• Monday, May 27, 2024
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BusinessDay

Why you need to register with chamber of commerce

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There are many advantages small business owners stand to gain from identifying with chambers of commerce in their locations.

Betsy Demitropoulos, an experienced business writer in American Business Magazine, said membership in a local chamber offers numerous benefits and keeps business owners on top of important, ever-changing issues and trends within their community and local marketplace.

By definition, chambers of commerce are local associations that seek to promote and protect the interests of the business community (who are members) in particular areas. Chambers of commerce in Nigeria elect their presidents after a specific number of years, while their councils employ experienced business experts as directors-general.  Directors-general oversee the day-to-day running of the chambers, while presidents serve as heads.

One key thing a chamber of commerce will do for you is to speak up and move the authorities into action. In Nigeria, for instance, micro-, small- and medium-scale enterprises  face a myriad of challenges such as multiplicity of taxes, high funding costs, high labour costs (in some industries and locations), skyrocketing energy costs and port  gridlocks, among others.

These issues are drags to businesses, mostly to those in the category of MSMEs. They so pinch businesses that they threaten their lifespan. But chambers of commerce often take on authorities on these issues and usually get results. The current N220 billion Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Fund (MSMEDF) initiated by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is largely a product of advocacy role played by key chambers of like Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) and the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), whose members will be mostly be beneficiaries of the fund.

Advocacy programmes of chambers of commerce have also led at a drop of interest rate for MSMEs in some financial institutions to up to 14 percent. In some cases, members of chambers of commerce access these funds easier than non-members.

In some areas where taxes are high or tax authorities are many for members of these chambers, advocacy has been used to quell the tide or give business owners some respite.

Secondly, chambers of commerce can give you access to valuable information such as viable export destinations, quality business information, investment opportunities and likely challenges. You can also get business education services and training unit for free in many cases.   Some chambers have units that provide these services and they align with other technical partners around the world to promote and develop SMEs in the country. Such units also organise conferences, workshops, special programmes as well as consulting and counselling services.

Moreover, chambers of commerce, from time to time, expose business owners to opportunities in other markets. The Lagos Chamber of Commerce, Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Ota-Agbara Chamber of Commerce, among others, take their members to other countries during international trade fairs and exhibitions. Even bilateral chambers of commerce are equally in the forefront on this. The Nigerian-British Chamber of Commerce will soon explore the UK markets with over 30 food processors, fashion designers and other businesspeople, according to  Adefulu, president of the chamber and chairman of the council.

Jude Arinze, executive secretary, Nigeria-Israel Chamber of Commerce, had told BusinessDay that over 5000 businesses in Israel in both Israel and Nigeria can be linked to the chamber. This tells you that many Nigerian businesspeople have found Israeli markets suitable and convivial, thanks to the chamber of commerce.

“We would like to reiterate that over 5,000 businesses and organisations in Israel are linked directly with Nigeria-Israel Chamber of Commerce and its members, and over 10,000 are indirect members through our memorandum of understanding (MOU) and Agreement of Cooperation with Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce as well as Israel- Africa Chamber of Commerce and other economic institutions in Israel,’’ he said.

In many situations, chambers of commerce share information among members and make key arrangements that favour them well and above outsiders. One chamber of commerce, for instance, arranged with a financial institution some time ago to provide loans to members at a comparatively reasonable rate. Many members used the loans to move steps forward.

Furthermore, apart from protecting your business from touts in certain locations in the country,  chambers of commerce also organize trade fairs and exhibitions, which often bring members together with foreigners and non-members. Business deals are often struck during such events just as prospective  customers are also met.

In Nigeria, there are chambers of commerce in all the thirty-six states of the federation. In fact, in some states there are even more than one chamber. For instance, Anambra State has Onitsha Chamber of Commerce, Awka Chamber and Nnewi Chamber of Commerce. Delta State has Ethiope Chamber, Warri Chamber, Sapele Chamber and Asaba Chamber. Ogun has Ota-Agbara Chamber, Remo Chamber and Abeokuta Chamber of Commerce. All you need to do is to make verification online to know one nearest to you.

So before thinking about the cost of registering with a chamber of commerce, first think of these and other enormous benefits.   

ODINAKA ANUDU