Charles Odii, Director-General/Chief Executive Officer of the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN), is a creative and solutions-driven entrepreneur and inventor with extensive international experience in technology, marketing and Media.

He began to distinguish himself in entrepreneurship quite early in life. He founded his first business at the age of 17 and has since focused on encouraging young individuals to start early and grow sustainable businesses. Odii is the publisher of the, an entrepreneurship and business magazine.

His global work experience covers impact investment, financial services, pharmaceutical, education, entertainment, manufacturing, aviation, retail, fashion and technology consulting.

Odii is the founder of SME100Africa – a social enterprise, with the aim of ensuring African entrepreneurs succeed regardless of their socio-economic background – which has grown to provide over one hundred thousand African Small and Medium Enterprises with access to finance, markets, capacity development, mentorship, networks, skills, resources and most importantly information.

With this rich background, there is little wonder why President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a leader reputed for making appointments based on the proverbial round-peg-in-a-round-hole, went for Odii, now in his 40s (Please, confirm. I can’t find any record of his age anywhere), as the CEO of SMEDAN.

When he assumed office on October 13, 2023, he was very much on a familiar turf and, therefore, hit the ground running. Odii introduced a seven-point prosperity agenda focusing on providing SMEs with access to finance, markets, capacity building, partnerships, a business-friendly environment, and streamlined processes for sustainable growth. He also set up  a National Council on SMEs, launched and chaired by the Vice-President, Senator Kashim Shettima, with SMEDAN serving as its secretariat. The Council uniquely positions the agency to drive policy changes and facilitate inter-governmental collaboration for strategic SME investments.

Within just three months under Odii’s leadership, the agency was able to achieve key milestones. He implemented reforms incorporating digital and data-driven approaches to address challenges hindering SME growth and foster prosperity. The accomplishments align with President Tinubu’s Renewed Hope Agenda for inclusive economic growth and poverty eradication.

Odii’s success has distinguished him as a key contributor to the administration’s goals, impacting grassroots communities and laying the foundation for rapid rural industrialization, a crucial solution to Nigeria’s economic challenges.

One of SMEDAN’s initiatives under Odii in the area of job creation and funding is the N5 billion loan fund. SMEDAN secured a groundbreaking agreement with Sterling Bank, unlocking a N5 billion fund at single-digit interest rates to empower businesses. Over 200,000 applications were received and subjected to due diligence preparatory to disbursement.

Another job creation and funding initiative is the SMEDAN Matching Fund Agreement with Anambra and Enugu State Governments. Collaborating with the two state governments, the agency injected N1billion into MSMEs in each state under a matching fund agreement.

Yet another job creation and funding initiative was the introduction of the Conditional Grant Scheme (CGS). It revitalized economic activities at the grassroots level with a cash injection of N50,000 into nano businesses, creating jobs with the condition that they hire one more person.

The agency, led by Odii also introduced a number of innovative programmes and facilities to raise the efficiency and effectiveness of SMEDAN’s operations and businesses of MSMEs. One of them was the creation of the Green Energy and Climate Change Desk to address environmental challenges impacting businesses, supporting displaced businesses and promoting the adoption of green energy solutions. It also commissioned its state-of-the-art Head Office Complex equipped with modern work hubs. The office houses dedicated staff and featuring facilities such as a textile and garment hub for fashion businesses and a woodwork and furniture facility for aspiring artisans.

The agency also launched the SMEDAN Undergraduate Internship Programme (SUIP) in commitment to early entrepreneurship readiness. The programme provides students with real-world business experience and resources to start, continue, and scale. Baze University served as the pilot ground, with more universities set to partner with the agency to execute the programme.

Recognizing the pivotal role of women in SMEs, a dedicated desk known as the Women and Youth Desk, was created to provide direct access to opportunities designed for women entrepreneurs.

The Odii-led SMEDAN has also introduced support services for SMEs through the establishment of an MSME Clinic. It is a weekly initiative connecting SMEs with resources and knowledge needed for growth. Entrepreneurs, regulators, and experienced SME development professionals collaborate to provide mentorship and solutions, creating a one-stop shop for SMEs.

An internal culture reform and digital transformation is now taking place at SMEDAN, courtesy of Odii. The cultural reset within the agency is aimed at fostering creativity and teamwork, accompanied by a digital transformation empowering staff with tools and training for greater productivity and progress tracking. The agency has launched various social clubs to promote a healthy lifestyle, enhance productivity and focus, and instill a sense of shared mission.

Continuing its data-driven approach for impact, the agency is set to commence a nationwide small business census to create a credible and comprehensive database of SMEs in the country and enhance the quality of its interventions.

Born to Mr. and Mrs. Charles Odii in Ikeja, Lagos State, Nigeria, the SMEDAN MD/CEO grew up with his six siblings. He earned a BSc in Management Information Systems from Covenant University and an MSc in Marketing and Communication from Pan Atlantic University.

Odii started his career in business development at Rocket Internet before becoming the chief operating officer of Red Media Africa. Before starting SME100 Africa in 2014, Odii, along with others, co-founded Bilateral Data & Communications, a company that is involved in marketing and providing services like advertising, research, public relations, and marketing to different industries like investment, finance, pharmaceuticals, entertainment, manufacturing, aviation, distribution, fashion, and technology consulting.

In 2017, Odii worked as a media consultant for the Internal Revenue Board of both Delta and Imo State Governments.

Odii started SME100 Africa, a special organization with a mission to assist entrepreneurs in Africa. They help both those who are already in business and those who want to start by giving access to money, markets, mentors, teaching, and useful information. With the help of SME100 Africa, Odii has given training to around 10,000 young people in Nigeria, teaching them the skills they need to start and run businesses.

The company has partnered with big international organizations like the US State Government and Google. Odii is really passionate about helping others explore and pursue entrepreneurship.

That is the passion he has taken to SMEDAN.