Scholars from different academic institutions and officials of Afrexim Bank, Cairo, Egypt converged on the Federal College of Education (Technical) Umunze, Anambra State, recently, to explore practical ways of generating employment through Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs).
The five-day conference was organised by the School of Business Education of the institution under the Deanship of Dr. Dave Okoli to stem the tide of unemployment in the country.
Declaring the conference open, the Provost, FCE(T) Umunze, Dr Tessy Okoli, said the theme of the conference, Employment generation through small and medium scale enterprises for development of the Nigerian economy, was relevant in the face of unemployment in the country.
She commended the President and Chairman, Board of Directors, Afrexim Bank, Cairo Egypt, Prof. Benedict Oramah for partnering with the school, and expressed hope that the synergy would yield desired results.
Prof. Oramah, who was represented at the conference by the Regional Chief Operating Officer, Anglophone West Africa, of the African Export Import Bank, Abdoulaye Kone, gave the assurance that the bank would generate significant developmental impact by supporting the development of SMEs in Africa.
Kone noted that finance does not power entrepreneurial drive but a vision and the determination to surmount the many odds that line the path to success.
While commending the organisers of the workshop, Kone further explained that SMEs comprise 80 per cent to 90 per cent of formal sector enterprises in Africa, generate up to 70 per cent of employment and 30 per cent of GDP on the African continent.
Kone explained that SMEs are still plagued by lack of access to financing, lack of technical and managerial skills, unfavourable Policy Environment, limited access to trade and regulatory information, among others.
Also speaking, the Dean, School of Business Education, Dr. Okoli, said the conference was organised to expose the staff and students of the institution to the vast opportunities offered by small and medium scale enterprises in job opportunities and wealth creation. He urged Nigerian graduates to look beyond white-collar jobs and embrace entrepreneurship for self reliance.
The chairman of the occasion, who is also the college Deputy Provost, Dr Christopher Ugwuogo commended the organisers for taking practical steps to stimulate interest in small and medium scale enterprise.
While delivering his paper, Employment Generation through Small and Medium Scale Enterprise for Sustainable Development of Nigerian Economy, the immediate past Provost of the College, Prof Josephat Ogbuagu, identified the constraints of vocational education.
Ogbuagu decried the dearth of business management concepts and entrepreneurial skills development in the curriculum of schools. He said the inadequate preparations of the students for the industry usually contribute to their lack of interest in entrepreneurship and job creation.
“There is the need for our technical institutions to establish good relationship and linkages with similar institutions abroad as this will promote cross – fertilisation of ideas and enhance technology transfer,” he added.
In his paper, Acquisition of Skills in Science, Technical and Vocational Education and Training (STVET) for a Knowledge-based Economy in Nigeria: Status, Constraints and the way Forward, Dr Marcellinus C. Anaekwe of the Department of Science Education, National Open University of Nigeria, observed the misconception about the purpose of TVET in the Nigerian society.
Anaekwe explained that TVET was viewed with utter disdain as the pre-occupation of people who could only make use of their hands and not the brain.