This has been a very exciting afternoon for me because I have seen the future of the economy of our country and that future lies in the small and medium scale enterprises, many of who are here today advertising their products.
“The business of making our country truly great is not just the business of government. Government is transient, it passes away but it is the business of every one of us.’’ “I can assure you that whatever it takes to make our country truly where it should be in the comity of nations in Africa and anywhere in the world, we will give it.’’
Just today I have come across BIMKAF Palace who produces coconut oil, flour, ginger powder, carrot oil and so on, Cura Foods and Disposables, Euphrates Renewable Enterprises, Bob-ella Décor & Event Management, Nwamaka Ventures and several other MSMEs. The list is far too long to go on mentioning them. I want to say that all of the businesses we have seen here today, many of them are young men and women who believe in this country and who are using Nigerian products, Nigerian crafted machines in many cases, fabricated and who are producing incredible things with what they have. A lot of the capital they have is from several of the micro finance businesses that are working with them. I want to say that the future of our country is in small businesses, medium size businesses doing great things, and that is what we are seeing here today. But it is not enough for these businesses to produce and manufacture and to work hard as they are doing, it is our business as government to do our part. That is exactly why we have this MSME Clinics, the reason why we decided to have this clinics in the different states where we have held them so far and now in Abuja, is because we believe that government has a key role to play in creating an environment for businesses to prosper and for businesses to make good. This is exactly why we are here, the idea came out of conversations I had with Mr. President about how we could develop small businesses quickly. We recognise that one of the chief problems that small businesses have is with regulatory agencies; being able to access regulatory agencies and get quick and efficient service from regulatory agencies. Secondly, funding is also an important constraint for many of these small businesses. So we thought that it would be wise to actually take these regulatory agencies to the small businesses rather than wait for the small businesses to come to the regulatory agencies. This interaction can sensitize the regulatory agencies themselves to the problems of small and medium scale enterprises. What we have seen so far is that there has been tremendous improvement in the way that the regulatory agencies respond to small and medium enterprises. So what we have done for example, is that we have brought NAFDAC which of course as you know is an important agency in the process of approvals for products. We brought NAFDAC, SON and even the CAC, that is the Corporate Affairs Commission. We brought the Bank of Industry here as well. These are important agencies for funding and regulation that need to interact with small and medium scale businesses, and we believe that interaction has been very fruitful indeed. We have done this in Aba, Ilorin, Sokoto, Jos, Kastina and in Calabar, and this in Abuja is the latest one. We are still going round the states and the different geo-political zones with the regulatory agencies and we are bringing about this interaction. I recently signed two Executive Orders which are closely related to improving the business environment for MSMEs. These Executive Orders are also important in the work we are trying to achieve. The first makes it easier for MSMEs to get approvals without delays and bureaucratic hassles; the other one is on local content. The first one which makes it easier for MSMEs to get approval, is one where we are seeking to reduce the time that it takes to register companies, reduce the time it takes to get approvals for different types of things that are required in a business. So, for your NAFDAC approval, we are trying to shorten that process, your SON approval, we are trying to shorten the process and the registration of companies as well. The other is local content which is absolutely important for us because we believe that just as the President said in his budget speech in December, we must make what we use and we must grow what we eat. It is our responsibility as a nation and as individuals that we patronise what it is that we need. Here today, I have seen all manners of products from coconut oil to plantain chips, all sorts of products, yams, agricultural produce, rice, practically everything and it is the desire of our government to ensure that we patronise these local products. By 2018, we expect to be completely self-sufficient in rice production, we are going to do the same for tomatoes; we are going to do the same for several others of our products. In this Executive Order which was signed barely six weeks ago, we are saying that the Federal Government of Nigeria and state governments must patronize locally produced goods. So, the first point of call is to patronize locally produced goods. Already the Armed Forces are patronizing those who are making boots and some people who are making fatigues and different kinds of fabrics for the Army. We are going to insist that this should be so in our purchases especially where we have events such as this and where we have state dinners and so on. And it is also our desire that we patronize locally produced clothing as much as we can. I am extremely proud of the achievements of the Abuja Enterprise Agency. I think that they have done a wonderful thing indeed by organizing this particular MSMEs Clinics and the various other things that we have seen that they are doing. It is great to hear that they are funding some other MSMEs as well, and that they intend to increase this funding which is extremely important and we hope to be able to support what the enterprise agency is doing. I will like to commend the FCT Minister for the excellent work that is going on and to say that we are fully behind you and we will support you in any possible way. As you know the Honourable Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment is the former MD of the Abuja Enterprise Agency, so don’t be surprised to find that there would be more Ministers coming out from the Abuja Enterprise Agency. (Applause) I would also like to acknowledge your Excellencies, the governors who are here, and I want to thank you very much for taking the time to attend these MSMEs Clinics. We had a long day at NEC meeting but you also chose to come along and see for yourselves what Nigerians are doing and how well these enterprises are doing; I like to thank you very much for joining me in looking round the stands. I want to just say that the Federal Government is committed to MSMEs and to developing MSMEs. So, we are going to work very hard to ensure that we don’t just do exhibitions and come round to places like this and see what you are doing, but we are going to follow up; we are going to see that those who require funding, those who have the talents, those who have the creativity, are funded. It is not an easy task funding MSMEs because sometimes it is difficult to know who is where but one of the great advantages of what we are doing especially the Abuja Enterprise Agency is that we can find you where you are and we know exactly where you are. I have been speaking with the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory and the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment that we will do all we can to ensure that you are well funded, that those who require funding are funded, those who require training are trained, that whatever support you require from the Federal Government, you will get it. The state governments are also committed. They have assisted us as we try to set up one-stop shops in the states that we have been, where the regulatory agencies can have their representatives and ensure that people who need regulatory approval are granted the regulatory approvals speedily. The business of making our country truly great is not just the business of government. Government is transient, it passes away but it is the business of every one of us, and this country has the talent, this country has the men and women who have the creative ability to make our country greater than any country in the world. I can assure you that whatever it takes to make our country truly where it should be in the comity of nations in Africa and anywhere in the world, we will give it.