The manufacturing sector is now the key driver of the Nigerian economy, contributing nine percent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) while creating wealth and a number of jobs.
However, one bizarre but enormous challenge faced by manufacturers in the small- and medium-scale category is difficulty in finding the right machinery for production at factories. Research has shown that many Nigerian products are deemed substandard in some international markets owing to issues like poor packaging and inability to meet specifications. These boil down to the type of equipment and technology used, experts say. Just as a badly made pair of shoes tears and wears in the middle of a jungle, so does a badly made machine constantly breaks down with attendant losses to the producer.
Entrepreneur steps in
Blesssing Okonofua, chief executive officer, Lead Unique, has stepped in to bridge the gap and open vistas of opportunity for SME operators in the food processing and packaging, plastics and pharmaceuticals, furniture and decoration, metal and fabrication as well as other agro-allied industries.
She has taken the gauntlet by entering into agreements with a number of machine makers in Germany, Pakistan and other parts of the world, some of who will be in the country in October to show local manufacturers state-of-the-art machinery, how to operate them as well as ways of acquiring same at lease or cheaper rates. Also, these manufacturers will have the opportunity of hiring experts who will train the staff on the operations of the machinery.
How it works
The project comes in the form of exhibition and seminar. Christened ‘the 4th Machinery Acquisition and Refurbishment Seminar/ Exhibition (MARSE),’ the event will provide an opportunity for this category of manufacturers to network and partner with these machine makers, while also learning new ways of accessing funds to acquire sophisticated machinery and other factory inputs in many markets.
“The large-scale firms like Dangote, PZ Cussons and the Nigerian Breweries will always have access to state-of-the-art equipment and technology. But many things seem to work against SMEs,’’ Okonofua said.
“It is an ideal gathering to identify, explore and facilitate new business opportunities or consolidate existing ones in the manufacturing sector,” she said.
The event, which comes up between October 15 and 16 at Adeyemi Bero Auditorium, Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos, will also expose Nigerian manufacturers and businessmen to internationally accepted business plans as well as feasibility studies appraisals written by international franchise operators in order to enable them access funds both locally and internationally.
Due to the anticipated presence of government institutions such as Bank of Industry (BoI), Small and Medium Scale Enterprise Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) and Federal Institute of Industrial Research Oshodi (FIIRO), among others, there will also be opportunities of learning first-hand new government policies on machinery.
Local manufacturers, chambers of commerce, notably National Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) and other leaders in the Organised Private Sector (OPS) could also be there to educate SMEs on value-addition to raw materials as well as on how to ensure that their businesses outlive them.
Fabricators to also gain
Nigerian metal, steel and iron industry has shown stronger growth in recent times. Investments in the sector in the first half of 2013 (H1 2013) were N143.87 billion while those in the second half of the year (H2 2013) totalled N922.12 billion. Capacity utilisation also rose to 52.3 percent in H2 2013 as against 45.5 percent obtained in H1 2013.
Incidentally, fabricators made a substantial contribution both in terms of capacity and investments. Key things this set of manufacturers will take away from the event include intensive training and opportunity to franchise with bigger firms in the industry. Young unemployed Nigerians can also learn this skills and add value to themselves and the economy.
“Nigeria takes them seriously because they contribute enormously to the economy. They can meet institutions that can help them at the event,” said Okonofua.
Foreign institutions brace up
Expected firms from different parts of the world include Riley Surface World, Krane Teichmann, Lienherr, PTF GMBH, Volvo and Samstag, among others. Pakistani firms and high-profile institutions will also be there. Experts in top manufacturing institutes in many parts of the world will also come.
For the purpose of this event, Lead Unique Ventures has also teamed up with the Chamber of Commerce Giessen-Friedberg and Nigerian Business Members Organisations to train the SMEs on technical skills. This is a prototype of the type of education in Germany, where students are trained theoretically and in technical or vocational education. Hence the project will combine inter-digitation of theoretical knowledge and practical instruction around Lagos, Ogun and Abuja.
Entrepreneur shows the way
Okonofua believes that entrepreneurs must be ready to seek opportunities wherever they are. She believes that gender is no limitation and thinks that whatever a man can do, a woman can even do much better.
The lady entrepreneur recently took Nigerian businessmen to the World Trade Fair for Used Technology in Cologne (USETEC) in Germany, which later earned her firm official promoter of USETEC activities in Nigeria. She believes all entrepreneurs must think fast in the face of ever-changing world.