By Lucas Ajanaku
THE Federal Government has waived payment for Right of Way (RoW) on its highways across the country as part of palliatives for COVID-19 to stimulate investment in infrastructure in the economy.
The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami who spoke at the ongoing virtual meeting convened by MTN to unveil its TheRevvProgramme targeted at developing small businesses, said a memo to that effect has been forwarded to President Muhammadu Buhari for his blessing.
Pantami said the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, forwarded the memo to the Presidency, adding that other critical agencies of government, such as the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), and National Inland Waterways (NIWA) are party to the deal.
He urged investors to take advantage of the window he said has been opened to lapse by 2022.
The minister said Small, Medium Enterprises (SMEs) remained the engine room of the economy, contributing about 48 per cent to the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) according to figures from the national stats agency, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
He added that there are 41.1million SMEs in the country while 96 per cent of enterprises are SMEs.
According to the World Bank, 90 per cent of businesses fall under SMEs providing 50 per cent jobs.
Dr Pantami said the development regulations to drive the digital economy of the country was ready, adding that other agencies of government such as the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) are expected to come up with ‘subsidiary regulations’ to drive the digital dream.
He stressed the need to toe the path of Masachussetts Institute of Technology (MIT) model of Innovation Driven Enterprises (IDEs) development.
MTN Nigeria said The RevvProgramme will mitigate against the effects of COVID-19 on SMEs in line with the digital economy drive of the government as espoused in the National Digital Economy Policy and Strategy (NDEPS). The programme seeks to address major macro level issues specifically in the areas of re-igniting the economy and driving digital inclusion for SMEs.
Adopting a four-pronged approach that includes masterclasses, access to market, productivity tools support and advisory initiatives, The RevvProgramme seeks to help SMEs relearn, rethink and retool their businesses for growth in the emerging digital economy.
Working with relevant stakeholders, subject-matter experts and the company’s executives the programme will support over 10,000 SMEs beginning with masterclasses for digital literacy, business management and execution abilities necessary to accelerate the growth of their businesses. The masterclasses which will be delivered by MTN executives along with industry experts will focus on various core areas of business management, as part of a broader strategy to uplift small businesses. This will be followed by the selection ofThe Y’ello 200 (Two hundred top-performing SMEs at the sessions) that will enjoy exclusive access to a broad range of technology and productivity tools and services absolutely free, for a period of six months.
They will also receive productivity support that will enhance their business performance, in addition to access to MTN’s media assets for product marketing, which will open up new market opportunities for business growth and expansion. The programme also seeks to provide medium-term guidance for small business owners through a structured business advisory arrangement from industry experts.
Over the past five years, small businesses in Nigeria have contributed an estimated 48% to the national GDP. In addition, SMEs account for about 96% of the total number of businesses in the country and employ 84% of the local workforce in Nigeria according to 2017 data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
For the SME sector, a lot has changed since the lockdown as necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic; resulting in an unprecedented economic tailspin, which has further affected both small businesses and large organisations, drastically decreased consumer spending, and affected jobs and people’s livelihood. The RevvProgramme is expected to help small businesses re-start economic activities and position them for accelerated growth.
Speaking at the virtual launch of the programme, the honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Patanmi commended MTN Nigeria for supporting the digital economy drive of the country. “As stakeholders in the public and private sector it is our collective responsibility to implement the digital economy initiative of the government.I am glad that MTNhas been supportive of this policy and is organizing The RevvProgramme, which I believe will go a long way in transforming Nigerian entrepreneurs, most especially those in the Micro and Small Medium Enterprise (MSME) sector.”
Also commenting, the honourable Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo stated that there is a nexus between his ministry’s efforts in developing the MSME space and MTN’s The RevvProgramme, which aim to “focus mainly on MSMEs and address the foundational digital needs as well as other skills such businesses need to develop; these include access to information, infrastructure, funding and new markets.”
The Chief Executive Officer, MTN Nigeria, Ferdi Moolman, while thanking the ministers for their support said the initiative seeks to provide support to SMEs as they continue to lead Nigeria’s growth.
“We believe that at this time when many businesses are at their most vulnerable and with a rapidly changing business environment, it is important that alongside the Federal Government, other businesses strongly position themselves to support SMEs as a foundation to the growth of a stronger economy going into 2021 and beyond. MTN has always spearheaded programmes to uplift small and medium businesses in Nigeria. The RevvProgramme is our way of standing with SMEs in their journey to rise through these challenging times. We are positive this will assist them with the digital skill sets necessary to continue to thrive,”Moolman said.
Since the advent of the coronavirus, MTN – in tune with its “We are good together” (WAGT) initiative, has positioned a number of support measures and initiatives for consumers. The company has supported government agencies like the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), front-line health workers and other levels of government to navigate the challenges occasioned by the pandemic.