To check poverty and Nigeria’s rising unemployment, experts have advocated for policies and strategies that will strengthen small and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs).
The experts who spoke at the 20th annual lecture and 29th anniversary of Catholic Brothers United of St Agnes parish, Maryland, in Lagos, said that SMEs have the capacity to help Nigeria out of its present predicaments, but that there must be the right environment for them to thrive.
Patrick Akinwuntan, chairman of the occasion and former managing director, Ecobank of Nigeria, said with reported over 40 million registered businesses in Nigeria, the SME sector has the potential to eradicate unemployment and poverty in Nigeria when leveraged and supported fully.
Akinwuntan noted that the issues of ease of doing business, human capital development, access to the market and access to finance must be given adequate attention for SMEs to survive.
George Ehusani, a reverend father and director at Lux Terra, Leadership Foundation who moderated the panel session, said the current youth unemployment rate as of December 2022 stood at over 50 percent of the population, which means that the next sector for employment would be small and medium scale start-up enterprises.
He said Nigeria as presently structured was begging for new thinking and new energy in this area, as there were vast untapped sectors that could be harnessed for national cohesion and development.
He listed areas available for creative new initiatives to include agriculture, ICT, digital technology and artificial intelligence, manufacturing, processing of raw materials, mining, iron and steel development, tourism.
“A low-hanging fruit to promote national growth is ICT.” The key to boosting entrepreneurship in the era of the fifth industrial revolution is to embrace technology and to loosen up some of the bottlenecks that have hindered geometric progression in the past few decades.”
Omotayo Omotosho, a veteran television broadcaster and media entrepreneur, who was part of the panel discussant, spoke on ethical values in our families, as critical for growth and sustainable development.
Omotosho noted that the values we teach our children determine how far they can go in life, noting that teaching them to start small will build that sustainability.
Nelson Akerele, managing director, Royal Exchange Life Assurance, in his contribution, said entrepreneurship has emerged as the only solution to the country’s unemployment situation.
Akerele, therefore, called for a mental shift, urging that the youths should think of what service they can render in their environment and get paid for.