As oil revenue dips, economist have claimed the country is technically at a point of economic recession. Several indicators such as poor power supply, pipeline vandalism, lingering fuel scarcity and forex shortages and trade and import restrictions are quoted to be responsible for the economic malaise.
To rebound from these effect the government and private sectors have focused on creating an economy that invests in empowering SMEs (small and medium scale enterprises) which has a proven track record from developed and other developing countries to be one of the most potent economic power house of every successful economy.
The question now is, if SMEs have been identified as core economic drivers why are they deficient of investment funds?
This year’s LEAP Africa’s 11th CEOs Forum tried to bridge this gap by focusing on attracting finance for your business and pointing out strategies and opportunities to do so in the Nigerian context. The forum provided a confluence platform that brought together a number of SME’s and connected them via an interactive session to successful business owners and industry experts so they can dialogue on issues with respect to seeking funding.
Issues such as sources of finance for SME’s, strategies for attracting and managing investors were brought to the table and trashed out by the experts as they drew from their wealth of experience.
Lead speaker Segun Ogunsanya the MD of Airtel Nigeria started by identifying the benefits of SME’s in a thriving economy and gave some relevant tips for upcoming SMEs. He talked about how SMEs must exercise the power of choice, power of action and the ability to overcome obstacles as the Nigerian business ecosystem is characterized by challenges.
Bismarck Rewane also pointed out some challenges encountered by the entrepreneur today and concluded by pointing out the importance of policy installation and implementation to favour SMEs.
One source of finance commonly mentioned and discussed during the session was bank loans and Yewande Sadiku of Stanbic IBTC Bank gave her perspective on this issue and shared skepticisms of why many banks are reluctant to give out loans to SMEs. Banks and other institutions vested with the responsibilities of providing SME funding have been unable to assist entrepreneurs largely owing to many factors ranging from their inability to provide suitable collateral to obtain loans or pay back loans due to uncalculated risks.
Alessandra Lustrati brought to light a unique DFID scheme called the challenge fund also known as the innovators fund which is a grant given by the UK government to developing countries to fund SMEs that focus on solving social development issues including education, and health care. With over 47 projects in Nigeria, Alessandra emphasized that “Challenge Funds is an open and competitive application process giving SME, one-off, limited duration grant to absorb the risks and overcoming the challenges in a particular system, country or situation. It provides non-returnable capitals but social outcome; they complement but don’t substitute financial institution”.
As entrepreneurs with success and failures lining their businesses, Tayo Oviosu of Pagatech, Bukky George of Healthplus and Raphael Afaedor of Supermart.ng each reflected on personal savings, angel investors and loans or grants from family and friends as viable sources of SMEs funding in starting out and sustaining their business growth. Speaking of Healthplus growth, Bukky George said “The idea of Healthplus came in 1998 but until 1999 before we had our first pharmacy. Raising fund is difficult, we ran our first Pharmacy for 8 years before we could afford more. For us at Healthplus, insufficient financial management and analysis skills has being a challenge, just like other entrepreneurs. Expansion is growth and Healthplus has experienced gradual growth. It has grown from one location at Ikeja in 1998; today, we have 79 branches across different states in Nigeria”.
The 11th CEOs Forum in association with Airtel Nigeria, Sterling Bank, Stanbic IBTC Bank, Cocacola, Landmark Event Centre and Airfrance KLM provided practical insights through the two-part event for emerging and aspiring entrepreneurs as the Forum progressed with the Investment Readiness Workshop for entrepreneurs.
LEAP held an industry focused Investment Readiness Workshop for emerging business in their growth phase for an in-depth experience of the theme. Financial and investment experts including Dapo Okubadejo, Partner KPMG, Folabi Esan, Partner, Adlevo Capital, Danladi Verheijen MD Verod Capital, Mezuo Nwuneli, MD Sahel Capital and Funke Okubadejo, Director Real Estate Actis delved into investment, financing by sector and strategies for accessing external funding in Nigeria.
The uniqueness of business by sector, funding approach and availability stood out in this workshop. LEAP Africa’s CEOs Forum has given a new meaning to how funding and investment is perceived and strategies for sourcing, attracting funds and raising capital with careful consideration.