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The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic this year has been a major disaster to several sectors including the financial sector. The ensuing lockdown affected the global economy tremendously. SMEs in Nigeria were among the worst hit.

According to a survey published by the Fate Foundation and BudgIT on the ‘Impact of COVID-19 on Nigerian SMEs’, 94.3% of the total 1,943 respondents said the pandemic has negatively affected their business.

Back in 2017, the Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) sector comprising approximately 40 million SMEs contributed an estimated 48% to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and employed 84% of the country’s entire workforce, according to a National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) report released in 2018.

GDP is an important indicator of a country’s economic power. According to the NBS, Nigeria’s 2017 GDP was worth about N113.7 billion. Of that amount, the SME sector contributed 48%; that’s two percent short of half the total amount. This value provided by SMEs, which ensures the smooth running of the country, is why they are referred to as the bedrock of the economy.

But this was before the pandemic and the accompanying lockdown that resulted in an unprecedented economic tailspin affecting business operations, consumer spending, loss of jobs, and livelihoods. According to the Fate Foundation and BudgIT survey, off the businesses still managing to stay afloat, 72.1% cannot find the cash flow to continue running their business, and 59.2% are struggling to increase their revenue base.

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When asked in what area they want to be supported, 72.1% answered with cash flow; 67.7% said they’ll need support to make sales; 89.4% want the federal government to provide them with funding; 33.8% need access to markets; 74% want the private sector to support with funding; and 62.9% want business support.

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Recently, MTN Nigeria commenced an initiative tagged The Revv Program to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on small businesses across Nigeria. Working with relevant stakeholders, subject-matter experts, and the company’s executives, the program aims to support over 10,000 small businesses.

At the virtual launch, Chief Executive Officer, MTN Nigeria, Ferdi Moolman, called on large corporates to join MTN and “strongly position themselves to support SMEs as a foundation to the growth of a stronger economy going into 2021 and beyond”, saying “The Revv Programme is our way of standing with SMEs in their journey to rise through these challenging times.”

Adopting a four-pronged approach that includes masterclass sessions, support with productivity tools, access to market and advisory initiatives, the programme seeks to help SMEs relearn, readjust, and retool their businesses. The masterclasses which have been held weekly since August 18 focuses on core areas of business management as part of a broader strategy to uplift the SMEs.

This will be followed by the selection of The Y’ello 200 (two hundred top-performing SMEs from the sessions) that will enjoy exclusive access to a broad range of technology and productivity tools and services absolutely free, for a period of six months. They will also receive productivity support to enhance their business performance, in addition to access to MTN’s media assets for product marketing, which will open up new market opportunities for their business’ growth and expansion.

The majority of the small businesses affected by the pandemic are facing funding problems.  The first masterclass, themed “Accessing the Right Funding for Your Business”, addressed this need. MTN Nigeria’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Modupe Kadri, together with other subject-matter experts threw light on ways SMEs can access funding from investors, and the role a properly managed cash flow system plays. “Anybody that wants to advance some securities to you will want to know the strength of your cash flow management; how you generate the income streams and how you’re going to keep the lead on that. The same thing also applies to your costs”, Kadri said.

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In a subsequent masterclass themed, “Setting Up Your Business for Success: The Technology Advantage”, the Chief Enterprise Business Officer of MTN Nigeria, Lynda Saint-Nwafor shared that the concern for SMEs is at the core of The Revv programme. “We have the interest of SMEs at heart and whilst we do not provide all the services that are applicable, we are willing to partner with organisations that provide access to technology tools that are relevant to SMEs on a platform that makes it easy for them to access at the right price”, according to Lynda.

The Revv Programme will not be the first time MTN is supporting small businesses in the country. In 2018 the company launched the viral “Man In The Box” campaign with commendable outcomes for SMEs in the country. The idea was to support small businesses with technology solutions and create awareness for them by showcasing their businesses in the “Box” to the entire world.

For 24 hours and for free, selected businesses were showcased within the “Box” on LED screens, and across MTN’s social media platforms. Man In The Box was a huge success; it awakened Nigerians to the enormous untapped possibilities that litter the SME space. SMEs that were featured in the “Box” told amazing testimonies of how they witnessed growth and increased patronage of their businesses.


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As we transit to a post-COVID environment, small businesses that had their business affected by the pandemic and are looking for new sources of income will have to pay attention to the programme. The good thing is, it does not matter how bad the pandemic may have affected their success, business will soon shape up for SMEs, especially the 10,000 small businesses to benefit from The Revv Programme. And with that, they will continue to provide the much-needed backbone for Nigeria’s economy.

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