Hundreds of owners of micro-enterprises in Borno State, were full of excitement at the weekend when the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency (SMEDAN) launched its Conditional Grant Scheme in Maiduguri.
Each of the 2,160 beneficiaries was given N50,000 and free company registration with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
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Excited Bulama Sulaiman is into cattle fattening in Bulunkutu, Maiduguri. He told Kanem Trust that he was almost running out of money after spending a lot to safeguard his business before the agency came to his aid.
“I started with one bull, which I fed with protein balanced, high energy feed for some months before I sold it and made more money. I spent time looking after the animal and nearly ran out of money and patience. With the money given to us by the government, I will invest more to expand the business,” he said.
Also, Auwal Mohammed who started the cellphone accessory business in Maiduguri five years ago agreed that though the business is profitable, it is competitive. He said with the opportunity given to him by the agency to register his business with the government for free, he will create an online presence to attract more patronage.
Falmata Kolo at Pompomari is a housewife with nine children who has a clothing business. She found herself cash trapped because she depleted some of her savings to settle family expenses and her business was on the verge of failing. She pledged to pay more attention to the capacity building initiatives of the scheme to acquire skills in addition to the grant and set up a shop for the selling of Ankara and other wax prints.
Alhaji Zanna Kalli from Magumeri is also into the clothing business and has made profitable income over the years. He resolved to open a retail shop of cement selling business with the grant he received which he said will be lucrative.
Modu Mohammed from Kaga is a small-scale fish farmer who hopes to run an additional pond with the grant he received from the SMEDAN. This, he said was a result of the increase in demand for fish and other aquatic animal food as well as a decline in wild catch due to insurgency in the Lake Chad areas.
In his remarks, Director General, SMEDAN, Dr. Dikko Umaru Radda said that the pilot phase started in six states in 2017, followed by four states in 2018, five states and the FCT in 2020 as well as 12 states in 2021 while the remaining states will follow suit. He said under the 2021 scheme, 21, 000 micro-enterprises will have their business names registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission across the 12 states and receive N50, 000 grants to support their businesses. The beneficiaries including 2,160 in Borno State will receive some post-intervention support services and be positioned to access other government interventions programmes.
He said one of the objectives of the scheme is moving micro enterprises from the informal to the formal sector. Others are; creation of jobs, wealth and poverty alleviation in the society, which is capable of reducing insecurity in the country.
According to him, the total number of micro-enterprises in 2017 (current survey) was stated as 41, 469,947 representing 99.8% of total enterprises while the total number of persons employed by micro-enterprises in 2017 was 56,726,204, representing 95.1% of the total number of persons employed. He said over 90% of these micro-enterprises are informal and populated by people at the bottom of the pyramid.
Meanwhile, the Commissioner for Higher Education, Science and Technology, Dr Babagana Mustapha Mallambe has launched an E-commerce platform, which will enable firms including micro enterprises and individuals to buy and sell things over the internet. He said the platform will empower citizens to get access to services and locate companies and artisans.
He said the initiative will give businesses the ability to reach more customers than traditional retail.