined laws and established institutions to create a supportive business environment for entrepreneurs and SMEs.

“In line with this, the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment has developed a programme that will enhance access to credit for over 10 million SMEs at single digit rate.

“Aside from provision of finance, this project will address key ecosystem issues such as development of SMEs clusters to lower operating costs as well as capacity building initiatives.

“The ministry has also commenced the process of adopting a centralised automated platform for the registration of trademarks, patents and designs.

“The overall objective is to fully digitise existing records and automate the registration process to enable ownership and commercialisation of innovation,” he said.

Buhari said that the Federal Government also approved fiscal incentives for SMEs including exemption from Company Income Tax and Value Added Tax for enterprises with annual turnover of less than N25 million.

“The Pioneer Status Incentive also grants tax holidays for start-ups across multiple sectors.

“In 2016, the Federal Government approved establishment of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) to eliminate bureaucratic constraints to doing business in Nigeria and make the country a progressively easier place to start and grow a business.

“The Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) also has One Stop Investment Centre which comprises 27 government agencies.

“The aim is to significantly reduce the time spent in processing regulatory approvals.

“While the Federal Government is doing its part, we need to rethink our impression that SMEs are small businesses and focus on how they can be energised as vehicles for economic growth.

“As always, the Federal Government remains committed to ensuring ease of doing business and creating an enabling environment for businesses to thrive,” Buhari said.

Earlier, the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Muhammad Bello, urged investors to leverage the opportunity provided by the trade fair to invest.

According to him, FCT is in constant need of investments in critical sectors such as agriculture and waste management.

“We will continue to strive to make the FCT a haven for investors,” Bello said.

On his part, Dr Al-Mujtaba Abubakar, the President of Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), said that the objective of the fair was to create an export ready market for SMEs.

“Aside promoting businesses, the 17th AITF will also strengthen trade and investment opportunities in the country, thus, offering a neutral and open atmosphere for blue-chip companies, trade groups/associations and government,” Abubakar said.

Dr Johnson Anene, the Chairman National Chamber of Commerce Trade Centre, said that the trade fair was focused on promoting local products.

He said it would provide a platform to educate SMEs operators to improve on the quality of the products to avoid rejection in foreign markets.

Anene urged FCT residents to patronise made-in Nigeria goods and also appealed to investors to explore new investment opportunities provided by the trade fair.