Bayelsa State is set to host global leaders storming Yenagoa, the state capital, within the week for the 2018 Africa SME Roundtable. Mr Ebiekure Jasper Eradiri, Director-General of Bayelsa State Microfinance and Enterprise Development Agency (BYMEDA), briefed newsmen on the three-day event.
For the benefit of those who have never heard of or had contacts with you: who is Mr Ebiekure Jasper Eradiri?
My name is Ebiekure Jasper Eradiri. First, I am a Bayelsan. A Hive Africa Global Leader; A Governing body member of the World Association for Small and Medium Enterprises (WASMEs) ), former Adviser to Governor of Bayelsa State on Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and, presently, I serve the Restoration Government of Governor Seriake Dickson as the Director-General, Bayelsa State Microfinance and Enterprise Development Agency.
The world is coming to Bayelsa State later this week at the hosting instance of the Bayelsa State Microfinance and Enterprise Development Agency. What is it all about; and how was the hosting right granted?
Well, we are only co-hosts, as the event is initiated by the Knight Lambert Foundation but endorsed by the World Association for Small and Medium Enterprises. The city of Yenagoa, Bayelsa, was considered the preferred city to host the 2018 Africa Roundtable Event due to the commendable strides and efforts at SME development by His Excellency, Governor Henry Seriake Dickson. The formal letter was communicated to the Bayelsa State Government through the Bayelsa State Microfinance and Enterprise Development Agency, in the last quarter of 2017. It may suffice to inform that the Bayelsa State Microfinance and Enterprise Development Agency is the foremost parastatal of the State Government: mandated by law, to promote, develop and support the growth of MSMEs in the state. The event is scheduled for Thursday March 1 through Saturday March 3, 2018 at the Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha Memorial Banquet Hall.
What is the theme of the event and what does it objectively entail?
The event theme is: The Position of Africa SMEs within the Global Economy: Unlocking Market Opportunities. Objectively, the event will promote and accelerate SMEs’ development in Africa, provide a platform of networking among entrepreneurs as well as encourage the growth of SMEs in Africa. More roundly phrased, I would say it is geared at awakening the SMEs in Africa for the necessary growth of African economies
Who are the likely guests and participants expected to grace the event? So far, about 15 African countries, 25 African Development Finance Institutions, about 10 Global SME funding support institutions, SME experts, angel investors, crowd funders, venture capitalists, franchise agencies, etc, have indicated interest to attend the event.
Furthermore, Trade and Finance ministers, government agencies, entrepreneurs, academia, business membership organisations, banks, etc, are also expected to actively participate at the event.
The event promotes some objectives of the African Union, even as its related bodies are inclined to attend with a view to examining policies, strategies, best solutions and programmes to upgrade African SMEs and launch them into new growth trajectories. . Can you please give us a highlight of the major activities lined up for the event? The three-day convoke will among others showcase an African Sister-Cities Trade Expo to boost Inter-African trade, promote bilateral relations, as well as provide a platform for business-to-business (B2B)/business-to-government (B2G) opportunities. There will also be a Made in Bayelsa Trade Fair, designed to boost SMEs in the state and create avenues for business networking. It will further promote locally-sourced for and manufactured products.
Other major highlights of the event will include: Inauguration of the All Africa Association for SMEs (AAASMEs) by Alhaji Babale Girei (president, World Association for Small and Medium Enterprises; unveiling of the SMEs’ compendium; Six years of Bayelsa State Restoration Government; SME Solution Centre; inaugural board meeting of All Africa Association for SMEs, among others.
How prepared are you to host the world; and compared to previous editions, how do you think, Bayelsa 2018 Africa SME Roundtable will stand out?
We can proudly say that we are at the stage of crossing the ‘ts’ and dotting the ‘is’. So, barring any last minute changes, we are prepared to shock the world. Why do I say so? The segment on Technical Roundtable Sessions will feature keynotes on SME Policy, etc, from some of the world’s best players in the economic terrain. We expect topics like “Institutional Roles of Government in Promoting SMEs and Entrepreneurship in Africa.” Other topics that will be diagnostically treated by renowned industry players include: The Pragmatic Solution to Mitigate Africa – Europe Migration/ Refugee Challenge: Lead speaker – Mr Michel Arrion (European Ambassador to Nigeria); SME Finance: A Critical Factor for Promoting Economic Development in Africa; SME Opportunities In Oil and Gas Sector; A Local Content Recipe for African Nations: Lead speaker – Engr Simbi Wabote (Executive Secretary, Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board); Information Communication & Technology: A Tool for Accelerated Transformation of SMEs; Green Economy & Green Growth for SMEs; Lead Speaker – Mr Msibi J Dumisani, (Group Managing Director, Fincorp Mbabane, Swaziland); Enterprise Development Ecosystem; Driving Inclusive Growth for Women and Youth Enterprises in Africa: Lead Speaker – Hon Aisha Abubakar (Honourable Minister of State, Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment).
There will also be a minimum of six well-equipped panelists comprising heads of governments, ministers, successful entrepreneurs, among others to dissect the several lectures.
Is there any last word?
The event will be another opportunity to showcase Bayelsa State to the world; and that is the more reason, we planned the event to be concluded with an experience tour to some of the significant sites in Bayelsa State like visits to the First Oil Well in Nigeria, University of Africa and Bayelsa State Ecumenical Centre. However, the event will formally come to an end on Saturday, March 3, 2018, while guests and participants depart on Saturday, March 4, 2018.
•Photo shows Bayelsa State Microfinance and Enterprise Development Agency DG, Jasper Eradiri