Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, on January 26, 2017, launched the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Clinic (The MSME Clinic), in Abia State, a project planned to create a platform to boost the performance of MSMEs in Nigeria.
The Vice President in his speech at the forum described Aba as the manufacturing and small business hub of Nigeria.
The Federal Government’s choice of Aba as a take off point for the programme is in recognition of the city’s position as Nigeria’s small and medium enterprises capital.
The Federal Government intends to provide heavy support for the growth and development of small businesses as a deliberate strategy to grow the country’s economy and help provide jobs, a strategy that would be championed by the office of the Vice President.
The Federal Government has watched with keen interest and satisfaction, the efforts of the Abia State Governor Okezie Ikpeazu to promote and champion the cause of the Aba business community and bring it to national and global attention.
Tola Johnson, special assistant to the Vice President on MSME, who led an advanced team to Abia, told Governor Ikpeazu that the Vice President had followed closely, his campaign for the advancement of Made-in-Aba goods and that when it was time to choose a place to kick-start this programme, the Vice President was unequivocal in saying … “We will come to Aba.”
The MSME Clinic is designed to be a platform created by the Federal Government to deal first-hand with the institutional challenges faced by small businesses in the country.
During the clinic, all agencies of government that handle all issues concerning indigenous businesses were on ground to provide on-the-spot solutions to challenges faced by these business concerns.
These include challenges of access to finance, registration of businesses, standardisation, quality control, marketing, among other things.
According to the Vice President, “as young people, we knew about Aba-made. However, when you talk about Aba-made in those days, people thought there was something wrong with it, but now, when you talk about Aba-made, they will say it is excellently made.
“I think it is an important lesson for us as a nation that inherent in us as Nigerians is that great ability to do wonderful things – to be inventors, to be creators, to be innovators in various ways.
“And I think that Aba people, businessmen and women, manufacturers and engineers, exemplify that Nigerian attribute, the attribute of been creative.”
He explained that the MSME Clinic was designed to get all Federal Government agencies responsible for the growth of the MSME sector to a place of the hub of enterprise and create an interaction, so that we can begin the process of showing our own Federal Government agencies that their business is to facilitate business.
In his words, “We are not supposed to be obstacles, we are not supposed to create barriers that are meant to assist those who are doing business to be able to do it better. We are supposed to assist them in the process of registration and do a good job of what they are doing. And I believe that our agencies are getting into that orientation already.
“If we are talking about diversification, if you are talking about improving our economy, it must start from those who are manufacturing locally. Everybody talks about foreign investments, but you and I know that the biggest employers of labour are local manufacturers and that is how it is all over the world.
“So, our focus is going to be on local industries – those who are making shoes, fabricators, those making clothing, among others that we have seen today.
“And I have seen all sorts today. The ‘can do’ spirit of an Aba artisan is important as we move along in this mission of self-sufficiency.
“I encourage all in manufacturing that we want to be very hands-on, on this. We want to go with you. Whatever it takes to get you to do your business well and become major competitors worldwide is exactly what we want to do and that is why we are going round to understand what the problems are and be able to address all of these problems.
“We are looking forward to a greater Aba, an Aba that compares with any industries that are established in China or anywhere else.”
Governor Ikpeazu lauded the Federal Government for doing the right thing by beginning the MSME Clinic in Aba.
The decision has confirmed that Aba is truly the MSME capital of Nigeria, the governor said, and called on the Federal Government to further support small and medium scale enterprises by urgently fixing Port Harcourt Road, and Aba and Aba-Ikot Ekpene Highway.
He affirmed that a developed MSME sector had the potential to support economic growth, create jobs, get the country out of recession and add significantly to national gross domestic product (GDP).
Ikpeazu told the Vice President and other participants at the event that his government had earlier identified MSME as a major engine of economic revival.
He also informed his audience that his focused efforts at dealing with the infrastructural challenges at Aba, the MSME capital of Nigeria, was based on his conviction that a robust MSME could lead to massive wealth creation, when properly incubated and supported.
He highlighted the MSME potentials of Aba, especially the leather and garment industry and thanked the Federal Government for choosing Aba, as the location for the maiden outing of the programme.
Aba, the commercial hub of Abia State, has one of the largest concentrations of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in Nigeria and a bulk of this number is engaged in leather works, steel fabrication and garment making, which could be attributed to the popularity of the city.
It is estimated that Aba hosts 110,000 shoemakers and 50,000 garment makers.
The ingenuity of Aba artisans, especially the garment and leather clusters -comprising of shoes, belt and bag makers, attracted the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) in partnership with the Federal Government, to set up a Common Facility Centre (CFC) in the city, to support the clusters to further develop their skills.
Consequently, it is the desire of the present administration in the state, led by Governor Ikpeazu to provide a conducive environment for artisans and other business operators, and the restoration of infrastructure in the commercial city of Aba is an integral part of the plan.
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