Forty-five countries and 1500 exhibitors attended the 2019 Abuja International Trade Fair (AITF), which just ended. The fair held from September 21 to October 2 and had as its theme, “Remodelling SMEs Financing: Options and Solutions.”
The Director-General of the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), Mrs Tonia Shoyele, said more countries were in attendance this year, exceeding the 30 countries that attended in 2018.
The heightened interest from exhibitors and visitors made the ACCI shift the closing date of the fair from the initial 29th of September to October 2.
A statement signed by the Chairman of the Planning Committee, high-interest Johnson Anene and the Director-General, Tonia Shoyele, said the extension became necessary in view of popular demand by exhibitors.
Data from the chamber revealed that 3000 exhibitors and about one million visitors participated in the last 13 fairs organised by the ACCI.
The chamber recorded about 1500 exhibitors from within and outside Nigeria with an average attendance of 50,000 visitors to the 13th Fair in 2019 on a daily basis.
Daily Trust visited the venue at the ACCI office, Airport Road, Abuja, and discovered that SMEs dominated the exhibitions.
The Abuja International Trade and Convention Centre where the fair took place was a beehive of activities as innovators, service providers, distributors, buyers and sellers, foreign countries as well as Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) actively participated.
States, local governments and agencies also had pavilions to market their products and services.
A playground for children, entertainment podiums and live performances were also side attractions visitors could hardly ignore.
Agencies such as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), National Pension Commission (PenCom), National Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) and many more also had locations to provide information to visitors.
It would be recalled that over the past 13 years, the Abuja International Trade Fair has remained a multi-sectoral trade event which has grown in size as a platform for international and domestic exhibitors to promote and showcase new products, innovations, strategic direction in their areas of interest, access new markets and deepen or sign business deals.
Series of side-line events involved discussions on accessing capital for business and reviewing policy directions within the Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) framework in terms of a new model for financing them and the ease of doing business context.
The exhibitions highlighted key sectors such as energy; power; technology; fashion and textile; real estate; construction; financial services; healthcare; educational institutions; transportation; foods and beverages; agriculture; media and furniture.
The chamber introduced the roundtable component to add value to the fair during which issues concerning the financing of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) were discussed and solutions were proffered.
The official opening ceremony provided an opportunity for a mix of key government functionaries, stakeholders, and major players in the areas of Commerce, Industry, Trades and Investment.
The president of the ACCI, Prince Adetokunbo Kayode, appealed to the public and private sector operators to work as collaborators, not as competitors, and as partners not as combatants.
He said the main objectives of the trade fair among several others included to promote made in Nigeria goods and services; create a conducive atmosphere between Nigeria and other countries; provide access to research findings, new technologies, innovation and ideas for industrial growth.
“These are the only sure ways to guarantee and achieve the ambition of developing our country’s economy. That is the only way we can build a lasting legacy of value and ensure shared prosperity for the next generation,” he said.
He used the opening ceremony to draw the attention of stakeholders to the problem of multiple taxation and grey taxation procedures.
He pointed out the many forms of the manifestation of multiple taxations: corporate tax, stamp duties, property tax, tenement rate, infrastructure charges, environmental charges, water rates, to mention a few.
“We hold the firm view that businesses pay appropriate taxes and municipal charges. Multiple taxations kill SMEs. So also unearned and destructive charges on loans to SMEs like stamp duties, registration fees, consent fees, CAC fees,” he said.
The ACCI boss described as “shocking and worrisome” that governments, at every level, continue to take up to 10-15 per cent of part of loans granted to SMEs in the name of consent fees, stamp duties, title registration fees, filling fees at the CAC, while the banks collect another 10 per cent or more through administrative charges and documentation costs.
“All these have to stop in the interest of the economic development of this country,” he said.
The Chairman of the 2019 AITF, who is also the Vice President of ACCI in charge of Commerce, Dr Johnson Somadina Anene, said the fair hosted a roundtable dialogue with stakeholders on how to make SMEs financing better.
Dr Anene said the federal government has many intervention programmes targeted at SMEs, but that many were unaware of them.
He said the roundtable discussed solutions and proffered alternatives to the current structures on ground to enable SMEs to contribute better to the nation’s economy.
Experts at the roundtable expressed concern over high interest rates and collaterals demanded by banks and development finance institutions before disbursement of government intervention funds.
The Director General of the ACCI, Mrs. Shoyele, said remodelling financing strategy for intervention funds had become imperative considering the many obstacles businesses must scale before accessing many intervention funds set aside by both the federal government and sub-national governments to help businesses thrive.
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