Experts say, with an estimated population of over 160 million, large oil and gas reserves, agricultural resources and mineral deposits; Nigeria possesses abundant investment opportunities waiting to be harnessed.
They say that these opportunities need not only to be showcased to local and foreign investors in order to increase Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), but also require competent government organs to execute the task.
That responsibility falls within the mandate of the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN), established by the SMEDAN Act of 2003, to promote the development of micro, small and medium enterprises [MSME] sector of the Nigerian economy.
The agency positions itself as a One-Stop Shop for MSME development.
Alhaji Bature Masari, the Director-General of SMEDAN, at a recent interactive session in Abuja with Japanese investors showcased the investment potential in Nigeria.
The interactive session was organised by the Japanese Trade Mission to Nigeria and the Embassy of Nigeria in Tokyo, Japan.
About 44 chief executives of 29 Japanese companies attended the session.
In his paper titled: “Investment Opportunities in the Nigerian Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) Sub-Sector,” Masari said the sector hold the key to Nigeria’s industrial development.
He informed the session that there were currently 17.2 million MSMEs in Nigeria that accounted for 80 per cent of the total number of enterprises in the country and 75 per cent of the nation’s total employment base.
“The sub-sector has been identified as one of the important elements to achieving the Nigerian Vision 20:2020 and the Transformation Agenda of Mr President,” the Director-General said.
He said that the MSMEs were spread across economic sectors with the highest proportion being in the agricultural sector.
According to him, majority of the MSMEs are located in Lagos and Kano States due to the “large population of the two states, awareness and exposure and the availability of ready markets.’’
Masari said that President Jonathan had on Feb. 11, officially launched the National Enterprise Development Programme (NEDEP), aimed at generating five million direct and indirect jobs.
NEDEP, according to him, is meant to revitalise the rural economy, improve employment opportunities, create wealth and alleviate poverty in rural areas.
“This will be done through the establishment of sustainable MSMEs in the 774 local government areas in the country, based on comparative and competitive advantages.
“NEDEP will also help to entrench entrepreneurial culture, industrialisation of rural areas, enhanced industrial cluster development, increased MSMEs contribution to GDP, increased export potential,” he said.
According to him, there are vast investment opportunities under NEDEP that were embedded in the nation’s Vision 20:2020.
“The vast investment opportunities exist in ICT and modernisation of existing value chain in the agro and agro-allied sector, with regard to production and processing,’’ he said.
The Director-General listed some of the agro and agro-allied products for both domestic and exports market and the states in which they were found.
Masari informed the session that fish, coconut and raffia palm could be harnessed in Lagos State, palm oil in Abia; and fish and plantain in Bayelsa.
He also said that leather, groundnut oil and rice were being produced in Kano State, while Kaduna State produced millet and ginger and Niger produced yam, shea nuts and groundnut oil.
“You will also find tie and dye and timber in Ogun, solid minerals, potato and tomato in Plateau, cotton and leather in Katsina State, and shea nuts and fruits in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
“The other vital area is storage, packaging and marketing as well as distribution of food-related items,’’ Masari told the session.
He also informed the Japanese investors that the role of SMEDAN was to coordinate and facilitate the development of the MSMEs sub-sector.
“The potential of the MSMEs sub-sector are huge, both for social and economic reasons, implying a vast landscape for investing in small businesses, whether to achieve Millennium Development Goals or to create employment and wealth to reduce poverty.
“The economic reform programme of the Federal Government, especially Mr President’s Transformation Agenda, is making the environment even more friendly and rewarding,” he said.
In his opening remarks, the Japanese Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr Ryuichi Shoji, said the Japanese Government would continue to invest in Nigeria.
Shoji told the session that the Japanese Government would also encourage its citizens to invest in Nigeria, describing Nigeria as a huge market.
He said his country would also help Nigeria to develop its market and boost its economy.
The development of the economy would indeed help to check the current security challenge, as it could be attributed to unemployment.
Alhaji Muhammad Nadada Umar, a former Director-General of SMEDAN, had advised stakeholders to give attention to job creation, as a way of tackling the challenges facing the country.
He said that developing MSMEs was the best crusade ever undertaken in the country.
Umar added that it had become imperative to tackle the problems of poverty and unemployment for peace to stand a chance in the country.
“And without peace, neither the small nor the big businesses would grow or survive in Nigeria.” he said.