3RD BUSINESS LINKAGES FORUM: PHCCIMA, WIDER PERSPECTIVE COLLABORATION CONTINUOUS TO OPEN NEW FRONTIERS FOR SMEs

Business Linkages Programmes have been identified as a very significant platform for sustaining the overall development of small and medium scale enterprises, contributing to the stimulation of local economies. This was the general consensus from Port Harcourt Chamber of Commerce, Wider Perspectives Limited, Government representatives, Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta (PIND), Integrated Catering Services Limited, (The Promise) Bank of Industry, NAFDAC among other stakeholders who converged at the Viontel Hotel in Port Harcourt for the 2018 and 3rd edition of the Business Linkages forum. In his remark, the Managing Director of Wider Perspectives Limited, Mr. Kalada Apiafi said the business linkages forum is a step forward towards creating the enabling platform for SMEs to network and build alliances for business sustainability. He said promoting and supporting business linkages is an important business development service capable of changing the MSME landscape via linkages with large and established enterprises, emerging entrepreneurs and small businesses with a great chance of growth. He said with this year's Theme: ‘Strengthening SMEs Through Linkages and Industrialization, the programme is designed to deepening stronger market linkages between small and medium scale enterprises, adding that the programme is to facilitate Access to Finance, Wealth and Job Creation, Market Linkages, Export Opportunities, Creation of Enabling Business Environment and Networking through the various interactions that will happen in the course of the forum. “This is why for three years we must deeply acknowledge the keynote speaker and President Port Harcourt Chamber of Commerce, Dr. Emi Membere-Otaji who has been a great support to this initiative, and the PHCCIMA team who together with Wider Perspectives Limited team have worked tirelessly to make this and past forum a reality. President of Port Harcourt Chamber of Commerce, Dr Emi Membere-Otaji, speaking as keynote speaker stated that one of the cardinal objective of the Chamber is to ensure that businesses thrive, hence the decision to continue to support the business linkages programme considering the significant role it plays in not only identifying promising entrepreneurs and providing platform for mentorship and development of entrepreneurial traits and business skills but also its ability to link entrepreneurs with possible markets, seamless funding and frontiers of business opportunities. He said Nigeria has the biggest market that can enhance SMEs but unfortunately, we have not been able to leverage on it. “Even when other people make frivolous claims about the security situation in the Niger Delta which of course is over bloated, it is left for us as Niger Deltans to put our acts together, engage in quality programmes of this nature to help change the narrative about claims of insecurity. He said as the mouthpiece of the organized private sector, PHCCIMA will continue to facilitate a more active and effective private sector that will effectively contribute to the economic development of the state, region, and nation at large, like PHCCIMA’s effort and advocacy to ensure tax harmonization in Rivers state mong others. Making their presentation, the Market Development Project Manager, Foundation for Partnership Initiative In the Niger Delta (PIND), Mr. James Elekwachi said SMEs are major drivers of economic growth and development and are responsible for 46% of Nigeria’s GDP and 25% of total employment but unfortunately 99.87% of the SMEs in Nigeria and Niger Delta are micro-sized with limited prospect for growth. They revealed that businesses only grow when they are competitive, hence there is need to be competitive to offer more value to the buyers than their competitors, better quality, cheaper price due to an efficient method of production. Represented by the PIND Market System Development Advisor, Blessing Allen Adedayo, noted that the key to addressing these opportunities is building the capacity of SMEs to competitively meet the needs of the large markets, hence the importance of the business linkages programme. The SA to the Governor on ICT, Asawo Ibifuro as a discussant panelist told the crowd an inspiring story of how he started business with his group of friends from zero capital; concluding that linkages will help you leverage on social and intellectual capital, even as he stressed the need to leverage on each other’s strength to better our businesses. The Deputy Managing Director of Wider perspectives Limited, Mrs. Edughom Hanson in her remark said the objective of the 2018 business linkages forum was to provide an avenue for MSMEs in this region to interact with key stakeholders in the MSME landscape to provide market access and financial and business information that can facilitate their growth in a manner that is sustainable and contributing to the economy. The Forum according to her was also organized to provide networking opportunities and platform for SMEs to meet with potential large buyers; to showcase market and funding opportunities for SMEs in diverse sectors, bring together market actors in the SME landscape to talk about market opportunities for SMEs, provide the avenue for businesses to market/sell their services to targeted SMEs/ Groups. The event featured panel discussions on (1) Doing Business –Opportunities, Challenges and Way Forward (2) Facilitating Finance for Sustainable Business Growth in Nigeria, and touring of exhibition stands. It also featured remarks from, Bank of Industry, Bank of Agriculture, Standard Organization of Nigeria, NAFDAC, Nigerian Export Promotion Commission, SMEDAN, CBN and the Director General of PHCCIMA, Mr. Erasmus Chukunda on the inherent values of being a member of PHCCIMA during his vote of thanks.