By Merit Ibe
Stakeholders have urged Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs ) to adopt the use of technology as the lifesaver for communications, logistics or online marketing in the new normal.
They made their views known at the ongoing trade fair organised by the National Association of Small-Scale Industrialists (NASSI) in collaboration with the Lagos State Government.
Commissioner for Commerce, Industry and Cooperatives, Lola Akande, noted that the theme of the fair ‘The Role of Technology in the Success of MSMEs in the New Normal’ was apt, adding that it was a pointer to technological opportunities which help SMEs in terms of investment and business operations.
Akande emphasised that since technological tools are essential for doing business in the post COVID-19 normal, SMEs need to adapt to the new normal, urging government at all levels to support small businesses in mitigating the adverse effect of the pandemic and also empower them to adjust to the new normal.
She disclosed that in realisation of their goals, the administration of Governor Babatunde Sanwo-Olu will continue to provide strong platforms as this fair for MSMEs, to enable entrepreneurs get a valuable traction that is essential to business development.
Apart from providing market access platforms and the right policy framework for an enabling business environment, she noted that the administration also provides physical infrastructures.
On his part, President of NASSI, Solomon Vongfa, believes that technology is a major lever for the deepening of the resilience of MSMEs.
“Every activity in our national life has gone digital, which makes business easy.
“As the umbrella body for small scale businesses, we have to do all we can to educate our people so that their products can get to the larger population. We also want to take advantage of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AFCFTA). Government has to encourage SMEs, to reduce burden on governance.”
Giving her reason for the theme, Lagos Chairman of NASSI, Gertrude Akhimien said: “We chose the theme because we are in a new normal. This is what the lockdown of over a year has done to us. Movement of goods became so difficult but today there is improved technology. We want to make sure we produce more in a less tasking way. That is why technology is key, to access our market with modern technology.
“Technology will increase the Gross Domestic Product when we improve on the products, which will make us export ready for the AFCFTA. With technology, we can produce more for the country, Africa and even the international community. Government should look at the sector as the engine that drives the economy in the world.
“Most products here are export ready, governemt has to upscale them, by giving SMEs access to funds, mentorship and link them up to bigger companies so that they can improve on the quality and quantity of their products. With better products they can be linked up to the export market so that Nigeria can benefit. This will increase forex, and employability which will better the economy and increase GDP.
For the growth of MSMEs sector to be sustainable, Akhimien urged that industries must be protected from multiple taxes and there should be a strategic policy for ease of doing business. She also pleaded with the governement to consider giving tax holiday of few years to startups who have received loans and grants to grow their businesses.
The Chief Executive Officer of Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise (CPPE), Dr Muda Yusuf, explained that with technology, SMEs have the advantage of close customer engagement, creation of niche services, products and strong brand identity, which further expands marketing reach significantly.
He said marketing is the backbone of any business, adding that the whole essence of production is to deliver value to customers.
“This would only happen if businesses were able to reach their customers at the right time, in the right place and in the right form. Digital marketing is one of the biggest transformations that technology has brought into business space, especially for small businesses. It has significantly expanded the scope and capacity of SMEs to reach their customers, not just within the country, but even outside the country. It has significantly crashed marketing cost especially when compared with the traditional platforms of marketing like television, radio, billboards, newspaper adverts etc.