Nigeria, a major oil producing nation is undoubtedly one of the largest economies in Sub-Saharan Africa. Albeit being reliant on oil, the country’s economy has over the years recorded significant growth through the activities of corporate organisations that ranges from multinationals and international corporations with offices spread across the country, indigenous companies, and a wide pool of Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs).
Interestingly, SMEs form the major part of the businesses in Nigeria. What makes it appealing and a venture to explore includes, being less capital intensive and the flexibility in filling the need in niche markets. The role and contribution of SMEs to the economic growth of the Nigeria cannot be understated as they are the main drivers of economic and industrial transformation of the country.According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), SMEs in Nigeria have contributed about 48% – on average – to the national GDP in the last five years. Totaling about 17.4 million enterprises they account for about 50% of industrial jobs and nearly 90% of activities in the manufacturing sector, in terms of number of enterprises.
However, several factors limit SMEs growth and ability to expand to meet the growing needs of the Nigerian populace. Such factors include; limited funding from financial institutions and the government, high cost of credit facilities inclusive of interest rates and maintenance costs, inconsistency in government policies and bureaucratic bottlenecks, multiple taxation, poor infrastructures like power supply, good roads, transportation system, among others.Identifying the challenges SMEs face in Nigeria, Heritage Bank PLC, Nigeria’s most innovative banking service provider has shown a repeated determination to giving young entrepreneurs an opportunity to display their ingenuity and talents through strategic initiatives to boost the capacity development of these SMEs owners. For instance, the Bank has consistently supported the organizer of The Next Titan – an entrepreneurial reality TV show, to ensure that the entrepreneurial goals of the Nigerian youths are achieved.Additionally, as part of the bank’s response to dealing with the global economic challenge occasioned by COVID-19, which highly impacted SMEs, Heritage Bank PLC has reiterated commitment to deepen its support to young entrepreneurs in Nigeria to grow their businesses either as start-ups or prospective business owners.
The last Season of the reality TV show themed “The Unstoppable” was designed to search for business ideas that are immune to any pandemic, innovations that break boundaries, and technologies that can survive any lockdown.
Speaking during the grand finale, MD/CEO of the Bank, Dr Ifie Sekibo stated that the programme easily aligns with the primary focus of the management of Heritage Bank to promote every laudable entrepreneurial idea meant to broaden economic horizon of the country for the benefit of citizens and other residents of Nigeria. Sekibo who was represented by the Divisional Head, Corporate Communications, Fela Ibidapo further affirmed, “As a catalytic institution in the empowering of entrepreneurs in the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) sector, Heritage Bank has continued to make relentless efforts in this space to empower entrepreneurs in Nigeria through championing several empowerment schemes like the HB Innovation Lab Accelerator programme (HB-LAB), Ynspyre Account, Youth Innovative Entrepreneurship Development Programme (YIEDP), Centre for Values in Leadership (CVL) on Young Entrepreneurship Business Training Programme (YEBTP), Young Entrepreneurs and Students (YES) Grant and Nigerian Youth Professional Forum (NYPF), Big Brother Nigeria, Lagos Comic Con, among others.”
The Executive Producer of the entrepreneurial Reality Show, Mr. Mide Kunle-Akinlaja his address explained that the project was created and designed as a deliberate attempt to provoke the spirit of entrepreneurship of young Nigerians, not only the contestants on the show, but other multitude of aspiring entrepreneurs who can watch the show on TV. “It does not matter what your business idea is all about or its focus, but you must be able to prove that your business has what it takes in terms of ideas or technologies to survive any future pandemic or lockdown.”
An entrepreneur and a graduate of the Federal University of Technology Owerri with a Bachelor Degree in Environmental Science who is the Chief Executive Officer of Josult Oil Processing Company, a palm oil processing company in Akwa Ibom State, Joshua Joseph Idiong, finally emerged the winner of the Next Titan Season-7, going home with a whooping sum of N10million.
Furthermore, Heritage Bank PLC in partnership with Honourable Fatima Mohammed (FAMO) Foundation also provided succor to over 300 affected private school teachers and small medium enterprises (SMEs). The bank’s entrepreneurial schemes for businesses have always focused on dependable job-creating sectors, such as education, agricultural value chain (fish farming, poultry, snail farming), cottage industry, mining and solid minerals, creative industry (tourism, arts and crafts), and Information and Communications Technology (ICT).Heritage Bank, as a youth friendly bank, is dedicated to helping promote businesses while making dreams a reality and is mindful of the devastating impact of the pandemic to the nation’s economic system.
Hence, as an institution at the forefront of investing in human capital development for critical economy recovery, will continue to empower Nigerian youths who are one of the bedrocks of any vibrant economy.