The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on Friday, in collaboration with key partners, including Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Financial Access Initiative (FAI) of the New York University, Low Income Financial Transformation (L-IFT), Lagos Business School (LBS) amongst others, launched the Small Firms Diaries (SFD) Initiative in Nigeria.
The SFD research initiative which is being flagged off in three states, namely Lagos, Enugu and Kaduna, will involve art least 150 small firms employing between three and 20 employees.
It has three broad objectives, namely to provide insight into small firms and the economic decisions they make; to provide financial services to better meet the needs of small business owners, employers and their customers; and to understand in advance, the experiences and challenges of small firms owned by women with the aim of formulating policies to eliminate the challenges.
In his opening remarks at the forum which had most of the project partners shedding light on the technical and logistics aspects of the initiative, the Statistician General of the Federation, Dr. Simon Harry, harped on the relevance of the survey to the nation’s economic growth, especially as it would result in the production of credible data on MSMEs and positive implications for policy formulation and implementation by government.
The Statistician General recalled that the Bureau had, over the years, been collaborating with other key agencies such as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN), amongst others, to support MSMEs’ sustainable growth nationwide.
According to him, the SFD initiative would also provide unprecedented insight into small firms and their economic decision making as it relates to their markets, productivity constraints, profitability and growth, the impact of access (or lack of it) to technology and financial services.
He elaborated: “It is also expected that the outcome of the research will inform product design and marketing of digital financial services to better meet the needs of small business owners, employers and their customers.
“It is also worthy of note that the study will further advance understanding of the distinct experiences and challenges of women running small firms and offer new recommendations to policy makers and others on how to eliminate the gender profit gap.
“In essence, the SFD research has direct relevance to economic development and poverty alleviation in Nigeria, and as such NBS is proud to be part of this innovative research. We have come a long way in planning and preparation for the research and at the present data collection is ongoing across various selected sites in Lagos, Enugu and Kaduna states”, the Statistician General added.
He listed the research’s targeted sectors of interest as including Light Manufacturing,Agro-Processing and Selected Services with growth potential and also thanked the partners for supporting the research, promising that the findings will be valuable to current efforts by the NBS to update its MSMEs database.
Earlier in his remarks, the project director and Director, Real Sector and Households Survey Department (RSHSD) of the Bureau, Mr. Adeyemi Adeniran, said the SFD research remained crucial to planning as the findings would help “to guide policy makers, stakeholders and financial service providers by providing information on cash flow, economic policy decision making, challenges to growth, access to business tools , credit facility and technology required for growth and discrimination of women-owned small firms.
In their contributions, Laura Freschi Hildebrand, Timothy Ogden both of New York University’s Financial Access Initiative (FAI), Peter Bamkole of the LBS, and Lola Talabi-Oni of the NBS, who participated virtually during the SFD launch even, made clarifications on various aspects of the research initiative, including the participating countries, targeted enterprises, choice of pilot scheme take-off states, purpose of the exercise and the results expected, among others.
The SFD is being conducted by the Financial Access Initiative (FAI) at New York University in six countries comprising Nigeria, Indonesia, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Colombia.