By Alkali Amana

Along with the health challenges that emerged with the advent of Covid19 in 2020, the pandemic practically stalled economic activities worldwide. It did not spare Small and Medium Enterprises in the process as it caused governments to enforce safety measures such as lockdowns and compulsory social distancing. And, as tedious as it was not having physical contact, the need for a digital revolution became glaring than at any time in the history of humanity. Where considerations were in place, the pandemic forced proactive minds to develop practical solutions that can help people and businesses survive the times. In the event of following this process, by the last quarter of 2020, the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) developed digital solutions to enable and enhance the survival of SMEs. One of the digital solutions introduced by the Agency is the SMEDAN MarketHub App, created in partnership with Concrete Communications Ltd.

Developed to serve as a business directory and medium, MarketHub provides innovative features that foster significant interaction between ‘business and business’ and ‘business and customer’. Regarding the potential benefit and advantage this digital platform promises, one must view the contribution of SMEs from a comprehensive perspective. According to the World Bank, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) play a significant role in most economies, particularly in developing countries. These SMEs account for most businesses worldwide and are essential contributors to job creation and global economic development. They represent about 90% of businesses and more than 50% of employment worldwide. Formal SMEs contribute up to 40% of national income (GDP) in emerging economies; these numbers are significantly higher when informal SMEs are included. For instance, two of Africa’s biggest economies rely on SMEs for a large quota of their national growth and development index. In South Africa, SMEs account for 91% of businesses, 60% of employment, and 52% of total GDP. In Nigeria, SMEs contribute 48% of national GDP, account for 96% of businesses and 84% of employment.

The statistics above show that the contribution of SMEs to the growth of an economy cannot be overemphasized. In this understanding, when thinking of sustainability, it is vital to learn the fusion of technology with retail marketing to boost and enhance the survival of businesses and enterprises of that nature in Africa. SMEDAN’s MarketHub App integrates promising features that can help increase the viability of SMEs that subscribe to it. These include:

  • Getting updates on the ease of doing business in Nigeria.
  • Get linked up with potential customers.
  • Get updates on business/trading tips.
  • Get free access to online seminars, workshops and training on various vocations, enabling businesses with a better chance of accessing SME loans.
  • Get business enquiries attended to in record time by experts on various fields of business; and,
  • Increased patronage of services or products offered by SMEs.

According to Nigeria’s Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Mariam Yalwaji Katagum, during the launch of MarketHub, technology is an essential means to stimulate the economic efficiency of SMEs and a source to attain sustainable development. She pointed to SMEs’ productivity, which can further be improved through technological innovation and engaging in research and development related activities. Applications like MarketHub aim to ensure that SMEs desirous of enhancing their businesses can utilize them for improved sales and knowledge enhancement.

There is the challenge of SME development across the continent, and business minds can leverage technology to provide solutions. The MarketHub App can be emulated by other African countries looking to enable the growth of SMEs through digital means. Alongside the basic features provided, they can incorporate further features peculiar to their climes into their application version. Unlocking a country’s growth potential will require a sustained investment into its SME sector, and that can be done by integrating businesses with technology. Developing enabling software can act as a catalyst in the rejuvenation of the economies of different African countries. Technological investments can represent e-commerce sites or applications to buy and sell products or platforms to create partnerships between supply chains for SMEs from manufacturers to intermediaries and retailers.

The world is rapidly evolving, and it is necessary to absorb the positive changes that come with each season. It is time for Africa to sit up and look into the welfare of SMEs by embracing the right technology to boost the sector.