By Aniekan James Ekah

The Honorable Commissioner for Trade and Investment, Akwa Ibom State, Prince Ukpong Akpabio, has reiterated the resolve of the Governor Udom Emmanuel-led administration to boost Micro, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (MSMEs) in Akwa Ibom State.

He disclosed this during an interactive session with Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) on Friday in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital. The event which held at Emerald Event Center had over five hundred small and medium scale entrepreneurs accross the 31 Local Government Areas of the state in attendance.

The Commissioner said that the focus of the session was to interface with the entrepreneurs, note their challenges, and recommend workable and sustainable solutions to them, noting that supporting SMEs to flourish is a top-priority of Governor Udom Emmanuel’s COMPLETION AGENDA. He stated that SME’s are the engine of any developed economy and maintained that the activities of SMEs generate disposable income for the growing middle class, with market opportunities for new investors.

Several participants at the forum thanked Governor Udom Emmanuel for appointing Prince Ukpong Akpabio to head the Trade and Investment Ministry, saying he has shown capacity in interpreting the Governor’s Completion Agenda.

The participants highlighted the challenges of SMEs in the state to include inability to access capital and credit facilities to develop their busineses, low patronage of Made in Akwa Ibom products, lack of training facilities and opportunities for growing SMEs, double taxation and cumbersome regulatory practices, deteriorating macroeconomic environment, poor infrastructures, and inadequate support from the government.

In response, The Honourable Commissioner announced the setting up of an SME desk at the Ministry of Trade and investment to collate data on active SMEs, develop a blueprint for Government interventions and interface with SMEs stressing that through his ministry, government will create a synergy with SMEs for regular training, empowerment and assistance to access capital from credit institutions such as the CBN, Bank of Industry and other relevant government agencies. He affirmed that it was His Excellency’s desire that eighty percent of what is consumed in Akwa Ibom by 2023 should be produced in the State.

He further stated that the government is committed to developing entrepreneurial skills of Akwa Ibom indigenes and facilitating access to capital for SME start-ups, which will create employment opportunities and boost local businesses in the State.

Prince Akpabio announced that under the COMPLETION AGENDA, Governor Udom Emmanuel’s target is to establish at least 30,000 micro Small and Medium Scale businesses across the State, and create industrial hubs in line with the Dakkada Philosophy.

In attendance was the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Trade and Investment Mr. oliver Udoukpo, Former SSA to the Governor on Microfinance and Enterprise Development Mr. Ime Uwah, Directors and Heads of Departments in the Ministry of Trade and Investment, Chief Executives of local businesses and SME operators among others.