27th, June, 2020.
Every 27th of June is set aside by the United Nation to celebrate Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises all over the world. This year, like every year, the day was celebrated with much funfair though most of the activities were online due to the coronavirus pandemic that is still ravaging the world. The main reason for celebrating the day is to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool. In our part, in celebrating the day, the Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) organized three different activities; Radio Programs at Vision FM with Zafrullah Abdulaziz, the Author of Entrepreneurship Revolution, CITAD Online Radio with beneficiaries of CITAD Digital Livelihood Program and an online Seminar via Zoom with theme: Supporting Small Businesses through Covid-19 Crisis.
The seminar which was moderated by Hajiya Maryam Uwais, a Senior Special Assistant to the President on Social Investment Programmes had young entrepreneurs and academician as panelists. The panelists were: Muazu Hassan Muazu, a lecturer at Dangote Business School, Bayero University, Kano and Business Consultant, Alhaji Abdullahi Salisu, a Mandela Washington Fellow, Forbes African 30 under 30, Co-Founder and CEO eTrash2Cash and Mainuna Anka, a Fashion Entrepreneur, Creative Director and Founder of Malaabis-By-Marymz School of Design and Co-Founder, SmeConclave.
In his opening remarks, the Ag. Programmes Coordinator, Malam Isah Garba appreciated the panelists and moderator for accepting the invitation to enlighten the participants about the topic. Emphasizing about the importance of small businesses in the society, Malam Isah Garba stated that small scale entrepreneurs are the backbone of any country’s economy which generates most of country’s GDP. While discussing about the choice of the topic, he stated that the threats COVID 19 pandemic posed to small businesses all over the world is so alarming that there was need to sit down with experts and find a solutions and how they can be helped. Assuring the participants about the readiness of CITAD in helping small businesses, he stated that CITAD is always willing to support young entrepreneurs especially in the area of mentoring, accessing of grants and trainings.
The first speaker, Dr. Muazu Hassan Muazu centered his discussion on two perspectives of entrepreneurship that is economic entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs. According to him, economic entrepreneurs are basically profit-making entrepreneurs while the social entrepreneurs are nonprofit entrepreneurs. The speaker stated that entrepreneurs in the society who are always trying to solve societal problems need to be encouraged and supported by individuals and governments, especially at this critical time when most of them have lost their businesses due to lockdown. This will encourage other young individuals to become involved in problem solving businesses in the society.
Discussing on how to shift from the conventional way of doing things, Muazu Hassan Muazu stated that for change to happen, people need to think outside the box and leverage on new innovations amidst this pandemic. Applauding the young entrepreneurs in the society, Dr. Muazu said, many of our young people have already started turning the pandemic into fortune, young entrepreneurs are now sewing face marks, producing hand sanitizers and turning their business into online ones, these from his part are what are expected from entrepreneurs; solving societal problems. However, the speaker called on the government and individuals to start providing loans to young people which is interest free. Emphasizing on this, he stated that Bank of Industries needs to step up and provide soft loans to entrepreneurs likewise wealthy individuals in the society. Also on the part of the government, he called on the Ministry of Digital Economy to provide a platform where it will be capturing data of these young people for easy assistance, and also to help these businesses bounce back, he also said there is need for tax waiver to small businesses in the country. While talking about challenges these young businesses are facing, Dr. Muazu said that the major constraints from the government is electricity. Finally, he called for a strong partnership between the government and private sectors in terms of public awareness and creating economic opportunities.
In his contribution, Salisu Abdullahi stated that young people can be employers of labour instead of waiting for government and other big companies to hire them. Speaking about his startup which he founded in 2016, Mr. Abdullahi said “it is a social enterprise that helps people to exchange their trash for cash, which they can use to better their lives. All trash gets processed into direct reusable materials, such as trash and shopping bags” while speaking about their achievements, he stated that in 2017 the startup can only reach 3,500 people with $55 profit while in 2019 they were able to reach 13,500 people with profit of $120 and created jobs for hundreds of people both casual and full time jobs The speaker encouraged young people to start thinking outside the box, saying that there are many opportunities outside only that many of the youth lack the knowledge, information, creativity to tap on them or they are too lazy waiting for white color jobs. Speaking about the startup target, Mr. Salisu said they aimed to reach 100,000 people and aim a revenue of $1.5m by 2022. Mr. Abdullahi said the major constraints facing the organization currently are the lack of constant electricity and other alternative of power.
The third speaker, Mrs. Maimuna Abubakar Anka said as a Fashion designer the pandemic has really shocked her and put fear in her mind at the beginning looking at how the lockdown came almost during ‘Eid celebration which is the major market period of fashion designers in Northern Nigeria, but this motivate her to think outside the box which made her to venture into e-business. This according to her has made her to generate profit more than other periods. Mrs. Anka said the profit she is generating at this period is more than when she was engaging in her normal business, similarly the number of students patronizing her fashion academy have doubled compared to when there was no lockdown. On her part, what young entrepreneurs need to excel is creativity, innovation and turning every situation to opportunity.
Contributing to the discussion, Nuraddeen Abubakar Zauro who works with Central Bank of Nigeria expressed his dissatisfaction on the way young entrepreneurs in the north are not using and benefiting from the different schemes offered by CBN for entrepreneurship and entrepreneurs in the country. Saying that there are many opportunities in the Bank and encouraged the youth to leverage on them to expand their businesses.
While closing the session, the moderator of the seminar, Mrs. Maryam Uwais encouraged youth to be proactive, creative and able to solve problems in the society, mentioned that there are a lot of opportunities in our society that are left untapped and could generate a lot of employments. She thanked CITAD for organizing the seminar looking at the topic which comes at the right time and called on other organizations to be organizing this kind of lectures in order to help the young people in the society.
Another program organized by the CITAD to celebrate the world entrepreneurship day was a radio discussion on CITAD’s own online radio station on the topic the effects of COVID 19 on entrepreneurship with three beneficiaries of the Digital Livelihood program, a women entrepreneurship training initiative of CITAD that was supported by the Embassy of the United States of America, Abuja in 2018. The three beneficiaries, Samira Garba Ibrahim, Hafsat Abubakar Sadiq and Aina’u Sarki featured in the online station of CITAD (www.citad.org/radio) and discussed extensively for an hour about their experiences in entrepreneurship with their business companies. In their discussions, Samira said their businesses has been affected by the current COVID 19 pandemic in such a way that many of her customers do not come for purchase as a result of the lockdown. Hafsat explained that she managed to survive her company in this situation through using private mobility, carrying her products to the various sites within the state for her customers who called and requested them. Aina’u who is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Native Essence General Enterprise lamented the way the government failure to support small businesses but collect revenues on monthly basis despite the challenge posed by the COVID 19. She pleaded with the government to be supportive through the Ease of doing business policy for their businesses to flourish and maximize the gains. On asking on the tools they use in marketing their products, all of them responded that the common tool they use is internet through online communications in social media platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp. On asking about the challenges they mostly face; they said the most pressing challenge are insufficient capital and debts but said they consult their mentors regularly to regulate the transactions and balance the situations respectively. The discussion was live online from 2pm-3pm on Saturday 27th June, 2020.
The third segment of the programs organized by CITAD for the celebration of this day was an interactive Radio programs at conventional media, Vision FM 92.5 in Kano state which hosted Mr. Zafrullah Abdulaziz, Founder and CEO Benz Concept Limited.
The discussion focus solely on how small businesses in the society can cope with issues and threats the covid19 pandemic is posing to their survival which made many businesses to collapsed and left others at verge of collapsing. The guest also discussed the effect of Covid-19 on entrepreneurs and small businesses, and the resourcefulness of companies that thrived during the pandemic. He went further to talk about how the business playing field will change post Covid-19, where there will emerge winners and losers.
Finally, Mr. Zafrullah stated during the one-hour discussion sponsored by CITAD that small businesses are the engines that hold any country’s economy so the need to be supported.
Compiled by Ali Sabo, Mubarak Ekute, Sagiru Ado Abubakar and Ibrahim Nuhu