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Thursday, June 20, 2013

MTN: Linking SMEs to opportunities via forum


MTN Nigeria MD, Brett Goschen
There is no gainsaying the fact that Information Communication Technology (ICT), plays a vital role in economic development. All over the world, exciting trends are emerging, with knowledge fast becoming a strategic asset for business growth. 

Advances in ICTs are occurring on an incredible scale. For countries which are tapping into the new ideas, innovation and technologies that are proliferating in a knowledge-driven economy, there is a definite abundance wealth of opportunities for their entire people.

While some schools of thought ascribe the concept of a knowledge-driven economy to trends, in advanced economies, to a greater dependence on knowledge, information and possession of high skills and the increasing need for ready access to all of these by the business and public sectors, other schools of thought reason that “knowledge is universal” and so, is not exclusive to the countries of the advanced economies only and neither does the concept of a knowledge-driven economy.

They maintain that other emerging markets like South Africa and Singapore have developed their own frameworks for catapulting their countries into knowledge-driven economies. Like the US and UK, Nigeria, with a population of over 150 million people, has the capacity to make a successful transition to a truly knowledge-driven economy. Already, the country has recorded a remarkable improvement in the area of Information technology, since the introduction of GSM in 2001. However, there is still a lot more to be done to play ‘catch-up’ with the rest of the world and be able to compete successfully in the fast-moving world economy.

In developing a knowledge-driven Nigerian economy, there is the need for a new wave of collaboration between different agencies and different sectors of the economy to make it a reality. For instance, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), have become the foundation of economic development, market prosperity and employment-generation, making a noticeable contribution to the national economy. The development of SMEs is an essential element in the growth strategy of most economies and holds a particular significance for Nigeria.

SMEs contribute to improved living standards, bring about substantial local capital formation and achieve a high level of productivity and capability. SMEs are recognised as the principal means of achieving equitable and sustainable industrial diversification. 

Tipping SMEs to anchor the growth of Nigeria’s economy, in the next couple of years, the Minister of Trade and Investment, Olusegun Aganga said that Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises remain the backbone of the development of any economy and the driving force of national growth. In Nigeria, he said, there are currently over 17 million Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, employing over 31 million Nigerians. “They account for over 80 per cent of the total number of enterprises in Nigeria and employ 75 per cent of the total workforce,” Aganga said.

If there is one factor that has contributed immensely to the growth and success of the SMEs, it is the use of ICT. SME usage of ICT ranges from basic technology such as TV, radio and fixed lines to more advanced technology such as email, e-commerce and information processing systems.

In fact, the emergence of different sophisticated ICT tools makes it a lot easier to do business in recent times. A case in point is the use of social media platforms to advertise products and services, the use of Skype to do a tele-conference meeting with business partners across the globe, etc.

It gets even better and interesting with the various value-added packages that are continually offered by the GSM companies for business owners to be at their best. One of such packages is the MTN Smooth Talk, a special tariff plan, created for business people, who make high volume calls and require heavy data plan for their businesses.

Iyke Nwachukwu, an IT consultant and a participant at the recently held  MTN Link Forum, an engagement platform for young, budding entrepreneurs and professionals to network and connect to their dreams, stated “The use of mobile phones has helped many entrepreneurs reduce costs and improve business processes. I am, currently, on the MTN Smooth Talk plan and I can testify that it is one plan every entrepreneur should buy into. Call rate is at a reduced and affordable rate, which enables you to communicate more with your customers and then of course the exciting data bundle that enables you achieve more.”

On how, ICT has shaped his business, Nwachukwu said “Everyone who is in the country knows that we are a lot better than where we were a decade ago. For everything thing we do, we rely, basically, on communication. You can reach people faster, track your products, do your business transaction etc, with the aid of ICT. We have all benefitted, in one way or the other, since the likes of MTN came into the business of Information Technology. Anyone who knows what it was like back then in the days of NITEL will agree with me that there is a complete paradigm shift. Life is much easier and businesses better, in this era of ICT.”

Using advanced ICT to improve business processes falls into the category of e-business. However, not all SMEs need to use ICT to the same degree of complexity. The first ICT tool that most SMEs adopt is having basic communication with a fixed line or mobile phone, whichever is more economical or most convenient for their businesses. This allows the SME to communicate with its suppliers and customers without having to pay a personal visit.

Like any firm, an SME decides which type of ICT products to adopt, based on the concrete benefits they can bring to its core business, the ICT capacity of its employees and the financial resources available. Most people are familiar with basic ICT such as fixed phone lines, mobile phones, fax, computers and basic document processing software – like Microsoft Office. 

Advanced communication technology, however, is more complex, because Advanced communication technology relies primarily on the Internet and the intranet, which allow people, within the firm, to share files with each other, over the same network. Having Internet connectivity enables firms to engage in faster research, set up websites, conduct e-commerce and set up video conferences.
  
*Anthony Ifeanyi Elikene contributed this from Lagos
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