By Chinenye Anuforo
Micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) play a dynamic role in the growth of an economy and this is because they are recognized globally for their contributions to economic growth and job creation in advanced and developing economies.
But, across the globe, there has been a paradigm shift in the mode of operations of MSMEs, to move from a matter-based economy to a knowledge-based economy.
This has encouraged organizations to move away from emphasis on natural resources and focus on ideas that lead to substantial growth over time. This paradigm shift has led to the creation of knowledge, growth theories and models which support the idea that information transfer is central to the survival of any organisation in its environment.
In recent years, it has been seen that one of the major drivers of MSMEs’ growth in developed countries has been attributed to the increasing use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT). This is because economies with better access to ICT and the ability to apply ICT in an inclusive manner have a wide advantage of globalization rather than economies that have not imbibed it fully.
For instance, the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 saw increased patronage on Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), Mobile bank apps, Point of Sale (PoS) transactions, Zoom and Microsoft Apps among others.
This means that a productive MSME subsector is capable of producing better products and services for a country only if there is an effective utilization of the ICT sector as they facilitate easy business transactions, improve customer and consumer relationship and serves as panacea to combat a number of challenges facing MSMEs.
However, for a better functionality of start-ups, there has to be well-developed and planned sales channels, effective management strategies, book-keeping, access to capital and grants and of course technical know-how of the business – the latter two are very important for a successful business especially in developing countries like Nigeria.
The major factor – access to capital and grants – represents a big step an individual makes when starting a business and this is where organizations often come in via their respective Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), a way of giving back to the society.
CSR has come a long way, morphing from a nice thing to do to what it is today, a necessity for a successful business. In practical terms, top corporate bodies began to prove that they were businesses that had interest in wider social issues and rather than thinking about only those who impact their profit margins, companies began to look at how best to lift the societies.
There have been big players in the industry doing a lot of CSRs but none has been better sustained than the MTN Foundation which has aligned its interventions with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the country’s national priorities in a bid to sustain national development.
MTN Foundation’s exploits
Since its inception in 2005 to date, with an independent board that provides direction and financial oversight, the Foundation has committed over N23 billion ($66 million) to diverse social development initiatives – 914 MTNF project sites in 36 states including the FCT. In education, over 60 secondary schools received ICT laboratories, 24 secondary schools received science laboratories and five universities received virtual ICT libraries. Also, scholarship awards have been granted to over 4,212 students in STEM and over 800 blind students in public tertiary institutions across the country.
It will also be recalled that the Foundation has trained 3,072 young entrepreneurs as at the fourth phase of the MTN ICT and Business Skills Training, alongside its partners – Google, Cisco, and Oracle in December 2020.
During the 4th phase, the event witnessed the division of participants into four groups to devise solutions to problems experienced by Nigerians. At the end of the presentation, Group Two, represented by Manasseh Jackson was declared the winner of the group presentation as the group impressed the judges with their plan to optimise agriculture through digital marketing to reduce unemployment.
The MTN ICT and Business Skills training is an initiative that builds the capacity of youths between the ages of 18 to 35 in ICT, enhancing their employability and entrepreneurial skills. It is implemented in partnership with other tech giants and so far, the training has been held in Oyo, Kano, Nasarawa, Rivers, Imo, Abia, Akwa Ibom, Borno, Kaduna and Katsina.
Speaking to the participants of the training at the previous edition, the Chairman, MTN Foundation, Prince Julius Adelusi-Adeluyi, said, being trained by tech giants like Google, Oracle and Cisco, participants will have direct access to life-changing information and expertise.
“We ask that you stay committed to constantly sharpening your skills because this is a sure-fire way to thrive in today’s world. We at the MTN Foundation, board and management are rooting for you and wish you success.”
Speaking in a recent interview, the Executive Secretary, MTN Foundation, Odunayo Sanya, said the Foundation remains committed to giving its best in Nigeria through technology, health and entrepreneurship.
It is no surprise that the call-for entries for the fifth phase of its ICT and Business Skills Training Programme have kicked off and entries, the Foundation said, will close by December 20,2021.
The training which will be held virtually for young entrepreneurs in Kogi, Adamawa, Jigawa,
Anambra, Cross River and Lagos States is expected to deepen the Foundation’s resolve in driving the growth of MSMEs via skill acquisition and grants.