By Providence Obuh, Vanguard
President of the Association of Micro Entrepreneurs of Nigeria (AMEN), Prince Saviour Iche attributes the high rate of unemployment in the country to poor funding of Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). In this interview, he urges State Governments to release the Industrial Development Centres (IDC) in their state for industrial development. He said the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) should do a critical check on the activities of Microfinance Banks.
What is happening in AMEN?
Presently the industry is not doing well, we are in the third month and the budget has just been passed, the industry is stagnant because the governments who are suppose to encourage local manufacturers with incentives are not doing so, knowing the importance of the industry and that is why unemployment is on the increase.
If the industry is doing well, unemployment will reduce and anytime you see high rate of unemployment, it shows that the industry is not doing well. The amenities that will make the local manufacturers active are not there, no power and there is no way you can run an industry without power, no matter how small it is.
Are you saying that budget implementation contributed to the slowdown in the industry?
In some countries, everybody is eager to listen to the budget, because it is important for the economy of a nation. If the budget can be implemented, then the problem of Nigerians would be less. They are budgeting billions of naira in the industry but we have never seen anything, we are still at zero level.
Power supply has improved, why complain about power?
If a country like Ghana can celebrate one year uninterrupted power supply, why are we celebrating three days power.. I run generator for my business and use N4, 000 worth of diesels per day, if you multiply four thousand daily for 26 working days, it is enough to pay salaries, is enough for me to buy equipments to help the industry. The issue of power should be a universal issue and not some having while others do not, we are all in the same country.
What do you want to achieve in the first quarter of this year
We want to sensitise more Nigerians on the need to own their businesses and be self employed. The only issue we have is the issue of finance, we have soap, cream, name it, it is an insult for a nation like Nigeria to import water, toothpick, little things that we can do and save the foreign exchange.
Our product do not sell much in Nigeria, they make wave outside than in the country. Some people bought our product from hawkers and took it to Spain, last week they sent somebody from Spain to come and buy that product. We have customers from Spain, South Africa, Ghana and Sierra-Leone who come to buy.
If government can encourage MSMEs, the likes of Dangotes will spring up in numbers. Let government raise money for us to industrialise Nigeria, if Nigeria must achieve vision 2020, the micro sectors must not be neglected or the vision will be a mirage
Have you ever met with any of the Ministries and what is the outcome of the meeting?
I seek audience to meet with them and they have written to us for a meeting, up till today nothing, I believe after they read some of my interviews on the papers they quickly call for a meeting but that meeting has never hold till date. it is easier to borrow money as a small business person from the commercial banks than the Bank of Industry (BOI)
We can beat the Asians in technology, the brains are there but we are financially handicapped. There is no business that can grow without money. We are calling on the CBN Governor to look critically into the activities of microfinance banks. I have one MfB account which I left a long time ago, they still charge me till day, the little money I have, I left it and they still charge me per month. This is what we are facing and if nothing is done, there may be problem because unemployment is on the increase.
I have 45 workers on my payroll but over 80 applications are waiting on my table. Check the ratio, employment 45, 80 applications waiting, even for a remote area like Ijegun.
What result has the one million man march produced and the achievements?
The one million man match is a huge success, after the match, youths are coming up, seeing the vision of one family one product, and the need to be self employed. Most Nigerians working for foreign companies remain casual workers, they are not permanent.
We have line up plan for 2013, the match we did last year was in Lagos, we intend taking it all over the Federation.
The problem most of our members are facing is finance, we are soliciting for fund, we have been given the IDC centre at Ikorodu, there are so many things we need there and it is a plus for us. We appeal to Governors of other state to release the IDC centres in their state because IDC centres have been converted to private use instead of the original plan, which is for industry. Let us come and revive the industries in your states.
By Daniel Essiet, The Nation
The Association of Micro Entrepreneurs of Nigeria (AMEN) said it is ready to work with the government to develop business opportunities to help tackle youths unemployment.
Its President,Prince Saviour Iche, said the nation cannot afford to lose another generation of young people to unemployment and under achievement.
Addressing the annual business meeting of the association in Lagos,Iche said the association is ready to mobilise young Nigerians,including those serving in the National Youth Service Corps(NYSC) to take on small business ventures.
He said the association encourages and supports the development and success of new small and medium sized business firms, through collaboration and by providing productive contacts among operators.
According to him, poverty will never be overcome unless small and medium enterprises flourish.
To this end,he said his association is mobilising every family in Nigeria to own a business.
He said the association wants to stimulate initiatives, innovation, entrepreneurship, rapid technology transfer, and adaptability to the economy.
He said the association wants to pursue programmes which foster enabling environment favourable to small business to carry out their activities.
The Centre Manager,Matori Business Support Centre,Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria(SMEDAN),Mr Yinka Fisher, said his agency is ready to support the establishment of successful entrepreneurial enterprises.
He said creating high potential entrepreneurs that can generate economic growth and development on a much larger scale requires delivery of regular training to invigorate entrepreneurship and innovations capable of solving business management problems.
Fisher said one of the most effective ways of building sustainable small businesses is bycreating a linkage between them and commercially viable Microfinance Institutions (MFIs).
For this reason,he said SMEDAN is working with the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN) to provide small entrepreneurs access to essential financial services to help them grow.
Micro finance institutions, he noted, will be able to finance creditworthy low-income entrepreneurs,who otherwise would have no access to mainstream banks.
He said SMEDAN is ready to provide technical assistance to help the CBN launch sound MFIs with capacities to assess entrepreneurs skills.
Through its support for application and linkages among entrepreneurs,Fisher said SMEDAN is committed to facilitating economic development, and the agency aims to further expand the effects of entrepreneurship on GDP growth and jobcreation.
Speaking during the meeting, the General Secretary,Mr Frederick Okeleme,said it is focused on building on the achievements and broadening the scope of activities.
He said the goal of the association is the creation of a large, diverse community of local entrepreneurs capable of promoting sustainable development.
Okeleme said the association is working with every relevant agency to address challenges that 1are hindering small scale operators growing into strong and profitable enterprises.