As part of efforts geared towards improving youth participation in wealth creation and curbing over-dependency on crude oil, the Managing Director and CEO of Heritage Bank Plc, Ifie Sekibo has assured that he is committed to supporting the growth of MSMEs in the Niger Delta.
Mr. Sekibo gave the assurance on Friday at the Aztech Event Centre in Port Harcourt during the maiden edition of the Niger Delta Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises Summit with the theme “Stimulating MSME’s Growth Beyond Oil.”
The managing director who bemoaned Nigeria’s over-dependence on crude oil as a major setback to inclusive growth, called for urgent economic diversification stressing that single-commodity domination of an economy can end up shackling growth.
According to him, “recent studies have shown how susceptible African countries are to economic shocks and fluctuations in currencies and commodity prices. Some are more vulnerable than others because their economies are dependent on the export of one or just a few commodities or primary products. When there is a downturn in commodity prices, mono-product economies such as Nigeria, Angola, and Zambia accordingly suffer economic stagnation”.
Mr Sekibo averred that there are urgent reasons why Nigeria needs to urgently pursue diversification noting that it is important to insulate the economy from the dangers of a mono-economy.
While explaining that the challenges of over-dependence on oil will expose Nigeria to constant price fluctuations, Mr Sekibo emphasized the need to create more jobs as the oil and gas sector constitute just one percent of the available jobs in the county.
He called for increased youth participation in MSME sectors that are non-oil sectors but that will be major growth drivers such as healthcare, e-commerce, logistics, agriculture as well as alternative or renewable energy sectors which he said are the future of global economic growth.
In healthcare, Sekibo noted that the pharmaceutical and Health-tech space is positioned to attract investments and deliver growth post-covid-19 while supporting the weak healthcare system prevalent in the country, just as the technology innovations space will be major growth drivers alongside other critical sectors that will create multiple job opportunities.
He asserted that MSMEs are capable of creating multiple jobs in Nigeria just as it is seen in other developing and developed economies such as China, Indonesia, India, Singapore, and other south-east Asian economies.
Mr Sekibo therefore urged MSMEs to adopt sound corporate governance and administrative frameworks that guarantee accountability and attract investments with diverse and quality board members, stressing that the challenges facing MSMEs are not unconnected to issues that include lack of transparency and accountability as well as lack of openness to developmental growth.
He noted that to help MSMEs to grow, Heritage Bank initiated “THE NEXT TITAN” which is designed to bring together young entrepreneurs, from across the country, for business grooming, mentorship, and for mainstreaming them into corporate governance enabling frameworks that will position their businesses for growth and scale.
Mr. Sekibo further urged MSMEs in the Niger Delta not to feel any sense of despair as the big entrepreneurs of today such as Jack Ma of Alibaba, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, and Dangote of DANGOTE Group all started small from very poor or disadvantaged backgrounds.
On his part, Moses Siloko Siasia who is the convener of the Summit and the Chairman of Nigerian Young Professionals Forum (NYPF) as well as the Niger Delta Young Professionals – expressed his determination to provide the enabling framework, by way of an entrepreneurship Hub and funding drive, to help MSMEs in the Niger Delta region thrive and ensure that youths in the region are involved in productive and creative ventures instead of waiting for stipends from governments or depending on oil revenues.