The event is the “1st Abuja SME Conference and Exhibition” organised by Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) with the theme “Solution Strategies for resolving tax, regulatory, packaging and logistics challenges facing SMEs in Nigeria” took place on Monday 16th August, 2021 at Abuja Trade and Convention Center, Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Km8 Umaru Yar’adua Expressway Airport Road, Abuja Nigeria. The event recorded an attendance of 125 participants from both the public and organised private sectors. It was well attended with participants from the public sector, MSMEs operators, captains of industries, regulatory agencies, research institutions and academia.
The conference was declared open by the His Excellency, Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, GCON, represented by the Honourable Minister of State, Industry, Trade and Investment, Amb. Maryam Yalwaji Katagum. The welcome address was delivered by the President, Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dr. Al-Mujtaba Abubakar.
Other notable speakers at the conference include;
Senator Francis Fadahunsi – Chairman, Senate Committee on Trade and Investment
Prof Adesoji Adesugba – Managing Director, Nigeria Export Processing Zone Authority (NEPZA)
Dr Dikko Umaru Radda – Director-General/Chief Executive Officer, Small and Medium Enterprisesn Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN)
President, Federation of West African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FEWACCI) represented by the Regional Treasurer, Otunba Dele Oye
President, National Association of Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) represented by the First Deputy President, Otunba Dele Oye.
CEO/Executive Director, Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) Mr. Segun Awolowo represented by the Director of Export, Mrs Getrude Ukanam,
Chairman, Young CEOs, Fife Banks
Dr. Franklin Akinyosoye moderated the plenary session.
Hon Bashir Maidugu, Special Adviser to the Governor of Borno State
Dr Chijioke Ekechukwu, Economist, Former DG ACCI, Finance and Investment Expert
Prof. Munirat Yusuf-Habeeb, Prof of Business Administration, University of Abuja
Mr. Ebenezar Igure, Technical Assistant to ACCI President, Enterprise Risk Management Expert
Prof. Gylych Jelilov, Dean Faculty of Social Sciences, Nile University Abuja.
The event is a solution-providing conference on micro, small and medium scale businesses in Nigeria. The underlining goal of the conference is to match the problems of MSMEs with solutions alongside developing an implementation plan.
The following observations were made by participants at the conference as challenges faced by MSMEs;
I. Poor access to finance
II. Lack of access to local, regional and global markets
III. Inadequate infrastructure
IV. Poor adaptation to modern technology
V. Inadequate human capital
VI. Lack of access to quality packaging
VII. Multiple taxations
VIII. Logistics challenge
IX. Unfriendly banking regulations like high interest rates, which most often discourages MSMEs from seeking loan facilities from commercial banks
X. There is no enabling environment for MSMEs bearing in mind that Ease of Doing Business is not about business registration with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
XI. Lack of incentives and palliative to support MSMEs growth
XII. Policy inconsistency from regulatory agencies disincentivises MSMEs. For instance, regular increment in energy tariff without prior notice is affecting MSMEs.
XIII. Outdated tax regime
XIV. The heavy infrastructural burden on MSMEs is hindering their growth. Most MSMEs provide road, electricity and other support services, which ideally should be provided by the government.
XV. Lack of transparency among regulatory agencies. For instance, NIRSAL loans are yet to disburse to legitimate beneficiaries
XVI. Regulatory challenges due to multiple harassment by government agencies on the same issue
XVII. The problem of taxation on the growth of MSMEs is exacerbated by the lack of reliable data for statistical analysis
XVIII. Poor understanding of regulatory requirements because MSMEs are not aware of the requirement
XIX. Policy inconsistencies amongst regulatory agencies pose a severe threat to MSMEs
XX. Poor awareness of tax matters
XXI. Inadequate data for tax planning
XXII. Lack of political will hinders MSMEs growth
XXIII. Sharp practices by tax agencies impede MSMEs growth
XXIV. Excessive desire to increase internally generated revenue by the government shrinks MSMEs potentials for expansion
In the light of the challenges identified by participants, the following recommendations were reached at the conference;
1. Deliberate import-substitution policies as well as protectionism for our local industries, especially MSMEs should be put in place by the government.
2. MSMEs are drivers of the economy and makeup 90% of economic activities. Government must pay attention and support their growth as obtainable in India, China and emerging markets.
3. Access to finance should be seamless, with loans made available to MSMEs at a single digit interest rate.
4. Harmonisation of business laws within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) region in order to bring conformity into the different systems of business regulation in the region in order to make the laws uniform, simple, complete, and common
5. Presidential Executive Order to harmonise taxation for MSMEs
6. Provide an enabling environment for businesses to thrive
7. Improve Nigeria’s ranking on World Bank Ease of Doing Business
8. Inculcate among MSMEs the need for fiscal responsibility to support a better business environment
9. Streamline taxes across the national and sub-national levels
10. Regular capacity building among MSMEs.
11. Implementation of the relevant section of the Finance Act 2020
12. Specific technical training on standardisation, packaging and logistics
13. Adherence to international standards by MSMEs
14. Encourage knowledge sharing, and peer review with MSMEs will help their growth.
15. Regulatory authorities must develop friendly criteria for MSMEs
16. Introduce tax holidays, and it should spread through the different categories of MSMEs
17. Facilitate easy access to loan for MSMEs and flexible financing support
18. Establish MSMEs Bank in Nigeria
19. Nigeria must domesticate all treaties, agreements and protocols by the government that supports MSMEs growth.
20. Rural banking that supports MSMEs in rural areas grow their business
21. Nigeria should leverage the huge potentials in blockchain technology, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things.
22. Address insecurity in the country through multiple stakeholder engagement
23. MSMEs should use data and research to drive their business growth
24. Government should improve the rail way system for goods movement across the country
25. Government should support infrastructural development through public-private-partnership
26. Innovations from MSMEs should be incentivised by the government and stakeholders
27. Provide palliative to enable recovery, sustenance and improvement of MSMEs after the lockdown
28. Stakeholders should carry out awareness creation and sensitisation on multiple taxations
29. There should be proper monitoring and implementation of MSMEs survival fund, guaranteed offtake scheme, export expansion grant, among others
30. Alternative sources of loan by MSMEs from microfinance banks, cooperatives should be encouraged.
The first Abuja SME Conference and Exhibition 2021 end by 4:00 PM with the closing remarks delivered by Mr Chidi Onwumere, the managing partner, Brandmarks Communication Ltd.