The National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) and the Small and Medium Scale Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) have reached an agreement to institutionalise the activities of SMEs in Nigeria.
The announcement was made during a meeting between NITDA’s director-general, Mallam Kashifu Abdullahi and his SMEDAN counterpart, Mr. Olawale Fasanya, held at NITDA’s corporate headquarters in Abuja.
Abdullahi emphasised the importance of institutionalising SMEs as a catalyst for creating wealth and prosperity. He highlighted that a significant percentage, between 60-90 per cent, of businesses in Nigeria operate informally as SMEs. Abdullahi posed a crucial question: “How can we formalize them so that even the government can benefit by collecting taxes and establish a structure to accurately capture the GDP?”
Abdullahi further explained that NITDA primarily deals with startups that are SMEs striving to solve real-life problems. These startups, according to him, span various sectors such as agriculture, commerce, education, and logistics. He also highlighted the emerging trend of smart manufacturing, where designs can be created on a computer and printed using 3D printers. NITDA’s Digital Fabrication Lab at the National Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (NCAIR) allows for the creation of prototypes and mass production.
Abdullahi announced plans to establish facilities across Nigeria to ensure widespread access to such resources. He also assured SMEDAN that their SMEs would be included in some of NITDA’s initiatives and collaborations with major tech companies. In addition to supporting SMEs, NITDA is focusing on “Innovation Driven Enterprises” (IDEs), encouraging entrepreneurs to solve immediate problems while aiming for global expansion facilitated by information technology.
The director-general referred to a recent research study conducted by the Lagos Business School that highlighted the booming nature of the ‘Gig’ economy. He revealed that over 2 million Nigerians earned a living through the ‘Gig’ economy last year, leveraging IT to work remotely, such as in ride-hailing services like Bolt and online digital marketing.
Abdullahi emphasised the shared objective of NITDA and SMEDAN to promote wealth creation through the use of IT. He emphasised the pervasive nature of technology in our lives, stating, “IT is pervasive, anywhere you think of today, you need IT to enable it”.
Highlighting the common goals of the two agencies, Abdullahi stated, “This kind of collaboration is what can help us establish a structure to protect the ‘Gig’ economy as well”.
The SMEDAN director-general, Mr. Olawale Fasanya expressed their readiness to explore further collaborative areas that would have a greater impact on society. Fasanya mentioned that they had already trained about 70 youths from each of the 36 states in various skills, particularly digital marketing, to enable SMEs to take advantage of the digital space. He stressed the importance of providing SMEs with knowledge of e-learning platforms, e-marketing and other digital tools.
The agreement between NITDA and SMEDAN marks a significant step towards formalizing and empowering SMEs in Nigeria. With the government’s support, these enterprises can thrive, contribute to economic growth and take advantage of the digital revolution to expand their reach globally.