The federal government has urged small businesses still operating in the informal sector of the economy to formalise their operations in order to take benefit from the government’s ongoing financial interventions.
The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Doris Uzoka-Anite, gave the advice at the opening of the 18th Abuja International Trade Fair with the theme: “Sustainable Financing and Taxation as Drivers for the New Economy.”
She said a key focus for her was to drive consumer credit reforms to enhance access to affordable credit for SMEs.
The minister pointed out that consumer credit could provide SMEs with the necessary financial resources to invest in new equipment, hire additional staff, or develop new products and services.
She said credit facilities could also bridge temporary gaps in working capital or cover unexpected expenses adding that this flexibility will help businesses maintain smooth business operations and seize growth opportunities, expand their workforce, and create new job opportunities.
Represented by the ministry’s Director, Commodity and Export, Kaura Irimiya, Anite however, said poor integration in the financial system could be tied to low business planning and formalisation, stressing that it was important to design financing policies that are tailored to the needs of MSMEs and support their growth and development.
She said businesses showcased at the trade fair embodied the structure and realization of the action plan of the present administration as they are all registered companies that have their paperwork in order.
The minister said, “We want to help ensure more companies are structured in this way. As a government, we are working hard to organise the disorganised SME market, and enable greater organisation and formalisation.
“We are ready to invest in SMEs. Our investment will be coordinated, targeted, and generous. Financing can also be used to provide MSMEs with the necessary capital to invest in new technologies, research and development, and sustainable practices.”
She said the government is currently dismantling growth impediments including multiple exchange rate systems, and fuel subsidies, and ramping up the country’s Ease of Doing Business programme.
The minister said the government will continue to drive investment into infrastructure development, encourage access to low-cost financing, and provide fiscal incentives to companies wishing to manufacture products for sale including three to five years of tax holidays for enterprises in pioneer industries; tax-free operations and capital allowances for agriculture, manufacturing and engineering within the free trade zones among others.
Among other things, she said the government had announced a plan to support small businesses and startups in response to the country’s current economic challenges.
Anite said, “We intend to spend N75 billion by March 2024 to strengthen the manufacturing sector. We also intend to provide small grants to micro businesses in each of the 774 local governments of the federation.
“We have also earmarked a fund of N75 billion that will be used to support up to 100,000 start-ups and MSMEs at single digital interest rates repayable over 36 months.
She stressed that empowering MSMEs remained key to empowering youth and women and enabling them to contribute to the nation’s economic development.
However, she noted that financing and taxation could play a crucial role in driving a new economy in Nigeria, particularly for MSMEs, which are an essential part of the economy, contributing significantly to economic growth and development.
On his part, President of ACCI, Dr Al-Mujtaba Abubakar, said the trade fair was part of the chamber’s initiative to connect businesses and create a platform for policymakers to interact with the business community recognising the vital role of small businesses in the national economy.
He said, “We encourage everyone to participate in the 12-day event, engage in business networking, and attend special days organised by government agencies, ministries, parastatals, states, private sector, and countries at the fair”.