Exporters, SMEs demand govt’s intervention

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By Merit Ibe                    [email protected] 

Business owners have lamented the dearth investmwnt capital, largely blamed for contributing to the sectors’s stagnation coupled with challenges such as poor infrastructure, inconsistent government policies, double taxation, regulation irregularities among others.

The operators noted that most businesses have great potential for growth but for the challenge of finance.

Funding is the bloodline of any  business, whether it is a startup, nano, micro, small or medium-sized business.

The high operating cost in the country has worsened the case of businesses that lack funds due to the process of accessing it and high interest rates.

The stakeholders  advocated that the government should support businesses by providing financial support for survival in the current high operating cost.

The business owners also lamented that funding is beyond the reach of small business owners, because  banks have not been duly standardised to the point of accommodating the documentation processes of small businesses.

Daniel Dickson-Okezie, Chairman, SMEs Group, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry ( LCCI), said though government has made efforts to improve the real sector through funding, more needs to be done.

He noted that corruption in the system was hindering those who actually need these funds from accessing them.

“Despite government’s  statements on improving the real sector through funding, it’s not still enough.

“Corruption in the system has put a setback on the initiative. Most times those funds don’t get to the right persons. They end up in the hands of the wrong people.

“Lack of transparency is part of the issue. Sourcing personal funds is so difficult as  interest rates are prohibitive.

“Government needs to assist SMEs boost their businesses via loans at single digit rate, as they are in dire need of these loans.

Segun Tayo, Kuti-George, Managing Director, Goshen-Multi Nigeria Ltd and immediate past chairman of the National Association of Small Scale Industrialists (NASSI), stated that loan facilities were not accessible. “The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) needs to make access to funding easy.

The country needs to build industries, when the nation is industrialised, it will boost the economy. Government needs to encourage production and manufacturing by funding them. Most people have ideas but don’t have the funds to produce and increase value. MSMEs need access to cheap funds.

“The government says there are a lot of windows to access loans but these windows are not actually accessible. The loan facilities are not accessible. The CBN needs to facilitate easy access to loans.”

He said funds made available by the Federal Government to the MSMEs had a lot of bottlenecks that makes it difficult for members to access loans.  He described MSMEs as the wheel of economic development, calling on government to provide new measures for improved funding.

Kuti-George identified inability to acquire modern equipment to meet up with global standard of production as another challenge facing the MSMEs sector, urging government to assist them in purchasing modern equipment as many could not afford these machines due to high cost.

For the  Managing Director, Aarti Steel Nig Ltd, Imokhai Ehimigbai, who is also a member of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Export Group (MANEG), lack of funds is a serious challenge to adding value to our export proceeds.

“Capital is expensive in Nigeria. Businesses find it difficult to get money for machines to process the raw products. You need capital to buy machines. Even when the capital is there, the gestation period is very short. Interest rate is very high.”

Ehimigbai berated  Commercial banks, saying they  were not helping matters.

“When the NEXIM bank wants to give you a particular amount at single digit, they will direct  you to your commercial bank to guarantee you, but the bank discourages you that it does not exist and then convince you to take theirs at double digit.

“The same goes with the CBN intervention funds. How many manufacturers have been able to access the funds. It’s difficult. CBN, NEXIM and BOI designed a format to reach businesses but commercial banks are making things difficult.”

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Sourcing and Producing, an agricultural trading company, Lanre Awojoodu, urged the Federal Government to support Nigerian exporters with loans to encourage them in the regulated global commodity platform. Awojoodu said export companies need capital which would enable them to compete globally.

According to him, this is a crucial time for government to make funds available for export companies of agricultural produce.