Business recovery

Supporting small businesses is critical for COVID-19 recovery

Policymakers need to adapt policies and institutions to enable small businesses to make a greater contribution to post-pandemic economic revival.

Micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) can power a stronger recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, due to their innovative and opportunity-seeking nature, but they need more support.

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Participants at the 7th edition of the Empretec Global Summit held online on 20 April heard that policymakers need to adapt policies and institutions to support MSMEs.

Such support should be aligned with the priorities of the post-COVID-19 social and economic recovery, said UNCTAD Acting Secretary-General Isabelle Durant.

“Short-term support measures such as relieving tax burdens on MSMEs, extending debt finance and employment support are certainly needed and should be continued,” Ms. Durant said.

“Yet at the same time, it’s important to invest in long-term structural policies, such as digital and financial inclusion, as well as entrepreneurial skills capacity development,” she added.

Backbone of global economy

MSMEs constitute the backbone of the global economy, accounting for two-thirds of employment globally and between 80% and 90% of employment in low-income countries.

At the same time, they are disproportionately affected by pandemic-related shocks. They are overrepresented in non-essential services sectors hardest hit by confinement measures. Many MSMEs have suffered huge revenue losses while others have shut down.

MSMEs’ smaller size allows them to be flexible and adapt to new environments such as the one created by COVID-19.

Not only can they help overcome previous constraints related to lack of productive capacities and economic diversification in many low-income countries but also enhance a strong and sustainable recovery.

Unleashing entrepreneurial potential

The summit’s participants shared good practices on enhancing the role of entrepreneurship and MSMEs, with a special focus on UNCTAD’s Empretec programme, which relies on a unique behavioural approach for entrepreneurship capacity development.

UNCTAD’s head of enterprise, Tatiana Krylova, said the Empretec methodology aims to identify, then unleash the personal entrepreneurial potential of each participant of the programme through behavioural change.

This includes assessing individual differences in a person’s desire to achieve excellence in entrepreneurship and fostering capacity through an interactive training approach. She said Empretec is a “4U” programme – “unleashing, unique, universal and uniting.”

Ms. Krylova said: “During the pandemic, Empretec has continued proving itself as one of most impactful means to facilitate and boost entrepreneurship.”

She encouraged more entrepreneurs and MSMEs to join the programme in their respective countries to facilitate their contribution to post-COVID-19 recovery in the MSME sector.

How countries are supporting small businesses

Nigeria’s minister of state for industry, trade and investment, Mariam Katagum, said her country is supporting MSMEs through grants to address their financing needs.

“Supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses by creating opportunities for MSMEs to thrive is essential for increasing productivity, creating jobs and boosting our economy,” Ms. Katagum said.

She said Nigeria recently revised its national policy on MSMEs to strengthen their resilience in the face of the pandemic, adding that more policy frameworks were in the pipeline to support startups in the digital economy.

Other high-level panelists related good practices and lessons learned from Angola, Argentina, Brazil, Ghana, Saudi Arabia and Uruguay, noting Empretec’s important contribution in their respective countries.

“Empretec is undoubtedly a transformative experience, a milestone in the lives of many,” said Bruno Quick, the technical director of Brazil’s micro and small business support service agency, SEBRAE.

Amid the pandemic, he said, the programme has continued to prove that through entrepreneur behaviour, it’s possible to promote entrepreneurship and help small businesses find opportunities in high-risk environments.

Entrepreneurs’ experiences

The event included an interactive session with entrepreneurs from the Empretec network, who shared their success stories during COVID-19 pandemic.

“COVID-19 caused us heavy losses because we couldn’t access our farm due to movement restrictions,” said Bosun Solarin, who runs Dasun Integrated Farms Ltd, an agroprocessing firm in Nigeria.

She explained how she adapted to the new normal after the pandemic by tapping into digital technologies and creating demand for her products.

Brazil’s Agda Oliver said during the country’s lockdown women in business were significantly more affected than men. She emphasized the importance of personal entrepreneurial competencies cultivated by the Empretec programme in boosting her resilience.

The summit also saw Empretec directors and graduates from Angola, Benin, Dominican Republic, Nigeria, Romania and Russia explain how the Empretec methodology helped them emerge stronger from the pandemic. 


Business recovery

Business recovery interventions SMEs should explore

POST-COVID business recovery interventions SMEs should explore in 2021

There is no gainsaying what the coronavirus pandemic did in global socio-economic realities. What is also irrefutable is that small business have been the worse hit amongst the victims’ rollcalls.

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Beyond the economic uncertainty challenging a sustainable business environment, there was also the ravaging impact of the pandemic on healthcare that slowed productivity, hampered manpower and piled pressure on the unemployment scourge.

A steadily rising inflation now peaked at over 18% in April 2021, coupled with an economy that dipped into recession and back, acerbated by violent civil unrest and insecurities that slowed pan-Nigerian logistics, the Nigerian small business proponents have experienced a perfect storm.

According to the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) remain critical to the country’s economy, contributing about 48% of the national GDP in the last five years and accounted for 84% of the national workforce.

Despite these contributions to the Nigerian economy, SMEs continue to face growth-hampering challenges such as lack of access to funding, skilled human resources, high cost of doing business, among others. These existing conditions already posit a challenging environment for SMEs to thrive; the pandemic’s entry into the equation will surely heighten their difficulties and slow their capacity to bounce back from this economic pandemic.

According to a survey by FATE Foundation and Budgit on the impact of COVID-19 on Nigerian on small businesses, 94.3% said the pandemic adversely disrupted their operations. 72.2% said the pandemic impacted their cash-flow; 67.8% said their sales went south, and 59.2% said their revenue took a hit.

In tackling what may be the most challenging global health and economic crises of our time, the instinctive response would expectedly tilt towards immediate needs such as health, food, security, and jobs. However, there is an urgent need to prioritise interventions for the SME sector – the backbone of major developing economies.

We have identified three existing business interventions that SMEs in Nigeria should leverage to recover from the pandemic’s overwhelming effect. These interventions and programmes include:

  • The Federal Government MSME Survival Fund: A couple of months ago, the FG launched the Survival Fund Programme targeted at individual artisans and small businesses. The Survival Fund Programme ( is part of the Economic Sustainability Plan, which aims to support and protect businesses from the potential vulnerabilities brought by the COVID 19 pandemic.The programme categorised into Payroll Support, Guaranteed Offtake, and MSME grant, is designed to provide a cushioning effect to business owners’ pain points. With the Payroll Support, business owners are assisted in paying employees; the Guaranteed Offtake helps businesses kickstart or rebuild, while the MSME Grant provided free funding for badly hit MSMEs. The programme is opened to any Nigerian with a running business (either registered or not registered).
  • LSETF MSME Loan Programmes: The Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF) was established with a core mandate to tackle unemployment, promote job creation, entrepreneurship, and skills development in the state. The Loan Programme, one of its intervention vehicles, provides access to affordable funding for small business entrepreneurs. 



Boost For Business In Off-Grid District.

Boost For Business In Off-Grid District As Mass Solar Power Debut.

Small, Medium and Large Scale business owners in the off-grid environment may now be relieved following the launch of Solar Power Naija Programme which will take care of their electricity need.

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Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo weekend flagged off the pilot phase of the programme in Jangefe Community in Roni Local Government Area, Jigawa State, from where it will get to all geopolitical zones in the country.

The project is coming under the Economic Sustainability Plan, as part of the promises made by President Muhammadu Buhari to provide renewable energy for over 25 Million Nigerians.

The epileptic power situation in the country has inspired the collapse of numerous businesses and pushing many into joblessness.

Following the launch in Jigawa State, Laolu Akande, the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the Vice President said the rollout will continue across the six geopolitical zones in Edo, Lagos, Adamawa, Anambra, Kebbi and Plateau.

The Solar companies are also in the pipeline for the Solar Power Naija facility to continue the march to 5 million connections during the life of this present administration.

The scheme is targeted to go to the entire 36 States and the FCT covering 25 million Nigerians in the end.

The commencement of the Solar Power Naija programme means the community and business will get 1,000 Solar Home Systems connections for its about 5,000 population.

The Jangefe community in Jigawa State, which is the first location to be covered by the A-Solar company, will pay monthly energy payments until the systems are fully paid for at the point in which there will be a transfer of ownership to each consumer in the community.

The Vice President noted that the “President had emphasised that we could no longer rely solely on the grid if we were to electrify the whole country. Which meant that we had to develop an effective strategy for decentralizing the power supply. Two obvious things to do were, first to think of implementing more off-grid solutions and to use renewable energy especially solar power.”