The minister of trade and investment, Dr Olusegun Aganga, recently announced the federal government's plan to launch a new micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) policy. The draft policy document - the National Enterprise Development Programme (NEDEP) - would provide the framework for the creation of a stronger and more robust small and medium enterprises (SMEs) sector.
NEDEP is also expected to create 3.5 million direct jobs in 2013, and 5 million indirect ones by 2015.
Of course, we agree with Minister Aganga that the country needs a strong MSMEs sector. MSMEs have proven to be the best vehicle for inclusive growth and the creation of local demand and consumption as well as jobs.
It is hoped that government's attempt at promoting the sector will work this time round. For the problem with Nigeria is not lack of good ideas but poor implementation of good ideas. For the country to record any meaningful growth, a programme like NEDEP must be executed in an effective way.
Across the world, it is acknowledged that MSMEs form the bedrock of most thriving economies. In Nigeria, for example, the informal sector is what has been fueling the economy; but for the informal sector, the country's economy would have since collapsed in spite of its enormous human and natural resources that are underexploited and misapplied.
Recent statistics give credence to the sector's potential: the 2012 Enterprise Baseline Survey conducted by the Pro-Poor Growth and Promotion of Employment Programme in collaboration with the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) and the German Development Agency revealed that there were 17,284,671 SMEs in Nigeria that employ 32,414,844 people and contribute 46.5 per cent of Nigeria's GDP in nominal terms.
What could happen if the sector were given as much support as was given the South-East Asian SMEs by their governments in the 1980s? There would be a "growth spurt" for our economy. Nigerian MSMEs have had to contend with additional issues of lack of adequate infrastructure and access to financial services. We hope the new NEDEP policy would address these.
Even if everything else becomes difficult to resolve, government should strive to get the power sector right. Without adequate and regular power supply, businesses will continue to suffer. With regards to financing, there exist the National Microfinance Policy and the more recent National Financial Inclusion Strategy, both developed by the Central Bank of Nigeria in collaboration with other stakeholders to address the issue of access to financial services.
Proper harmonisation of policies is also important for the growth of the sector. The different government agencies should converge to form a force strong enough to ensure the "growth spurt" in the MSMEs sector. It is high time government eschewed its usual lackadaisical attitude towards the implementation of policies and programmes. If well implemented, NEDEP might well save the country from poverty, youth agitation and the attendant insecurity.