Dr. Dikko Umaru Radda, director general/chief executive officer, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria SMEDAN, is an astute politician, entrepreneur, teacher and banker with a wide administrative experience. He has brought his deep cross sector knowledge and experience into play in the development function of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises [MSMEs].
He has demonstrated a great sense of responsibility in delivering on his mandate – which is to provide basic entrepreneurship development training, business development support in terms of counseling, monitoring the activities of MSMEs and evaluating their businesses. It includes the development of policy framework for the smooth operations of these enterprises, including intervening between them and agencies and institutions that deal with them.
Radda therefore occupies a strategic office in the development processes of the Nigerian economy where, like in all economies, MSMEs constitute the bedrock of sustainable economic growth and development. His intervening work is critically needed to ensure that having trained MSMEs’ operators; they get access to finance from development banks as well as commercial and microfinance banks.
His office also facilitates access to raw materials by providing the links to sources of raw materials. Training the operators in his domain and getting them to secure start-up capital from other agencies outside his control is quite a big challenge. He assures however that he is equal to the task, having built a lot of synergy and collaborative works with sister agencies.
Radda, who hails from Katsina State north-west Nigeria, obtained the National Certificate of Education (NCE) in 1989 from the College of Education, Kafanchan. He attended the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi and graduated with a B-Tech.Agric economic and extension (Hons) in 1996.
He proceeded to Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria In 1998 and obtained M.Sc. agric extension and rural sociology in 2004. He returned to ABU, Zaria in 2005 for a Masters in international affairs and diplomacy and later capped it with a Ph.D. in agricultural extension and rural sociology from the same University in 2015.
The SMEDAN’s DG boasts extensive working experience from a class room teacher to a banker and from banking to local government chairman all between 1989 and 2007.
He has also served as senior legislative aide, NASS, Abuja between 2012 and 2014 and national welfare secretary (APC) from June 2014 to July 2015. He held the post of chief of staff to the Katsina State governor until his present appointment. He has presented several academic papers in both local and international conferences and workshops.
He is striving to achieve the best possible in MSMEs’ development though the enablers are not in place. From studies he has undertaken, Radda found that the major factor hindering development agencies like his in Nigeria is much funding challenges due to sole dependence on the national budget to execute programmes. Budgetary allocations are nowhere close to the plethora of activities and requests he gets.
He spearheaded the amendment of the Act that established SMEDAN to enable the agency generate funds from outside of the budgetary allocation. With improved funding sources, the next step is to establish the National Enterprise Development Fund, which will serve as a window for business development and capacity building activities, including provision of loans and grants. The plan is that the fund can be placed with banks to serve as a guarantee to MSMEs’ operators for increased access to funding.
Radda is quite confident of the plan. “If we can solve that problem we would have solved all the major hindrances militating against this agency. When we get it right we will not have this issue of poverty, we can create jobs everywhere”, he said.
He is quite optimistic about the critical mass of 41 million MSMEs in the country as revealed by a joint survey with National Bureau of Statistics in 2017. He is working to assist them to grow, considering the job creation potential of each of them employing just one more person. In view of the quantum leap in employment this would involve, Radda is pressing forward for government to put more effort in this direction.
He has also taken bold steps to position MSMEs in a way that they can attract official support and assistance. These include mass registration organised to enable the agency to identify all the MSMEs in the country. The purpose is to build a database of their location, products, raw materials they use and skills and trainings they have.
According to Radda, the agency needs accurate data to enable it formulate policies for MSMEs. SMEDEN can easily channel any intervention coming from government to them, he said. “Again, it will help us when investors come to the country. If they are looking for a particular product, we know those who are producing them and their location.
“Investors can use that source to get raw materials, and if it is skills they need, they can know the location of the person. No country can do adequate planning without an authentic database that can be used for the generality of the people and the benefit of the MSMEs in the country” Radda stated.
He has also taken steps to formalise micro businesses by introducing a conditional grant scheme for the operators. The grant was set as a motivation for them to key into the programme and formalise their businesses. This is a major step forward in leading these small operators to operating standards where they can be assisted to become the drivers of economic growth and development.