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Entrepreneurship development – What should our governments be doing? (III)

Over the last two weeks, we have tried to understand what the problems of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship in Nigeria are. We adopted the survey results…

Over the last two weeks, we have tried to understand what the problems of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship in Nigeria are. We adopted the survey results conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers (‘PwC’) in 2020 as a highlight of some of the problems. But we also tried to eliminate what we called entrepreneurial challenges, literally as ‘no issues’ because an entrepreneur has to learn to be ‘comfortable’ with and in facing them.

I will categorise the actions our governments should be taking to develop entrepreneurship in Nigeria into two interlinked groups. In one group are the ‘internal’ and ‘external’ measures and in the other are the ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ interventions.  This means that for each identified entrepreneurship problem, one of the two or both measures and interventions may be applied within the government and/or with the entrepreneurs as may be appropriate. Internal measures refer to those actions taken within government towards developing entrepreneurship. On the other hand, external measures are those actions taken by government outside its agencies, i.e., with entrepreneurs and entrepreneurships towards achieving any desired objective(s). From the second group, soft interventions are the non-physical measures that governments can take towards entrepreneurship development such as enacting some regulation (internally) or training entrepreneurs (externally). On the other hand, hard interventions are those physical measures that governments can take internally such as providing computers in its agencies or externally such as providing loans to entrepreneurs. Finally, between the internal and external measures and soft and hard interventions, specific actions can be long-term or short-term.


What should be the starting intervention points for our governments?

Medice, cura te ipsum! As mentioned, various governments’ interventions to MSMEs over the last five decades deserve our commendation. But we don’t seem to be getting the full mileage for the investments made. Some issues are certainly MSME-related and will be taken up after this series, but other issues are government-related, and which we will take up now. For the government-related issues, let the ‘physician, heal thyself’ beginning as follows:

  • First, intention: In some religious beliefs, intentions are paramount to everything the adherents do. But research in psychology is also bringing out the importance of intention in what we are able to do and the results that we ultimately achieve. Of specific interest are the Theory of Reasoned Action by Ajzen and Fishbein and its further development into the Theory of Planned Behaviour by Ajzen. Both theories argue that an intention to engage in a certain behaviour is the best predictor of whether we actually engage in the behaviour or not. Furthermore, the antecedents of intentions are our attitudes, subjective norms, and perceived behavioural control.

Thus, unless our public officials have strong and positive attitudes toward genuinely supporting MSMEs; unless those they hold dear, like their family members, friends and colleagues do strongly expect them to do the best they can to support MSMEs; unless they fear that there are possible untoward consequences to them if they do not do their jobs of supporting MSMEs creditably, they will continue with the business-as-usual approach that has, so far, not delivered the full results for us in spite of the massive investments made. Simply put, unless our public officials have the pure and unadulterated intentions of supporting MSMEs, whatever interventions they conceptualise and actions they carry out will be undermined by the non-MSME component of their intentions.

What does this mean? Our public officials must be sincere and passionate about supporting MSMEs before they can be committed in a way the results we desire can be achieved. For this, government will need massive re-sensitisation and re-education of its officials. It is the starting point.

Second, competence: Beyond intentions, discussed above, our public officials need to be technically competent in dealing with business issues. The countries that we admire as developed or those rapidly developing have officials and agencies that understand business and are genuinely sympathetic to the private sector. Because of that, interventions are brilliantly conceptualized, developed, and implemented with the interest of the nation at heart, knowing that it is the private sector that should employ most of our labour force as well as provide revenues for the government.

A company I am involved with was processing a certification from a government agency. The company completed the required forms and made the official payments. There were neither red flags nor queries on the application. Despite repeated calls and physical visits to the local and head office of the agency, it took over three months for the certificate to be issued! The reason for the delay? Everything is processed manually at the agency: From completing the forms to physically forwarding the documents from various offices across the country to the agency’s head office where bales of documents are reviewed by officials!

This is needless as making the applications, reviewing, and granting approvals can all be done digitally and securely within a week maximum without loss of any control whatsoever. Paperwork will be cut out, time will be saved, and businesses can officially be charged a token amount for the services that saves them money, time, and effort.

What does this mean? We need our government officials to have an excellent understanding of how businesses are run, a visceral feel of the difficulties entrepreneurs face, and, consequently be able to develop interventions that can support entrepreneurships.  At the two ends of the capitalist spectrum, the United States and China strongly support their businesses despite any rhetoric, especially by the former, towards ‘non-interventions’ by government. For this, yet again, we need to re-orient and re-train our public officials.

The above is a brushstroke of where we must start from the perspectives of our governments. Next week, we will continue with more internal as well as external measures that we believe our governments should be pursuing to develop entrepreneurship in our country.

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