On Saturday, 1st October, 2022, Nigeria celebrated the 62nd year anniversary of gaining independence from the British colonial masters as she started self-rule on October 1, 1960. Before the discovery of oil in commercial quantity in Oloibiri (now in Bayelsa State), Nigeria used to be an agrarian, logging and fishing economy (primary industry). The economic performance of Nigeria as an oil producing country, especially its infrastructure development compared to those of non-oil producing nations like Switzerland, Sweden and South Korea, has shown that building the engines that will drive the economy of nations depends more on enterprise development (ED), than mineral resources.
Entrepreneurship is the lifeblood of a thriving economy. It creates jobs, improves social mobility and has the ability to be a catalyst for social change within local communities. It is through enterprise development that budding entrepreneurs and those who support them are able to realise their full potential so they can become suppliers and providers for the broader Nigerian economy. Through proper planning and implementation of enterprise development, the government of Nigeria and her agent, Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment, can make this lofty ambition a reality. Enterprise development is sacrosanct to national wealth creation and sustainable economy.
Enterprise development is the process of investing time and capital to help people of a nation establish, expand or improve their businesses. It is the activities targeted at developing entrepreneurs and employment generators. Enterprise development helps people earn a living or find a way out of poverty, and leads to long-term economic growth for themselves, their families and their communities. The nations which invested in enterprise development in the past claimed it is the best investment as it is a sustainable way of generating revenue for economic growth and development.
Due to the general belief that enterprise development is the key to poverty eradication, employment generation, and swift economic development, various governments in Nigeria have, over the past four decades, evolved policies and programmes such as the establishment of National Directorate of Employment (NDE) on 22nd November, 1986. The National Directorate of Employment is designed to expand the employment opportunities of Nigerian citizens in the 36 states, and lately federal capital territory (FCT), to promote job creation, stimulate entrepreneurship and improve the skills of representatives of various industries. Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) and Nigerian Incentive-based Risk Sharing system for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) are other enterprise development vehicles of the Nigerian government designed to reduce unemployment rate in the country.
Unemployment refers to the share of the labour force that is without work but available for and seeking employment. Nigeria unemployment rate for 2021 was 9.79 percent, a 0.07 percent increase from 2020. The unemployment rate in Nigeria was estimated to reach 33 percent in 2022, according to Statista, a German company specialising in market and consumer data. This figure was projected to be at 32.5 percent in the preceding year. Time-series data show that the unemployment rate in Nigeria rose constantly in the past five years, a sign of poor enterprise development. The ZEW study of 2019 found that almost 70 percent of family companies in Germany are still managed by the family or owners.
Every enterprise in Nigeria is required by law to be registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission, and to comply with the relevant provisions of the Companies and Allied Matters Act, CAMA, Chapter 59, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990. Enterprise can be a private company limited by shares, a public limited company, an unlimited liability company, a company limited by guarantee, a partnership/firm, and a sole proprietorship. The benefits of a considered, highly impactful enterprise development programme are not far fetched. If guided from commencement to execution, and supported as it develops, enterprise development can change the narratives in the community in which it is religiously practised in the medium to long term.
The benefits of a government having interest in enterprise development include enhancing social mobility, helping job creation in local communities which reduces inequality and poverty among the citizens, revitalising dead capital and transforming adjacent spaces like food security, infrastructure development, education services, health provision, security, etc. Enterprise development is also credited for skills diffusion as workers are empowered with increased job opportunities and it is generationally transformative where wealth creation can lay the future for economic change. Sustainable development of nations solely depends on enterprise development.
The challenges of enterprise development include the fact that it is a complex process. Enterprise development starts from planning a community to have enterprise hubs and preparing the citizens to embrace enterprise. It is difficult to improve the skills of people who have no trust in a highly corrupt government. Weak administrative support from the government and her ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) is not ensuring compliance and policy success. Enterprise development requires huge funding and it is not easy for an upcoming enterprise to compete with established competitors, new entrepreneurs usually require government backing in this area.
Researchers have shown that economically viable nations are the ones that have between 75–85 percent private sector employment. A country which consistently has a negative trade balance is not a viable state and will perpetually be in debt. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has an enterprise development programme called 100 for 100 policy on production. The initiative was to select 100 private sector companies with projects that have potential to significantly increase domestic production and productivity, reduce imports, increase non-oil exports, and overall improvements in the foreign exchange generating capacity of Nigeria. The CBN has disbursed the sum of N68.13 billion (about $96.23 million) under this programme.
To ensure enterprise development, the Nigerian government, through the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment, must design Enterprise Development Plan (EDP), an enterprise planning and development outline and the options and risks involved in setting up a business. There must be support for existing businesses in the areas of electricity production for industrial use and transport infrastructure. The country must be mapped in such a way that all communities of at least 1,000,000 people must have their own industrial estates and there must be capacity development of the citizens to become entrepreneurs.
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