Mary Samson sells ‘okay’ clothes. The mother of four who lives in Kuje area council of Abuja says she has been in the business for over two years.
“I have been doing this business for a while. I want to expand it but I don’t have the money. But with the grant I received, I will buy more clothes and grow the business,” she said.
On the other hand, Hassan Abdullahi is physically-challenged. He uses crutches because of his bad leg; he is also a tailor. He said he has been in the business for over 10 years and has been using the money from it to train his children.
Abdullahi, who is the chairman People with Disability, Gwagawalada Area Council and also chairman of Zumuchi Cooperative Group, was among those that got a grant from the Abuja Enterprise Agency (AEA) recently.
“I am very happy for this gesture. This money they gave to me and other members of our cooperative will help us boost our businesses,” he said.
The AEA is the Federal Capital Territory Administration’s vehicle for Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) development, wealth creation, employment generation, value reorientation and poverty reduction in the territory.
Since it was established 12 years ago, it has focused on the development and promotion of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises within the FCT, which is aimed at supporting new and existing entrepreneurs to overcome obstacles through access to finance, proper business planning, developing entrepreneurship skills and suitable work-space for its clients.
The agency has developed relevant programmes and activities to start and nurture businesses in 2017 and 2018 in line with its five years strategic plan. It has delivered a range of business development services to achieve its objectives. These services include business advisory, capacity building trainings, skill acquisition, promotions, access to finance, consultancy and other critical services to businesses in the FCT.
Following is a summary of the activities the agency in the period under review.
In the area of capacity building training, the agency has provided training in various areas such as agricultural training, Cooperative Management, Business Management, Website Design, Graphics Design, Skills Acquisition, Financial Management, Book Keeping, Business Plan Writing and Export amongst others.
Statistically, the agency has trained a total of 1,225 business owners during the period under review.
In the area of Rural Community Development (RCD), the AEA’s strategies towards accelerating enterprise development in communities of the FCT is through the provision of Business Development Services. Such services include Outreach Advisory, Cooperative Management Trainings, establishment of One Village One Product Projects, access to finance to facilitate Financial Inclusion and other services.
AEA, during the period has provided Business development services to 1,564 rural entrepreneurs.
The agency also trained over 700 local farmers on Compost Manure and Organic Pesticide Production, helping them to reduce cost of farming activities and improve produce output.
In recognition of the challenges posed by finance in Business Development, the agency has designed various initiatives and financial products to enable entrepreneurs easily access finance for their businesses. No fewer than 19 businesses and cooperatives have benefited from this scheme.
The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the agency, Muhammad Tukur Arabi, says the Business 360 Degrees initiative is to provide an opportunity for the stakeholders to engage one another and is expected to address the challenges that hinder the smooth operations of MSMEs in the FCT and beyond.
He said: “This year’s symposium themed, ‘Impact Assessment of Regulatory Bodies’ Activities for the Ease of Doing Business: Post Nationwide MSME Clinics’ was especially designed to appraise the efforts of the Business Regulatory and Development Agencies in creating an enabling environment for businesses to thrive in line with the Federal Government’s initiative to improve the Ease of Doing Business in Nigeria.
The agency has sustained its flagship Project; the One Village One Product (OVOP) initiative. OVOP was designed by AEA to bring about economic empowerment on a massive scale by identifying and developing products indigenous to various communities in the FCT. Currently, the agency is developing three indigenous products in the FCT namely shea butter, cassava and fish production in Rimba and Nuku both in Abaji Area Council and Gutto community in Bwari Area Council respectively.
The shea butter project was designed to improve the quality of the produce through better production process and capacity building in the FCT, thereby increasing the income of the producers. The project is currently undergoing upscaling by the provision of shea nuts storage facility and provision of large capacity processing equipment with the support of its partners.