President Buhari’s Independence Day Address and How it Affects SMEs

Image Source: The Will Nigeria

By Suhaib Mohammed

On Saturday, 1st October, President Muhammadu Buhari addressed the nation, commemorating the 56th Independence Day celebration of Nigeria. Wearing his signature dress, white Babban Riga and a spectacle, typical of a 74-year-old gentleman, the President spoke on three main themes: security, corruption, and the economy. His speech about the economy dominated the speech.

Let’s look at the substance of the speech, and see whether it’s profitable for Nigerian entrepreneurs.

The Problems in the Economy

The President started by itemizing the causes of today’s economic crisis, which he attributed to falling foreign exchange and prices of oil exacerbated by vandalism in the Niger Delta region. Our own recession has been brought about by a critical shortage of foreign exchange. Oil price dropped and the damage perpetrated by Niger Delta thugs on pipelines sometimes, reduced Nigeria’s production to below 1 million barrels per day …”

However, all these problems are cyclical, temporal like the rise and fall of prices in the stock market, the President hinted. All economies face “ups and downs,” he said before turning another page to proffer solutions.

The Solutions

There are no easy fixes. Thank God the President admits that, but there are solutions. For example, the President suggested that: “We’re to repair our four refineries so that Nigeria can produce most of our petrol requirements locally.” That means an end to the abrupt scarcity and excessive cost of the prices of petroleum products in the country that will have saved more money for Nigerian startups.

He also, amongst others, talked about improving power and reviving the agricultural sector. On agriculture, the president said that credits are already being given to farmers through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), so they can produce staple food items like rice and millet thereby reducing the scourge of poverty and boosting the country’s economy.

And that’s what other state governors are also trying to do. For example, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos has partnered with Governor Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi to commence an irrigation farming in places like Argungu with the aim of reducing poverty, providing jobs, and achieving “domestic self-sufficiency” in the coming years.

What is in it for small businesses?

The President stated that: “Already farmers in thirteen out of thirty-six states are receiving credit support through the CBN’s Anchor Borrowers Program.” This means a lot not just for struggling families but also for entrepreneurs looking to find their ways in these industries.

If the President’s program of rebuilding the infrastructure in the country takes off, especially the epileptic power sector; it will benefit small businesses in many ways. They will see a sharp decrease in the cost of their operations; the money they spend to power their generators will be saved for other important areas in their business like marketing.

The big question is: does this single speech mean the end of Nigeria’s economic downturn? The answer is NO. Politicians are good at talking but bad at execution. With rising prices and stagnant income, families and businesses are dragging their feet, struggling to survive a recession no one – including the President knows when it will end.

The speech only offers a glimpse of hope in years to come. A hope that the recession will vanish, food items will become  affordable and struggling businesses will turn out profitable.

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