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HICC seeks government support for SMEs, start-ups

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From left: Pastor Ayokanmi Elegbede, Oyindamola Akintoye, Pastor Bolaji Idowu, Pastor Temitope Mogaji and Boluwatife David, during HSAP press conference in Lagos. PHOTO: Eniola Daniel

In order to grow the economy and encourage Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), a cleric has urged government at all levels to enunciate policies that will enable start-ups below five years have the opportunity of handling a minimum of five per cent of government contracts.

The Senior Pastor at Harvesters International Christian Centre (HICC), Bolaji Idowu, made the call at the seventh edition of the church’s quarterly free skill acquisition programme, dubbed, Harvesters Skill Acquisition Programme (HSAP), held at the church premises in Gbagada, Lagos.

Idowu said: “as a faith based organisation, we have a firm belief that Christianity in its pure form should not care only about the human spirit, we should be concerned about the financial and marital aspect and the community we live in.
“Nigeria has a growing alarming rate of unemployment, which is currently at 23%. The rate of unemployment is massive so, the imitative of our church is to curb poverty, empower people, improve the community.”

“Our approach is very simple, and tremendously impactful. We are providing people with skills, easy to learn and we also provide start up capital. This is not a skill where you need a million naira to start. So far, we have trained over 10,000 people over the past six editions.”

He urged government to provide start-ups the needed support, saying, “If bank loans cannot be given to SMEs, government can devote a policy that five per cent of its contracts must be given to companies that are below five years in operation.”

“If bank loans cannot be given to SMEs, government can devote a policy that five per cent of its contracts must be given to companies that are below five years in operation. That will change a lot of things; doing that will make money to be trickling into a sector for the future.”

In the past three years, the church said it has trained thousands in the areas of App Development, Digital Marketing, Graphics Design, Make-Up, Pastry and Mixology, Photography, Videography, Video Editing among others, and another 1,500 targeted during the forthcoming three days programme.

Asked if the programme was meant solely for Christians, he said, “social intervention cannot be meant for people of certain faith, because the problems we are facing are common.” Both Christians, Muslims, idol worshippers face poverty so, it’s not peculiar to Christians. And in this year’s programme, 822 have B.sc or HND, 86 have MBA or M.Sc., and we have 1,021 who are not members of our church, and 1,053 are attending the programme for the first time.”

“We have another social intervention called Harvesters Entrepreneurs Forum. Attendees are taught how to have skill in HSAP but in Entrepreneurs Forum, they are taught how to do business; the two is what you need have to become successful so, you can have skill and don’t know how to do business. Our church provides people with capital in the Entrepreneurs Forum. We have between N100,000 to N250,000 capital for participants for now. Some will get equipment as a form of capital.

On support from the government, he said: “The Lagos State Commissioner for Youth Development came to one of the programmes and commended us; he was surprised at the efficiencies we have with our system, that even the government is unable to produce with theirs.

The Lagos State Government also indicated interest in giving people that go through our programmes opportunity to be eligible for the State Employment Trust Fund.

”On his part, Bar. Boluwatife David who called on the government to look into the issue of taxation as taxation in Nigeria is such that can cripple any SME; by the time you calculate your company’s performance at the end of the year, you’ll discover that you paid like 30% apart from VAT, I think if all of those things are looked into and they are stabilised in a way that made it easier for people to jump start their business, then I think it will be amazing.


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