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Boosting MSMEs with one-stop shops

As part of the efforts to enhance the ease of doing business in the country, the Federal Government has commenced the opening of one-stop shops  for the registration and administration of Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) across the federation. The first of the shops, which opened in Plateau State earlier in the year, will soon be replicated in seven other states, until all the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, are covered.

The initiative, which will make it possible for local entrepreneurs to interact with relevant regulatory agencies in one location, will also provide opportunities for them to update their knowledge on current practices in business. It should also ensure seamless collaboration of the agencies on improving the ease of doing business in the country.

Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) are critical to the growth of any economy. It is well known that the giant economic leaps of economies like China, India and the Asian Tigers had MSMEs as catalysts of growth. The situation cannot be different in Nigeria which has a huge rural population, diverse minerals and human resources. From available data, the MSMEs in the country already exceed 17 million. Creating the right environment for their growth and the realisation of their full potential will boost the economy. This is the dream of many citizens and we implore the government to bring it into reality.

When the one-stop shops are fully operational, they can be expected to improve our current dismal ranking on the global Ease-of-Doing-Business index. The idea is that all critical agencies of government like the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS)  and other government institutions concerned with the registration and administration of businesses can be found and accessed within a designated, proximate location.

This will allow for the saving of time, increased efficiency and reduction of unnecessary bureaucracy and delays in moving from one government office to the other to register and get the necessary permits for businesses.

When the one-stop shops are replicated all over the country, they will help to boost the economy and increase direct foreign investments (FDIs). One major problem the business world has with Nigeria, apart from the poor state of our basic infrastructure, is the unusual difficulty associated with starting and doing business in the country.  This is worsened by the undue red tape and corruption that pervade our entire polity.

We need a remarkable change of attitude, if government’s efforts to improve the ease of doing business in the country are to achieve the desired results.  Government officials who run critical agencies oftentimes deliberately create bottlenecks which impede the registration and licensing processes, just to compel clients to pay bribes and offer other kinds of inducements not known to the books and contrary to best global practices. This is a difficult hurdle to cross, but the government must keep working on it. It must start by ensuring transparency in public corporations and enhancing the capabilities and service conditions of the personnel in these critical agencies. The incentive for greed and corruption must be removed.

Improving accessibility to relevant agencies will mean very little if their efforts are not enhanced by modern technology. Technology has become indispensable in this Information Technology (IT) age. The ease with which our systems malfunction is still simply alarming. That is why as this initiative of government is gaining traction, other complementary steps should be taken to achieve the desired objectives.

The need to update our critical and basic infrastructure cannot be over-emphasised.  For emphasis, it is necessary to mention power, roads, as well as land, air and sea transportation. Above all, policy consistency and seamless cooperation among the relevant government agencies will help the country harness its vast economic potentials  and become a big player in the global business community.   

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