By Simeon Mpamugoh
The Managing Director, Entrepreneurs Trust Fund, (ETrustFund) Joy Michael has tasked the Federal Government on the need to take one of the key pillars to entrepreneurial development like infrastructure and focus on it.
Michael who doubles as the Executive Director, Africa’s Young Entrepreneurs (A.Y.E) Organization said this as a guest of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) Abuja programme ‘Weekend Deal.’
She added that there were entrepreneurs who just needed efficient internet service, and a place with an uninterrupted power supply to be productive. “The price of oil is increasing and not all can afford to power their generators even when they do have one. In my interactions with a lot of entrepreneurs, I discovered that the key challenges in navigating their way in the business ecosystem, aside from power supply, security and, good road network have been funding, which is a major issue.”
The A Y. E director who also heads the growth, expansion, strategy, implementation and impact of the organization in all the African countries where it has footprints noted that Nigeria was currently ranked 131 in the World Bank’s ease of doing business index report adding that the report clearly showed that there was some progress. “We would have to give that credit to the present administration led by President Muhammadu Buhari, however, being 131 on the ranking is still a long way from being the top ten because we have all the resources needed in this country to play in the top ten chart. And because of the position I occupy, I know that Africa is very peculiar and well endowed. We have brilliant minds, abundant natural resources, and the right weather all year round.
“In the United Kingdom (UK) for instance, there is winter, and the number of months they have in a year to be productive is nothing to be compared with what we have in Nigeria. In 365 days, we have more productive hours. So, why can’t we be that ambitious by paying more attention to major issues and putting all our energy and resources into ensuring that the key things that are the stimulus to making others work are sorted out?
“As much as I’ll say we’ve done well, because the report was compiled between 2016-2020, i.e. 4 years ago, and we moved about 30 places upward, there is still a lot of work to be done. There are conversations on taxation, credit facilities, business registration, insecurity, and infrastructure. Can we as an institution or government take at least one of those key pillars like infrastructure and focus on it.
“We have to realize that when you have access to funding, the cost of overhead is about 60 percent high. Our organization has given grants to several entrepreneurs. If we have an enabling environment, the grant can do a lot of things. I know there are tax holidays for Small Scale Enterprises (SMEs) especially when their revenue is below 20 million per annum, however, can the government for instance make it the first five years for the fact that the business ecosystem is not stable and friendly. I must confess that it has been quite challenging for Nigerian entrepreneurs.”
When reminded that there have been some intervention programs by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in ensuring that access to funding is seamless, she said. “The fact that the media say it is seamless makes one to ask: “Is it really seamless?” I have people that have applied, the process is rigorous, and requirements are things not everyone can meet.
“We have the regular SMEs who had employed six or more people, they need this help especially during this COVID-19 experience, requesting for certain requirements they cannot meet, means you do not want them to be able to sustain and grow their businesses.”
On what entrepreneurs can do on their own to really help themselves successfully, she noted that there were the internal and external factors. “We have to realize that even when they do those things, because of the external factors it becomes difficult. Take for instance, the inflation rate, you hired someone to work for you in 2016, and the salary was N50,000 with 10 percent growth every year, meanwhile the value of that money in 2021 has dropped significantly. The truth is, he cost of running a business in Nigeria has increased, it is now more expensive: the cost of transportation and living are high, and now there are no resources to retain such staff while rate of turnover has gone up. So as much as an entrepreneur wants to ensure he has the right system in place and is able to afford the right personnel, we also have job seekers who don’t have the right skills. There is still a lot of work to do in the education system.”
She also spoke about Entrepreneurs Trust Fund, the first and largest entrepreneurs cooperative in the world. “It is a platform where African Entrepreneurs get access to interest-free loans with no collateral, credit checks and paperwork in approximately 59 seconds after approval. For a Nigerian entrepreneur to have access to that loan, the person just have to simply go to our website: www.etrustfund.org
“We have many MSMEs with medical issues, who need just advisory, not everyone can go to the hospital and pay for the facilities. There are also legal issues with documentation, getting into a partnership, preparing MoU and contracts. There is a team of experts that caters to that. Even with business advisory, making the right decisions is another issue, and that is what the E-TrustFund actually caters for. Let me also mention that mentoring and training are key to guiding an entrepreneur and start-up.