Seye Olurotimi is the founder of MSME Africa- a multifaceted resource platform for Micro, Small and Medium-sized businesses, Entrepreneurs and Startups in Africa. He is the convener of MSME Dialogue – an event for discussing and proffering solutions to issues that affect MSMEs. Recently ipledge2nigeria had an interview with him at the 6th Gap graduation ceremony and employability discourse themed Realising the potential of Nigerian Youth through upskilling and opportunities organised by Knowledge Exchange Centre held in Ikeja recently.
In the chat, Olurotimi talked about the services MSME Africa provide, how it impacts young graduates, and entrepreneurs, the major challenge entrepreneurs face as well as other issues.
What services does MSME Africa provide?
MSME AFRICA is a platform that provides information, opportunities, resources and tools for Micro, Small and Medium enterprises. We also with other players within the ecosystem and even outside the ecosystem to provide resources tools and platforms for entrepreneurs.
And what GAP is doing with Knowledge Exchange Centre, is to provide a handshake between them and SME owners, so they are training young graduates on digital skills while we provide them access to these SMEs that needs digital skills. So, it’s a win-win for everyone.
How does this setting impact the graduates who pass through the training and the SMEs?
The graduates can deploy their skills to learn and also practice with these SMEs. This is also an opportunity for us to provide benefits for those SMEs in our community, and for the SMEs, it is an opportunity for them to have people work on their user and social media presence, so, that is basically what we are doing. And of course, we do this partnership with other organisations too, you have something for entrepreneurs. If you want to reach out to them, or you want them to benefit and you have a resource to market with them, we stand in between you and the entrepreneur because we have a large community of over a thousand five entrepreneurs.
On a day-to-day basis, we also publish opportunities for SMEs on our website msmeafricaonline.com so people can go there and get to see the opportunities that are available for entrepreneurs, young Nigerians or even Africans and know also how to apply for it.
Regularly also, we have webinars on a couple of things like how to manage a business, how to start your own business, how to grow your own business and every other thing you want to talk about, so basically, we are just passionate about entrepreneurs and how we can better their lot within the society.
What do you think in the Nigerian setting, is the major challenge entrepreneurs face, is it that the environment is not conducive, or is the tax policies too much?
A lot of things, usually, when you gather ten entrepreneurs into space and ask them what their major problems are, nine of them will say it’s the issue of funding. Funding is a problem, but I think one major problem is not knowing how to manage a business. Like I usually say, if you have been a doctor for 20 years, it does not mean you can run a hospital very well, because apart from the technical skill of surgery and everything, you might not know how to manage people, resources and how to plan your finance.
So the knowledge of how to run a business is still lacking, and that is why some of us are bridging that gap.
Apart from that also, the policy environment is not always so favourable; today there is a policy that encourages you to start a particular business, and then tomorrow government says you are reneging, you are going back and you have invested a lot into that business. So, in that situation, the business collapses.
Also, of course, the economic environment is not favourable, inflation, Forex prices and a couple of other things are making life unbearable for entrepreneurs.
So, I have identified a lack of business skills, environment and funding, of course, funding is a very big problem. According to a survey by PWC 2020, the SME’s space has a funding gap of about N617.7 billion we need to fill that gap, if not, we will still have this funding problem every single day.
So how will that gap be filled?
The government needs to create an enabling environment. First for the entrepreneurs and the people that are meant to fund them, the banks and the other financial services industry.
Apart from that, entrepreneurs need to look inward, the first source of funds should be their family and friends.
Then also, they need to look at the playbook of the start-ups, the start-ups are getting funding, and we need to ask them questions like ‘how do you get your funding’?
They have learned to get investors outside the shore of the country. And they have also learned not to hold on to 100%, because the investor will say if I am investing, I am taking 5% of that company, which is a win-win, but the typical SME wants to hold 100% of an N10m business. Whereas your business can become an N200m business by having investors coming and you are still owning maybe 50% of that which is more sensible.
So they should learn to look at the none traditional investment and foreign platforms, these are the venture capitalist the angel investors who bring in money and equity in your business, so we need to think outside the box.
What do you think the government should do about unemployment, is it that graduates are not employable?
As of the third quarter of 2020, which was the last time that the NATIONAL BUREAU OF STATISTICS NBS released unemployment figures, we had 33.3% unemployment. Only a third of the people are employed. Now we are not even talking about underemployment, so it is a big problem.
What can we do?
Government has no business running businesses except the very essential ones. Government should create an environment for entrepreneurs to create jobs
Today, we have 39.5m MSMEs in Nigeria, imagine you empower them to create two jobs each, that’s 79m jobs. Give them the power, create an enabling environment, and ease of doing business, it should not be something of the mouth alone.
When you create an environment for them to create more jobs, give policies, and let the policies be favourable, give them the support that they need, don’t have harsh policies that will send them out of business and then encourage the people that are meant to support them, like the banks, other financial services provider to be able to do their jobs for them and we will just be fine.
And then the graduates too, need to know what we call the in-demand skills, they should not be limited to what they read in school. Go to Udemy, go and get an additional skill, and go to Youtube and get an additional skill, Google is training people all over Africa, I think about 250,000 people. Those skills are available there, go out and get those skills because they are in-demand skills and it will make our graduates more attractive to employers.
Will that not lead to brain drain? also, we noticed that a lot of these people get the skills and the next thing they are out of the country.
Yes, for everyone that leaves Nigeria, we still have like 10 of them staying here, and now even people can get all those foreign jobs while they remain in Nigeria, So I don’t think it will lead to brain drain, people will become more empowered, they have more detailed skills and they can deploy it for employers and become more relevant to the job space.