Innovention Roundtable Kaduna: Experts Charge SMEs, Startups On National Dev’t
By Jeremiah Agada
Small and Medium Enterprises, SMEs and startup businesses have been charged to be at the vanguard of national development in Nigeria.
This call was made on Thursday by experts and stakeholders at the inaugural Innovention Roundtable themed: “How innovation drives entrepreneurship: the case for SMEs and start-ups”, held at the Umaru Musa Yar’Adua Indoor Hall, Murtala Square in Kaduna State.
In a welcome address, the Executive Vice Chairman of the VerdantZeal Group and convener of the Annual Innovention Series, Dr. Tunji Olugbodi disclosed that focus on SMEs, entrepreneurship and startups is premeditated on the fact that these represent the growth engine of today and the future, especially in Nigeria.
Olugbodi adds: “If the new narrative of the ‘African Lion’ must succeed, we cannot ignore the imperative to ensure strong structures to inspire new ways of building and conducting businesses, generating inclusive growth and employment, empowering the youth for affirmative actions and pushing these with organic innovation.”
Noting that the roundtable will create a free platform for all employers of labour, e-commerce solopreneurs and SMEs to appreciate the place of innovation in business growth, he said that the choice of Kaduna State for the important national discourse is based on its ongoing efforts to become a major hub for sustainable business and technology advancements.
While delivering his opening remarks at the forum, Chairman of the occasion, Alhaji Yusuf Hamisu Abubakar called on SMEs and startups to leverage strongly on the ongoing digital revolution in bringing disruption to doing businesses in Nigeria while being at the forefront of addressing the growing unemployment challenges among youths today. “Technology has changed the fate of many industries; changed local and global competition; has forced people to change jobs and market places as well as provided many threats and opportunities to business,” he said.
Abubakar who is also the Chairman of Kaduna Electricity Distribution Plc further admonished young people to look beyond the government for jobs as they have the capacity to be entrepreneurs. He advised, “Our youth must learn to be innovative and accountable to themselves and stop waiting for government or corporations to provide them with jobs.”
In setting agenda for discourse at the forum, the Chairman, VerdantZeal group in his ‘Innovention Intervention’ noted that the myriads of Nigeria’s problems which includes unemployment and overpopulation calls for a “national emergency”. Explaining that we cannot afford to continue playing the ‘blame game’ or wait for the government to do everything, he said that setting up the Innovention Roundtable Series is VerdantZeal’s contribution to national development by creating a platform to examine the question of national development through which opportunities for growth can be explored.
The special guest of honour for the event, Executive Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El Rufai, in his speech, congratulated the people of the state for hosting the very first Innovention Roundtable outside Lagos. Speaking through the Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Manzo Maigari, El Rufai urged participants to take advantage of the forum to improve the lot of Nigerians specifically and Africans generally. He added that Africa had being left behind in the industrial and agricultural revolution; hence, this is the time to bring a radical change by leveraging on digital technology in bringing a disruption to businesses in Africa.
The keynote address for the occasion centered on innovation and entrepreneurship, and was delivered by the Managing Director/CEO, Peugeot Automobile Nigeria (PAN), Ibrahim Boyi. Noting that there is strong positive correlation between innovation index rating and GDP, he said “SMEs account for over 70% employment and 60% of GDP for most low income economies and their success lies in the condition of the environment and their ability to embrace entrepreneurial management.”
Also noting that innovation and entrepreneurship are two sides to a coin, he charged Nigerian SMEs and Startups to be “evolutionary” or “revolutionary” in building sustainable businesses that will form the bedrock of the Nigerian economy outside crude oil.
In a highly interactive and educative session moderated by the General Manager, Supreme FM Kaduna, Isaac Bare, Chief Executive Officer of Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), Laoye Jaiyeola, CEO Zamani Foundation, Philomena Zamani-Henry, CEO OTRAC, Kabir Farida Mohammed, Executive Vice Chairman, Verdant Zeal Group, Dr. Tunji Olugbodi and the keynote speaker, Ibrahim Dutsinma Boyi, were able to do justice to the theme of the forum.
The maiden Innovention Roundtable Kaduna was organized at the instance of Nigeria’s leading marketing communications group, VerdantZeal in collaboration with the Kaduna State government and PAN Nigeria Limited.
The Innovention Roundtable is a spinoff of the Annual Innovention Series and it is billed to impact key economic hubs across Nigeria. The next stop of the round table series is coming up next week Thursday at the Covenant University, Ota in Ogun State.
The annual Series is built on six key pillars to promote strategic, economic and political leadership, frontline conventions about original thinking and ideas, deepen entrepreneurial and business ecosystems, inspire technology and inventions, help build the African narrative and bridge gap between intent (aspiration) and performance (actualization).