• Saturday, July 13, 2024
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BusinessDay

The big business of small enterprises

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If you are looking for a place to buy cheap phones, try ‘Emeka Offor Plaza’.  If you are looking for a place where young men turn all objects into phones and laptops, then visit this plaza.

Many Nigerians who have not been to ‘Emeka Offor Plaza’, situated in the heart of Onitsha Main Market, may not know the level of economic activities going on there.

At the plaza traders sell all types of phones. You can even get outdated and phased-out phones like Nokia 33 10.

But beyond the sale of phones, ‘Emeka Offor’ houses enterprising young people who do what many automobile companies do in Nigeria: They import phone parts and assemble them into what many Onitsha residents today call phones.

Emeka Offor was a popular name in the entire Anambra State, where Onitsha is located, between 1999 and 2003. This did not refer to a plaza within this period but a business mogul, who partially funded the emergence of a state governor.

However, the Emeka Offor Anambra residents know today is different.

For them, the name is a place where young start-ups and small businesses give them the laptops they need and render all forms of technology-related services.

Ifeanyi Udemba, managing director of JoeJoe Enterprises, a micro enterprise in the plaza, does all forms of business, ranging from phone repair to sale of memory cards.

“I buy old phones, remove some dead parts and replace them with new ones,” Udemba said.

“This is good business. If you also need music, I get you a memory card and transfer any music you request, from pop, reggae and then to Christian tracks,” he said.

Most of the phones sold at Emeka Offor Plaza are imported from China, Taiwan and Finland. Laptops sold in the plaza equally come from various parts of the world.

A section of the plaza, made up of importers, concentrate on the sale of phones and laptops. Prices of these phones and laptops are fixed and cannot be negotiated. Another class of traders will have to haggle with customers to arrive at prices.

Traders from Delta, Enugu, Ebonyi, Edo and other nearby states buy from this plaza. At the plaza the big players make between N500, 000 and N5 million each day.

“Apart from retail, we also sell wholesale. We make millions once our customers come from other states,” said one big importer at the plaza, who refused to give his name for security reasons.

Those who are in the business of repair and memory card sales also make it big. Samuel Eneh, a phone repairer, who started in the plaza as an apprentice seven years ago, now has his own shop.

‘Half shop’, a term used in the entire Main Market to describe half of a shop, costs between N3 million and N 7 million at the plaza.

“In fact, you can’t find any to buy now. Everybody wants to be here,” said Ada Ibe, a salesgirl at one of the shops at the plaza.

As a phone repairer, Joshua Agada, said he makes between N5000 and N15, 000 each day in phone repair.

“Sometimes we look at the person who wants to buy. If you are coming from GRA, we will charge you more. But if you are just as wise as we are or coming from an area we think are filled with people with average or low income, we will mellow down,” Agada said.

“People make money here, but sales have dropped. Three to five years ago, people were making much more money,” he added.

He said that in total, small businesses in the plaza make between N20 million and N50 million each day.

There is also another set of young school leavers, who manipulate the network services of MTN, Glo and Airtel. They just give you network with which to surf the internet on your phone and you pay them directly.

“This is good business, but these network people are frustrating us. Once they find out, they will block you. But we made money four to six years ago when these telcos were still finding it hard to understand what we were doing,” said one of the young man who does that for a living at the plaza.

In Nigeria today, micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) are big business. They not only contribute almost 50 percent to the gross domestic product, they also employ over 80 percent of the population.

Findings show that Nigerian MSMEs, which are currently 37 million in number, according to latest data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), pay more taxes to governments at various levels.

Yinka Oyinlola, CEO, Nigeria Leadership Initiative, said recently that this class of business now pays up to 57 taxes as against 39 they used to pay 14 months ago.

“SMEs will be essential agents in converting the country’s potential into tangible results. SMEs are operating with near-boundless energy, but that is often in spite of their

environment rather than because of it,” said The Economist in its latest report on Nigerian SMEs entitled, ‘Enabling a More Productive Nigeria: Powering SMEs’.

 

ODINAKA ANUDU