LONDON, the United Kingdom — Micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) contribute to the realization of the United Nations 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) contained therein. According to the United Nations, MSMEs “help to reduce levels of poverty through job creation and economic growth [as]they are the key drivers of employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship for women, youth and groups in vulnerable situations.” Yet, around the world, MSMEs face several barriers that hinder their growth and potential for poverty reduction. The Forum of MSMEs in Nigeria looks “To be a catalyst for the eventual transformation of the MSME sub-sector as a study and dependable spine of the national economy,” its website says, in order to “enhance employment generation and economic well-being of the Nigerian people.”
Smaller-scale Enterprises in Nigeria
In December 2020, Nigeria noted almost 40 million MSMEs contributing 46.31% to the national GDP and making up 96.7% of businesses in the country, said a joint report by the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) and the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). MSMEs also account for about 80% of employment nationally. In spite of this significant impact on the Nigerian economy, this group of businesses tends to operate informally, has no say in policies affecting them, struggles to access loans, has limited capacity to develop and expand and lacks access to a wider market. Although the government had rolled out programs to assist the sector, such efforts have remained ineffective due to an absence of a defined platform to reach the real beneficiaries.
The Forum of MSMEs in Nigeria
A private sector initiative, led by Dr. Albert Akinyemi and a group of experts made up of entrepreneurs, former public servants and lawyers has created and launched a platform, named the Forum of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises of Nigeria. The Borgen Project spoke with some of the officials of the Forum to discuss the Forum’s vision, work, challenges and plans.
Joseph Attah, the chairman of the Technical Committee of the Forum says the aim is “…to promote long-term economic growth as well as create jobs in Nigeria…”. This had become necessary because uncoordinated activities of varied commodity and trade associations negatively affected the sector. Attah explained that the Forum will harmonize and streamline the activities of the sector under one umbrella.
He added that the Forum will advocate for the welfare of MSMEs across the nation; assist them to build their capacity through innovation; serve as a channel for them to qualify for working capital; assist them to access the global market and lobby government and the national assembly to enact MSME friendly policies and legislation.
The Forum’s Partnerships
The Forum, which was formally registered with the country’s Corporate Affairs Commission in 2018 and launched in October 2022 by the vice president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo (represented) has attracted attention across the nation. Professor Osinbajo stressed to the nation that it cannot ignore the MSME sector and commended this private sector initiative to bolster the activities of MSMEs in Nigeria.
Many public institutions have already entered into agreements with the Forum to assist the platform in achieving its objectives. Such institutions include the ministries of trade and industry, budget and national planning and agriculture.
The Forum has also signed memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with government agencies, such as the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria, the National Space Research and Development Agency and the Development Bank of Nigeria. These agencies and others, including the Bank of Industry, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Nigerian Export Promotion Council, have formed part of the technical committee building up the platform.
The business membership organizations have also recognized the significance of this platform and have welcomed its formation. More than 150 of these organizations have already registered with the Forum.
Attah told The Borgen Project that the organization is working toward replicating its work in the 36 states as well as the 774 local governments of Nigeria to ensure that no MSME in any part of the country is excluded.
Creating a platform for the empowerment and progression of MSMEs in Nigeria is not only a significant move for Nigeria but for all such businesses all over the world. In a country where 63% of the population lived in multidimensional poverty in 2022, equal to 133 million people, MSMEs play a significant role. With sufficient support for growth and development, MSMEs in Nigeria have the potential to thrive all while significantly reducing poverty by creating employment opportunities and stimulating the economy.
– Friday Okai