Why is SMEDAN not a friend of small businesses?

With globalization having made both public and private sector jobs
disappear, starting one’s own business seems the surest way to getting a
secure job these days. That’s why most developing countries have since
joined their developed counterparts in giving their small business owners
the very attention they badly deserve as genuinely the ones with the right
drive not only to lead economic growth, but also lead job creation.

It’s as a result of this that small business development has been receiving
unprecedented attention in the development efforts of most countries. And
for this same reason, governments now allocate sizable portion of their
budgetary money to promoting, empowering, and protecting local startup
business owners.

It’s in this same recognition of the immense potential in our small
businesses that necessitated the Obasanjo administration’s establishment of
our own version of small business development and administration, commonly
called ‘Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency of Nigeria’

While giving birth to SMEDAN was a good start, especially for a country
where all previous governments only cared about oil-based economic
development, it failed short of being in place to play that very unique
role it plays in leading job generation not only developed economies but
also fast emerging ones. Without such clear-cut mandates, SMEDAN has since
its birth remained a toothless agency; not just deeply buried in our usual
byzantine civil service culture. Being grossly underfunded and highly
populated by technically incompetent professionals, its existence wouldn’t
have been worse.

It’s obvious that with such dearth of competent startup business developers
and growers, venture capital administrators and managers, there isn’t any
way we would have expected this agency to become world-class. Even when
those who lead it seem genuinely concerned about the dilemma of our startup
and small business owners, they know that they’re so handicapped that
there’s little they can do than mere advocacy.

In other words, it’d be a gross mistake to attribute SMEDAN’s failure only
to lack of foresighted leadership, without recognizing how its hurried
establishment as well as its mismatched responsibilities all made SMEDAN
toothless. So, it’s understandable why majority of our young entrepreneurs
and small business owners either lack knowledge of the existence of the
agency or hardly see it to be out there to help their businesses succeed.
In doubt, why not try asking some of small business owner about they think
about SMEDAN?

Now that the Jonathan administration wants to fully transform and diversify
our country’s economy from its present oil-base to a vibrant industrial
economy, it’s obvious that we now need to overhaul it so that henceforth it
promotes and protects the interests of our small businesses. That’s the
only way as an all-powerful agency it can help our risk-takers and
innovators make the sky as their limits.

Certainly, where best to start its redemption than the name itself? Rather
than retaining it as Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency of
Nigeria, it’s better to rename it a Small Business Administration of
Nigeria (SBAN). This has become inevitable if we want to make it the best
to become a razor-focused agency with clear-cut mandates than its present
broad-based mandates that include medium enterprise.

Including medium has since led it to dissipate its scarce resources and
focus. This is more so given the usual confusion in truly determining the
boundary of medium size enterprises. That’s why rather than SMEDAN
babysitting our medium sized businesses, the best we can do for them as
youngster businesses is give them full protection against foreign adult and
mature counterparts, most of whom are out there pursuing product dumping
Jihads in Nigeria.

But besides being renamed SBAN, becoming world-class will also require it
to be populated by some professionally competent venture managers and
administrators as well as venture-biased broad-based multitasked
professional goal-getters. It also requires this government to ensure a
seasoned enterprise developer and administrator is made its chief

To be tasked with the responsibility to fully mobilize and put our army of
entrepreneurs to work, SBAN should also have what it takes to aggressively
bring them together with venture financiers, including capitalists, angle
investors, institutional investors, as well as corporate mentors.

It’d also have what it takes in assisting them with the designing and
developing products and services, including product prototyping, product
reverse engineering and reengineering. It also means being ready to
partnering with respective governments in organizing local government-wide,
statewide, and federal entrepreneurial competition. It’s by training and
mentoring startup owners that makes SBAN truly lead promoter of creative
and innovative risk-taking. Above all, SBAN should partner with states
across the nation to develop enterprise-driven industrial parks as small
business sanctuaries.

Besides assisting them with the best business practices, business ethnics,
corporate social responsibility, financial prudence, product value
proposition advisement, and world-class operational and managerial
leaderships, SBAN should also be out there helping these small businesses
with the right talent hunts, intellectual property development and
protection, enterprise-software-application-integration, and above all,
with business financial accounting management.

To get the situation quickly remedied to the benefit of Nigeria’s budding
entrepreneurs and small business owners, SBAN should be relocated from the
present SMEDAN headquarters to a more spacious and more serene
headquarters; a place that enhances intense brainwork, as well as a place
that should celebrate the entrepreneurial achievements of our veteran

With its architectural appeal, this suburban headquarters should be kept
away from uninvited general public, particularly foreigners who want to spy
SBAN. For this same reason, all vehicular and human traffics going in and
out of SBAN headquarters should be carefully screened and camera monitored.

Written by
Odilim Enwegbara
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