Federal and state governments in Nigeria have been called upon to give the survival of small businesses the serious attention it deserves. The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of The Small Business Owners Initiative (TSBOI), Ikenna Chidoka made the call recently while speaking at a free-to-attend trade fair organized for online business owners in the country.
The event which took place at the River Plate Park, Wuse 2, Abuja was tagged #myabjhustle and was attended by 120 vendors of various online businesses with good customers turnout.
According to Chidoka, TSBOI is an initiative or concept created to provide a platform that connects people with products and services, especially online based entrepreneurs, through fairs. Apart from the fairs already organized in Lagos and Abuja, Chidoka said bigger events will take place in Kano, Owerri and other major cities towards the end of the year.
“TSBOI was created to serve as a bridge that connects small businesses that are online based. It is meant to bring together, entrepreneurs with a vision of keying into the world market using opportunities provided by the new media including Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and other applications.
“The idea is to mobilize these businesses and their owners, to exchange ideas on how to make maximum use and take advantage of the modern marketing skills through networking which is basically information sharing as well as create the one-centre-market every now and then, where customers who hitherto patronize them online could meet the vendors face to face in order to create lasting impressions and build business confidence.
“The fairs are meant to create a physical environment for producers and customers to meet and mingle. We believe nothing still beats the face to face meetings as regards sales. It creates trust among parties,” Chidoka stated. According to him, it was a deliberate decision to make attendance to the fairs, free of charge, in order to encourage small businesses to attend and not be scared away by money, adding that the successes recorded in terms of enthusiasm and actual attendance are immeasurable.
He said that the fair also serves as an avenue to mobilize and form pressure groups for small businesses to articulate and harness ideas on how to influence government policies to favor small businesses in terms of taxes and such other matters. “We also use the opportunities of the fairs to talk about the welfare of small businesses.
It is at such fairs that business owners discuss like lobby groups on issues of taxes and sundry matters and how entrepreneurs can influence government policies affecting them,” he said.
Calling on governments at all levels to take seriously the survival of small businesses in the country, Chidoka said over 90 percent of businesses in the private sector of the economy falls into the category under discussion, adding that government cannot but take their wellbeing as a matter of national importance, in order to create employment which would help to reduce security challenges facing the country.
“For example, the Federal Government has exempted small businesses from paying company taxes yet, they still pay personal income tax or pay as you earn which is like using one hand to give and using the other hand to take it back. This should be addressed.
“The government need to make deliberate policies that are enforceable aimed at giving small businesses unencumbered access to loans and other business facilities, tax-free environment as well as restrict local governments like AMAC, as with the case of Abuja and others from collecting the many levies they charge against this category of businesses, so that they can survive and employ citizens,” Chidoka concluded.
Among business vendors that participated at the fair include Soma-J Event, an online-based food vendor with somafada as a brand name as well as Ojiko Couture which specializes in clothes making and sales.