By Rafi’ah Yunus
A one-day Small Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Forum has taken place in Sokoto State. This invitation-only event which took place at the Main Auditorium of the Umaru Ali Shinkafi Polytechnic on the 9th of October was a gathering of hundreds of “thoughtful, iconoclastic entrepreneurs” from around Sokoto State who came to share their common interest in practical solutions for sustainable economic development through entrepreneurship and innovation in Sokoto State. The Forum which was held under the chairmanship of one time Minister of Health of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr Haliru Alhassan, was organised by two leading consulting firms BlueBridge Smart Projects Ltd, Zaria and Duke Consult Ltd, Sokoto, with the support of the Africa Islamic Economic Foundation, an international organization based in the republic of Ghana that fosters asset based and zero-interest paradigm of economic development in Africa.
All of the presenters and discussants at the event recognized that Sokoto State in particular, and Nigeria in general have significant opportunities for new business start-ups, particularly in agriculture, aquaculture, manufacturing, life sciences, bio-tech and medical technology, renewal energy, clean tech engineering, food processing and packaging, telecommunications, internet services and other niche areas, noting that these are businesses with a solid focus on knowledge, innovation and research and development and the capability to establish strong positions in international markets, sustain international competitiveness and achieve export growth. Therefore, developing the entrepreneurial culture of the State and supporting innovative, export-oriented start-up enterprises must become a key priority.
The event enjoyed wide partnership from serious organizations like the Umaru Ali Shinkafi Polytechnic, Sokoto, Central Bank of Nigeria (Sokoto State Branch), Jaiz Bank PLC, Rima Radio/TV, Danjibo Table Water, Sokoto Cement, Giginya Hotel, Garkuwa FM, Caliphate FM and Vision FM.
The major highlight of the event was the launch of the Start-Up Nigeria Partnership Program (SNP). The SNP, an entrepreneurship development and small enterprise growth program of the BlueBridge Smart Projects Limited was launched by the Special Advisor to the Sokoto Sate Governor on Small and Medium Enterprise Development, Hon. Bello Sarki Tureta.
In his remarks, Hon. Bello Sarki Tureta commended the organisers of the Forum and the promoters of the SNP, noting that the SNP was in line with the noble objective of the Executive Governor of Sokoto State, Rt. Hon Aminu Waziri Tambuwal in using the Micro. Small and Medium Enterprises Platform to transform and galvanize the economic base of Sokoto State. He therefore pledged the support and collaboration of the Sokoto State Government to the initiative.
The SNP is a place-based innovation Program that drives entrepreneurism and 100x growth in SMEs The Program also enhances economic governance by setting clear priorities for the services and public inputs (laws, regulation, and oversight) that the public sector should provide to SMEs – in particular through State Enterprise Development Agencies, but also through education, infrastructure and taxation structure. It complements specific Government plans to set up Special Economic Zones and incubators, providing guidance on how they could provide fair and targeted assistance.
With an ambitious goal of contributing its quota to the diversification of the Nigerian economy and the sustainability of its growth through the development of a portfolio of SMEs with 100x growth trajectories, it plans to radically energize and highly potential business ecosystem and the creation of revenue and employment, in particular among the youth, women and other vulnerable groups.
Ms Rashidat I Bakare, the CEO of BlueBridge Smart Projects Limited, is optimistic that with intensive focus and inspired collaboration, the StartUp Nigeria Partnership will achieve the following bold goals over the next five years:
- 50,000 new or renewed enterprises
- 150,000 new jobs
- 5 billion Naira invested into the Nigerian entrepreneurial ecosystem
- Build a dense, vibrant and connected Nation that attracts diverse resources and talent
The CEO further revealed that as part of her company’s strategy for meeting this goal, it has forged strong relationships with key national and international players and business support organizations for the effective implementation and successful outcomes. While welcoming strategic partners to this ambitious Program she also revealed that there are current plans to expand and strengthen the SNP’s nationwide programs through the effective use of strategic partnerships with local consulting and development partners in across all of the 36 states of the Federation, including the FCT.