It is on record that the 31 local government areas in the state have viable small and medium entrepreneurs (SMEs) numbering about 300, but they have to be harnessed.
To achieve this objective, the commissioner for trade and investment , Prince Ukpong Akpabio, recently inaugurated SMEs help desk officers to serve as agents of industrialization in the 31 local government areas.
Addressing the desk officers at the conference hall of the ministry, Ukpong charged them to be more focused and committed in their assigned task of coordinating SMEs activities in their areas as government representatives.
He commended them on their selection and for accepting to work with the ministry to realize government's drive for socio-economic and entrepreneurial development.
The desk officers were charged to see themselves as major players and partners in the development and implementation of government's programmes in the industrial, trade and investment sector of the Nigerian economy.
Apart from hard work and diligence on the part of the desk personnel, the commissioner emphasized that for them to meet the expected job demand, they must be computer literate and innovative as inefficient officers will be dropped and advised them to work closely with the senior special assistant to governor on SMEs matters, Mrs. Janet Amba, and cooperate with their council chairmen for higher productivity. This way, they will draw from the wealth of experience of Amba in entrepreneurship and the support of the council chairmen.
While pledging his continuous support, motivation and availability at all times, the commissioner promised to liaise with the council chairmen to give the help desk officers the optimum attention and space to ensure proper effective job delivery.
He also spoke of government's preparedness to mount capacity training in business to make them trainers of SMEs in their local domains.
The commissioner informed them that their official engagement had begun in earnest so that Akwa Ibom State will not be left out in the Federal Government's Covid-19 palliatives, and therefore tasked the officers to, as a matter of urgency, generate and collate 100, 150 and 30 SMEs respectively, each with 50 per cent of women.
Of these numbers, 150 should be businesses not yet registered, 30 should be registered businesses, while 100 should be registered MSEs, but must have at least two staff.
He further told them to note the possibility of verification with strict attention to category of the businesses.
Akpabio used the opportunity to commend the efforts of the federal and state governments in cushioning the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on citizens through the timely release of palliatives, describing as unprecedented the growth recorded in recent years in the areas of investment and SMEs development.
In her reaction, Amba applauded the commissioner for his good works and encouragement to Akwa Ibom entrepreneurs and for trying to sustain the cordial working relationship with SMEs help desk officers.
She expressed delight for the opportunity given to the desk officers to serve the state and the vision of the commissioner to open SMEs a Enterprises Development Centre, believing that as staff in the employ of the local government, they would not disappoint the government.
The governor's aide, Mrs appreciated the attendance of the senior special assistant to the governor on Lagos Liaison Office at the meeting and suggested that Abuja and Cross River be equally represented in the scheme.
Speaking separately, the help desk officers of Ikot Ekpene, Eket and Uyo local government areas described Akpabio and Amba as business revolutionists who are always there to work with them at any given time and promised to work hard to deliver on every task given to them to accomplish government's desired goals.
On his part, the state coordinator, Mr Brian Bassey, lauded the state government for its lofty programmes and policies to empower entrepreneurs and indicated their readiness as foot soldiers to partner government to optimally boost the SMEs sector in Akwa Ibom.
Unarguably, business development experts have pointed out that Gov. Emmanuel's focus on industrialization has come to stimulate that enterprising spirit in Akwa Ibom people.
According to them, the industrialisation policy of the governor supports SMEs development, making it the booster of the economy. In order to drive SMEs development, the state government supports them financially.
Over the years, the state government has assisted SMEs with soft loans and it is expected that similar thing will happen this year too.
During the lockdown occasioned by COVID-19, it was proven that only SMEs sustained the economy, because most of the big shops were closed.
Udoh and Imeh are information officers in the Ministry of Trade and Investment.