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To give expression to its faith in the value of strategic partnership and commitment to collaboration, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has partnered the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) to establish a SME Digital Academy.
The SME Digital Academy is a public-private partnership initiative being driven by the NCC, SMEDAN, and Sapphital Learning Limited, a leading digital learning platform, essentially to provide micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) owners with digital skills to enhance their entrepreneurial skills. The partnership also aims to equip entrepreneurs and start-ups with the necessary digital skills required to navigate the increasingly digitised world.
Speaking at the launch, which took place at the NEXIM House in Abuja recently, the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, said the setting up of the scheme was based on the realization that in today’s global economy, a borderless educational and economic system will be the next stage of the digital economy.
Represented at the launch by the NCC’s Director, Digital Economy, Dr. Austin Nwaulune, the EVC noted that, while the collaboration between the NCC and SMEDAN was a step towards economic diversification, digital technologies were key in the implementation of this initiative . He said the NCC had continued to work towards providing information and communications technology (ICT) support to various sectors in the country. He noted that with over 41 million Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in Nigeria, proper empowerment of entrepreneurs would create an extremely powerful impact on the nation’s economic growth.
Danbatta said SMEs’ empowerment would also help in providing employment, lessening societal vices, developing the economy, increasing foreign exchange as well as improving the general well-being of Nigerians.
“Knowledge is pivotal to the growth of entrepreneurship, as it provides the businessman or woman, the know-how on raising capital, strategic partnership, and proper organisational, administrative, sales and marketing skills required to run an effective business. Knowledge is, therefore, the food of every economy, especially, the digital economy, as it fuels its growth and stimulated the digital ecosystem,” he said.
Danbatta recalled that when SMEDAN set up the Digital Academy, in November 2020, as an avenue to support SME development during the Covid- 19 lockdown, the NCC was excited and immediately keyed into the strategic partnership because of the potential impact of the initiative on the Nigerian economy.
He acknowledged the role of SMEDAN as a bridge between the instructors and students, experts and start-ups, funding parties and businesses to the millions of MSMEs. “So, the timing is precise for the collaboration as the country is in dire need of diversification.
Through the Digital Academy, the MSMEs, start-ups, freelancers, would be provided with a platform to access courses “on-the-go” from devices and locations of their convenience,” he said.
The EVC restated the unflinching commitment of the Commission to providing the required leverage needed for ICT development in Nigeria, just as it will support the Digital Academy to provide a digital platform for entrepreneurs and start-ups across the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
Also speaking at the event, the Director-General of SMEDAN, Dr. Dikko Radda, who was represented by the Director, Enterprise Development and Promotion at the agency, Moses Ewan, expressed delight at the partnership with the NCC, and declared that over 41.5 million MSME were domiciled in Nigeria.
Citing a recent survey, Radda noted that the entrepreneurs had contributed 49.78 per cent to the nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP), leading to the employment of about 59.6 million Nigerians which translates to 76.5 per cent of the labour force.
“These small-scale enterprises need to be encouraged and nurtured to enable them to create jobs, contribute to the alleviation of poverty, and want. SMEDAN, which is an agency in the Federal Ministry of Trade and Industry and established over 15 years ago, operates on five platforms, namely, dissemination of information, delivery of business development services, networking and cluster formation, policy and public advocacy, and lastly, provision of access to critical resources,” Radda said.
The Group Chief Executive Officer, Sapphital Learning Limited, Amu Ogbeide, in his opening remarks, said his company was excited to be working with SMEDAN on the ongoing efforts to empower entrepreneurs and start-ups in the country. He also said that, through working with SMEDAN, Sapphital has been instrumental to the digitisation of SMEDAN’s entrepreneurial digital literacy journey.
Ogbeide also stated that at the beginning of the digital literacy program, Sapphital started with only three courses which have increased to over 60 courses in its curriculum.
“We believe that the Nigerian diversification journey is a work in progress and the country is on the exalted path towards full digitisation. The combination of the digital economy with SMEs will lead to exponential economic growth of the country,” he said, and concluded that the American company, Uber, was a success story of the power of the ICT and the economy.