It is widely recognised that a thriving small and medium-sized business sector led by entrepreneurs is essential for economic growth in developing countries. In most developed economies, such as those of the US and Europe, small businesses are the engines of economic growth, driving innovation and productivity while continually generating new jobs. The absence of such “developed small- and medium-sized enterprises sector” in developing economies continues to thwart the development of a vibrant private sector.
All over the world, entrepreneurs share some common characteristics: they are confident, alert to new opportunities and unlikely to be stopped by fear of failure. These notwithstanding, entrepreneurs in developing economies, Nigeria for instance, face greater obstacles, especially accessing capital, including finding adequate business support which has continued to militate against entrepreneurship development in the country.
A highly successful component in entrepreneurship development efforts is the Business Plan Competition, an incentivised business development programme to help entrepreneurs turn their business ideas into fundable and implementable business plans. The approach catalyses the creation and expansion of profitable and competitive small- and medium-scale (SME) enterprises - a vital engine of growth, jobs and income in the developing world.
Business Plan Competitions are highly effective, high return approach to SMEs skill building. They also create a vehicle for local financial institutions to provide access to capital, and build momentum for SME development. Recognising the Business Plan Competition as an effective programme to build entrepreneurship skill and kick start Small Medium Enterprise (SME) development, the President Goodluck Jonathan on October 11, 2011, launched the Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria (YouWiN) programme in Abuja, a Business Plan Competition for Nigerian Youths, in line with the Federal Government’s drive to create more jobs for Nigerians.
YouWiN, a collaboration of the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Communication Technology, and the Ministry of Youth Development, is an innovative business plan competition aimed at creating 110,000 jobs over a four year period to encourage and support aspiring entrepreneurial youth in Nigeria to develop and execute business ideas. In the first round of the competition, 6,000 winners across the six geo-political zones received intensive training on writing effective business plans with 1,200 selected to receive awards of between N1 to N10 million.
The Nigeria Leadership Initiative (NLI) Business Plan Competition is another. First successfully completed on October 31, 2009, its objectives include to identify entrepreneurs with high potential business ideas; to provide selected entrepreneurs with training, mentoring and access to capital; act as a channel for equity and loan funds to the resulting Small & Growing Business (SGB) as well as stimulate economic development through the creation of jobs and growth businesses. Aspiring entrepreneurs herein participate in one-week training session facilitated by the Lagos Business School’s Enterprise Development Services (EDS), and are awarded certificates on completion of the training program, including cash prizes for the top three winners.
FATE Business Plan Competition
There is also the FATE Business Plan Competition. Launched in 2003 as a competitive framework to identify, skill-build and nurture high-potential entrepreneurs; the competition provides a forum for the organization’s trained entrepreneurs to pitch their business ideas before expert judges and prospective investors.
Speaking on Wednesday during the tenth edition of the FATE Business Plan Competition in Lagos, one of the judges, Daniel Bassey, founder/president, SME Club, said, “The whole competition makes for improvement in the individual level, even at the systemic level, improving the quality of business environment and sophistication of the entrepreneur, adding that getting entrepreneurs to move their businesses from the informal sector to the formal sector is a great win for the competition.”
Commenting on the role of business plan competitions in Nigeria’s SME development, Afolabi Imoukhuede, partner, MCS Consulting, also one of the competition’s judges, said, “Competitions of such are important because it help the entrepreneur to review his plan and strategy alongside others, spurring him to further action. In the process, the entrepreneur tends to get a lot of positive criticism as well as commendations on his business.”
In this year’s edition, William Park, CEO, Macwills Security Limited came out tops, winning a cash prize of N700, 000, including an Airfrance KLM sponsored return ticket to Europe and opportunities for business advisory services. Adekemi Adeola Deborah, CEO, Frais and Alhassan Babangida Dauda, CEO, Gemia Leather Works Enterprise won second and third place positions with cash prizes of N400, 000 and N200, 000, respectively. By exposing hundreds of promising entrepreneurs to good business planning and financiers, the FATE Business Plan Competition has proven to be a laudable platform for promoting entrepreneurship and encouraging the creation and growth of small- and medium–sized enterprises in Nigeria.