The 2nd SME Toolkit Conference in Nigeria

The conference took place on the 16th of November, 2011 at Terrakulture, Victoria Island, Lagos as part of the Global Entrepreneurship Week events in Nigeria. The Enterprise Development Centre (EDC) of the Pan-African University brought together over 250 participants to  share experiences, learn about latest initiatives in the ICT sector and to gather information for future business development.

The theme of the conference was ‘Expanding REACH through web and mobile tools’ with focus on using online presence and social media for businesses growth.

The Director of Enterprise Development Centre, Peter Bamkole gave the welcome speech and highlighted the feedback taken from last year’s conference, he went further to talk about what has been achieved on the SME Toolkit within one year. After the welcome speech, the President, Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE), Randall Kempner who was the keynote speaker of the event was invited to the stage and he spoke about the purpose of celebrating the GEW after which he played the video to buttress his point, from listening to the video one of the motives behind the GEW is helping entrepreneurs to thrive in emerging markets. He started his speech by stating that small businesses can build prosperity within one generation by using technology appropriately. He emphasized that information technology in particular is amazing, considering the impact of technology in extraordinary things such as mobile health, access to medical treatment through internet and virtual education most especially in African University where 9,000 to 10,000 have been trained in 10 years through access to Information technology. He continued that new technology will have limited effect on private sector economy, however, if integrated into policy and prices, ICT can reduce cost and improve communication between public and private sector. He concluded his speech with three main points that

1.      Technology itself cannot be the answer and does not solely determine business success but it is necessary to put certain policies or procedures in place to make sure there is positive impact of the technology but not just a waste of money. He added that business people need to pressurize Government to build up technology and infrastructure

2.      A business person needs to stay current of the trends because billions of people are involved in businesses that are leveraging on IT and staying abreast puts any business in a position of  having a better business model and keeping the business alive.

3.       The realisation that not all technology that matters is information technology. That even in high technology world,  there are other business areas to latch unto such as bio technology etc

Lastly he ended his speech by saying ‘when thinking about IT, it is not about the number of devices nor the speed of the internet nor facebook contact but the major and first investment is in human capital’. He emphasised that there are cases that people have invested in technology but don’t care about the people under them and stated that the first investment for businesses should be in the people.

As the keynote speaker concluded his speech, Zano Mataruka from Zimbabwe and the IFC country manager’s representative, gave a five minute’s remarks on behalf of IFC by stating that SMEs are important to the development of the economy for job creation, entrepreneurship and wealth distribution. He also mentioned that SMEs face challenges such as infrastructure, access to finance, regulatory issues and lack of managerial knowhow and confirmed IFC’s commitment to the development of SMEs by introducing small management solutions such as SME Toolkit to meet some of the demands of that sector.

To start the sessions, Peter Bamkole, the EDC director invited the discussants for the first track which he moderated. The trio of Abasiama Idaresit, Samuel Anyaele, Fred Chukwuemeka represented the ICT solution provider industry, while Ladi Ekundayo spoke as an entrepreneur with good knowledge of IT. She addressed the issues of online presence and social media from the business perspective while the others talked about how they have deployed various ICT methods to promote business growth and development for small businesses.

The new SME Toolkit mobile application initiative had its pilot launch after the first track on the SME Toolkit and this was conducted by Francis Onwumere, the initiator. He had a presentation which gave an overview of the mobile industry and its acceptance over the web presence and further explained how the application works. This was followed by a test run were some of the users downloaded the mobile application on their phones. He also mentioned that the application is applicable to both smart and feature phones.

Chijioke Nworka from IFC, Nigeria  moderated the second track that focused on integrating the Business Edge with the SME Toolkit. The two aforementioned products are IFC’s business management solutions that have been deployed in various training programs organised by EDC and other enterprise development centres in Nigeria.  The discussants consisted of Sabastine Okeke, a certified Business Edge trainer, Bimbo Adebakin and Nneka Okekearu who are also experienced Business Edge trainers and lastly Lola Fayomi, the SME Toolkit content manager. The session was focused on what the toolkit offers, what needs to be improved upon and how the toolkit can complement the Business Edge training methodology.

The third and last track moderated by Peter Bamkole focused on how some SME Toolkit users have been able to access relevant and profitable information from the toolkit to enhance and circuitously transform their businesses. Four SME Toolkit users were invited to share their experiences and make recommendation and shortfall on the resources available on the toolkit.

At the end of every session questions were entertained and made it insightful and also created learning opportunities for many participants at the event. Following the Q & A session, The head of Etisalat high value segment, Bidemi Ladipo addressed the audience on the telecommunications company’s role in supporting the SMB sector through their product offerings. As the exclusive partner of the GEW events, three phones were given out to lucky winners who answered questions at a quick quiz session organised by Etisalat, a raffle draw was also conducted and a blackberry phone was given to the winner.

The conference ended with a vote of thanks from Nneka Okekearu on behalf of EDC which was followed by a cocktail and networking session.

On a final note, special appreciation goes to all participants at the conference who made the event a huge success. We now realise after the two conferences of bringing people together annually has created a more closely tied  connection beyond the “online connection” more especially through the social media networks. For those who were not able to attend the conference, we have put together some video clips and pictures.

We certainly hope you’ll have the opportunity of joining us next time.

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I am Nigerian :)

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