By Merit Ibe
The Nigerian Association of Small Scale Industrialists (NASSI) has urged Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) to register with trade groups to get access to funds their businesses.
The immediate past Chairman, NASSI, Segun Kuti-George, explained that financial institutions are only open to fund credible trade groups rather than lending to individuals.
He stated this at a press briefing to herald the 4th NASSI MSME Trade fair scheduled to hold on the 27th of November 27 to December 1, 2020 at Adeyemi Nero Hall, Alausa, Ikeja.
“We are encouraging many members as possible to form groups. Funding is accessed much more easier when there is a group and there is a leader. There are grants and loans coming out for different groups and they are at very low interest rates.”
He said the N75 billion MSME Survival Fund is laudable, but is largely inadequate to meet the needs of over 200 million population in the country.
He however, called on the federal government to encourage local producers by creating an enabling environment for the business community, saying that this is the only way Nigerian goods would compete if the nation’s border opens up for the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AFCFTA).
On her part, Lagos Chairman of the association, Gertrude Akhimien, noted that the fair is an opportunity for SMEs to bring out and show case their products which have been stored at the warehouses as a result of disruption by the lockdown.
She urged members of the public to come around and shop for made in Nigeria products for the Christmas and stock up for the season.
She noted that the association has been assisting businesses that were destroyed during the #Endsars protest and affected by the Covid 19, saying that it has secured the promises of the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund to compensate these businesses.
“We have pushed our members to also apply for some of the intervention fund by the government to lift their businesses out of the doldrums. We have also approached Access bank for their N50 billion none interest loan that is coming up. We do not know the modalities of the loan yet, but we have approached them to support the businesses of our members,” she said.
She urged the federal government to encourage people to do more by way of creating the enabling environment, stressing that for AfCFTA to be a reality, the government knows the capacity of its local industries.
“It is important that products coming from Nigeria are enough to flood the continent because as things stand, the moment our borders open, we are going to get so many products from all over the continent and if we do not produce enough to counter their move, our market would be overwhelmed by these goods,” encouraging SMEs to produce in mass so as to meet up with the demand when the agreement takes off.
Kuti-George posited that the position of the Organised Private Sector (OPS) has been that Nigerian businesses are not ready due to fears that the trade deal would put Nigerian products at a disadvantage position where Nigerian markets would be flooded by products from other countries that are ready.
“If this happens, Nigerian products will suffer and most businesses would collapse. For example 50 per cent of our agric products do not make it to the market because they get wasted. The business community is also faced by funding where they do not have access to cheap loans. The government needs to assist the MSMEs more and most of these companies are producing with obsolete machines making them uncompetitive, but Nigerian goods are very and they are loved at the international market.”
He added: “Instead of complaining about the border closure, we will be preparing ourselves and when the issues being raised are resolved and AfCFTA kicks off we would be ready. If we are going to participate in an international trade, the borders will have to be opened because it is a necessity.”
He said the objectives of the fair is to give access to knowledge through capacity building, access to funding through co-operative and intervention with various financial institutions, access to market through organising trade fairs and attending exhibitions of other organisations.
He added that the fair tagged “African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AFCFTA): Taking African Trade by Storm” is a response to the need for market access for its members numerous products and services.
He said the benefits of the fair include promotion of made in Lagos and Nigeria goods, exposure to both local and international markets while also positioning made-in-Nigeria products for export opportunities beginning from West Africa.