1 The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a global health emergency and an economic slowdown, calling for prevention while promoting economic activities. Using the International Labor Organization (ILO) Start and Improve Your Business (SIYB) modules for business development, UN agencies, in collaboration with the Nigerian government, jointly implemented a project to enhance the capacity of MSMEs /local manufacturers to produce quality personal protective equipment and accessories. other health-related products. The IMESUN training, implemented jointly by the ILO and UN Women, has trained up to 114 MSMEs from the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria.
3 The United Nations System in Nigeria and the Government of Nigeria implemented a project to strengthen the capacity of MSMEs and local manufacturers to produce high-quality personal protective equipment (PPE) and healthcare-related products. The project, financed by the United Nations Basket Fund and implemented jointly by the International Labor Organization (ILO), the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Women, supports the ability of Nigerian MSMEs and manufacturers to meet both internal and external demand.
4 As the pandemic has disrupted global supply chains, many countries are focusing on meeting their domestic needs. Many MSMEs are switching to PPE production to take advantage of the economic opportunity. Several local factories, industries and manufacturers (including tailors) have changed their production lines to take advantage of this increased demand. However, this rise has not been without challenges ranging from understanding how to build a viable business to producing quality PPE.
5 Training objectives included the need to: address identified knowledge and skills gaps among business owners, especially those in PPE production; provide quality resources and technical support to help business owners grow and expand their business operations; identify other areas of support required in this area; develop an understanding of gender basics so that you can promote gender mainstreaming practices and human rights-based approaches in your business operations; and monitor, review, and certify Start and Improve Your Business trainers.
6 In her opening remarks at the event held at the Hotel Valencia on February 28, 2022, the Director of the ILO, Ms. Vanessa Phala, lamented the effect of COVID-19 on the country’s economy. Speaking through Dino Corell, she affirmed that the crisis has affected investment, growth and employment while exerting a negative impact on the competitiveness of micro, small and medium enterprises. “The pandemic has an asymmetric impact on small businesses and the workers employed in these units, who have borne the brunt of the pandemic’s fallout,” she said. Ms. Vanessa Phala expressed optimism and reiterated that micro, small and medium-sized enterprises in Nigeria are vital for decent and productive employment, accounting for two-thirds of all jobs globally and creating many new jobs. .
7 Along the same lines, UN Women National Program Officer, Ms. Patience Ekeoba, who represented the UN Women Country Representative, highlighted that UN Women will pay special attention to improving the marketing capabilities of women-owned MSMEs. for expanding business growth and policy adoption. issues associated with the distribution of products produced by women and young women entrepreneurs and expand gender-responsive procurement principles to ensure that government agencies, development partners and private sector entities prioritize PPE produced by women .
8 UNIDO‘s Lead Technical Advisor for the project, Jarl M Hansstein, in his goodwill message noted that a needs analysis was conducted on selected MSMEs to reveal the areas where they needed support and incentives to improve their products and business. He also mentioned that the project aims to help companies improve the quality of their PPE and also target export markets within the ECOWAS region. In addition, UNIDO will build on this important training, helping them to formulate and implement concrete business plans in relation to the specific objectives to be achieved.
9 The WHO coordinator for the project, Tayo Hamzat, stated that the project will not only contribute to improving Nigeria’s health status, but will also help boost the economy by opening Nigerian produce to the international market because the project was designed to produce quality PPE. products in a safe and healthy environment for business. He added that this was a rich project because the selected beneficiaries would have interventions from four Participating United Nations Organizations (PUNO) and urged participants to make sure they seize the opportunity.
10 In his special remarks, the Honorable Minister of Labor and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, represented by Dr. Martina Nwordu, Director of Tasks and Special Projects, thanked the different struggles that the entrepreneurs went through and applauded the training as strategic. The minister affirmed that “it is, therefore, a good initiative to support these groups of entrepreneurs to access information for the promotion and positioning of young companies in Nigeria, as a good practice”. He also pointed out that through the activities of NDE, a parastatal company under the Ministry of Labour, SMEs have benefited as groups and as individuals from business development as a means of job creation. He promised the ministry’s willingness to effectively support and participate in the project.
11 Also speaking during the opening ceremony, the Director of Economic Services of the Federal Ministry of Women’s Affairs through the Office of Women’s Economic Empowerment Officer, Ms. Joy Obaje, pledged her support for the project. She also pointed to some ministry interventions to support women entrepreneurs, such as access to financial interventions, as well as the 50 Million Women’s African Speaking Platform Project (50MAWSP) financed by the African Development Bank (AfDB) to contribute to the economic and social empowerment of 50 million women in business in 38 African countries.
12 IMESUN training was one of the intervention areas of the whole project and it started with the training of trainers. The trainers were appointed by ILO and UN Women tripartite partners, including the Nigerian Employers Consultative Association (NECA), the Nigerian Trades Union Congress (TUC), the Federal Ministry of Labor and Employment (FMLE), the Nigerian Congress Nigeria Labor Law (NLC) in addition to those nominated by the Federal Ministry of Women’s Affairs (FMWA).
13 The Training of Entrepreneurs (TOE) using IMESUN modules focuses on starting and improving small businesses as a strategy to create more and better jobs for women and men. The program is made up of a set of interrelated training packages for different levels of business maturity, including Start Your Business; Improve your business; and expand your business. SIYB aims to increase the viability of MSMEs through management principles suitable for the environment of developing economies.
14 As many as 114 MSMEs (63 women-owned and 51 men-owned businesses) from Nigeria’s six geopolitical zones have received training on how to grow their businesses with a gender lens. The trainings were held in three different locations across the country: 64 MSMEs from the northern region (NC, NE and NW) were trained in Abuja from February 28 to March 11; 25 MSMEs from the Southwest region were trained in Lagos from March 14 to 18, and up to 25 MSMEs from the Southeast and South-South regions were trained in Enugu from March 21 to 25. Some of the grantees have provided positive feedback on the quality of the program.
15 “In my five years running this business, I never thought about expanding, because I always had the belief that it’s scary. This training made me realize that it is due to some bad business practices that I have advocated. For example, I have operated with the mindset that trading capital is mine and as such I must use it in any way I choose. My Ahaa moment came during the module on financial planning. I learned in detail the financial implications of every aspect of my business, as well as how to separate business money from personal money. In fact, if I had continued to run my business as I did before the training, especially financially, I would never have scaled up” Rashidat, a PPE entrepreneur from Kogi “The trainers showed a very high level of having been properly trained before training us. They were approachable, emotionally intelligent in managing the adult classes, and had a good grounding in business development SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures). They did everything possible so that the students reached a high level of satisfaction. The cartoon-level simplification and street-level clarity of the training manual, which is also adaptable to the Nigerian context, is something I have yet to see in any business development training. The naughty subject of cash flow has been stripped down to such basics that even a five-year college program can’t pull it off. Simply put, the training manual is excellent for its intended purpose.” Muhammad Kachalla, PPE entrepreneur from Maiduguri.
16 In his remarks, one of the IMESUN trainers from the Nigerian Employers Consultative Association, Odunayo Balogun, thanked the funders and PUNOs of the project and described it as timely and asked MSMEs not to joke about the opportunity.