During Charles Odii’s first 100 days as Director General of the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN), the agency successfully generated employment opportunities for 15,000 individuals and aided in securing ₦7 billion in funding for numerous SMEs. In recognition of his profound impact on the MSME sector, mainly through implementing innovative initiatives to foster growth and assist small enterprises in Nigeria and beyond, Odii was selected by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to assume the agency’s leadership position in 2023. Upon taking office on October 13, 2023, he outlined a comprehensive plan for prosperity consisting of seven key points. These points prioritise granting Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) access to financial resources, markets, skill development programs, partnerships, a conducive business environment, and simplified procedures to ensure long-term sustainable growth.
Recently, he successfully achieved important goals at SMEDAN through the incorporation of innovative digital and data-driven strategies, resolving challenges that hindered the development of SMEs and promoting overall prosperity. These remarkable achievements resonate with President Tinubu’s ambitious plan for inclusive economic growth and the eradication of poverty. Mr. Odii has proven to be an instrumental figure in advancing the administration’s objectives, making a significant impact on local communities and establishing the groundwork for fast-paced development in rural areas. This approach is essential in addressing Nigeria’s economic limitations, solidifying its success.
15,000 job opportunities were successfully created by the agency.
Throughout this timeframe, the organisation trained countless artisans and proficient workers from diverse fields of the economy. They equipped these individuals with resources that empowered them to operate proficiently and generate income. Moreover, numerous individuals were granted financial assistance, enabling them to grow their businesses. Consequently, this expansion resulted in heightened workforce requirements, necessitating the recruitment of additional individuals to meet the surging demand. These skill acquisition and enterprise support programs led to the successful creation of more than 15,000 jobs by the agency, resulting in a revival of the local economies across numerous communities within the country.
The progress under Odii’s leadership has been exceptional. Notably, they successfully acquired a substantial loan of ₦5bn with Sterling Bank, offering a single-digit interest rate. Additionally, they introduced specialised women and youth desks, initiated the Conditional Grant Scheme (CGS), and established an effective internship program. This groundbreaking partnership with Sterling Bank has enabled SMEDAN to unlock significant funds and provide unparalleled support to numerous entrepreneurs. More than 200,000 applications have been submitted, and careful examination is currently taking place for the allocation of funds. In a joint effort with the governments of Anambra and Enugu states, SMEDAN has infused ₦1 billion into MSMEs in each state through a reciprocal agreement.
SUIP was introduced to support students’ entrepreneurship skill.
Small businesses received a financial boost of ₦50,000, reinvigorating economic activities at the local level. As a condition for the assistance, a requirement was set for these businesses to hire an additional employee. To tackle the negative impact of environmental challenges on businesses, the SMEDAN Climate & Green Energy Desk was established. In addition, SMEDAN introduced the Climate Change Desk, which aided displaced businesses and encouraged the uptake of eco-friendly energy solutions. An innovative office complex was also constructed, accommodating committed staff and offering amenities like a central space for fashion enterprises specialising in textiles and garments, as well as a woodwork and furniture facility for aspiring craftsmen.
To foster early entrepreneurship skills among students, the SMEDAN Undergraduate Internship Program (SUIP) was introduced. The program empowers participants to embark on, sustain, and expand their entrepreneurial ventures by offering practical business exposure and essential resources. Initially implemented at Baze University as a starting stage, numerous other universities are now expected to collaborate with the agency to implement this program. A new initiative was also established to acknowledge women’s significant impact in small and medium enterprises (SME). Creating a specialised workspace enables women entrepreneurs to tap into targeted opportunities directly. Additionally, the agency unveiled the National Council on SMEs, which Vice President Kashim Shettima leads. Meanwhile, SMEDAN acts as the secretariat for the Council, allowing the agency to spearhead policy modifications and foster cross-government partnerships to promote important investments in SMEs.
Related Article: SMEs contribute 46.31% to Nigeria’s GDP
A one-stop shop for SMEs was created through a weekly initiative that brought together entrepreneurs, regulators, and experienced SME development professionals to provide mentorship and solutions, ultimately facilitating the growth of these small businesses. In addition, the agency underwent a cultural reset to foster creativity and teamwork while also undergoing a digital transformation that equipped staff with tools and training for increased productivity and progress monitoring. The agency has introduced a range of social clubs to foster a healthy way of living, boost efficiency and concentration, and foster a sense of unity. Sticking to its data-oriented strategy, it plans to initiate a nationwide census of small businesses. This survey aims to establish a reliable and all-inclusive nationwide database of SMEs, thereby enhancing the effectiveness of its initiatives.