By Shafihi Abdulrasheed

On the 12th of October, 2023, ecstasy greeted the air as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, HE Bola Ahmed Tinubu turned to the seasoned entrepreneur, author, and development consultant, Mr Charles Odii to lead the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN). An agency established to promote the development of the MSME sector of the Nigerian economy.

Between October 2023 and now, the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency (SMEDAN) under the steadfast leadership of Charles Odii, a new era of empowerment and growth for the nation’s Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) is unfolding, one that promises to reshape the very fabrics of Nigeria’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. With an undivided conviction that the prosperity of businesses is inextricably linked to the nation’s prosperity, Odii has embarked on a mission to unlock the untapped potential of Nigeria’s SMEs.

In the words of Odii, “When a business person prospers, the nation prospers.” This resonates like a clarion call, echoing through the corridors of power and igniting a renewed sense of urgency and purpose. Odii’s hunger for SMEs’ prosperity is not merely a catchphrase; it is a rallying cry for a nation yearning to realize its true economic might. He understands that SMEs are the lifeblood of any thriving economy, at the same time, their success is not just a matter of dishing out statistics or figures, but a testament to the resilience and ingenuity of the Nigerian people.

With a keen eye for innovation and a deep understanding of the challenges faced by entrepreneurs, Odii has spearheaded a multi-pronged approach to nurturing SMEs. From facilitating access to capital and financial resources to fostering an environment conducive to entrepreneurship, his initiatives have become a catalyst for change, empowering businesses to soar and contribute to the nation’s economic growth.

But wait, there’s more! Odii’s vision extends far beyond traditional business support. Let’s talk about some of the game-changing initiatives he’s introduced. First up, the creation of the Green Energy and Climate Desk. Now, this isn’t just about jumping on the eco-friendly bandwagon. Odii recognizes that environmental challenges are real and can hit businesses hard. This desk is all about supporting those businesses that have been displaced by climate issues and promoting green energy solutions. It’s like killing two birds with one stone – helping businesses and the planet at the same time!

Then there’s the SMEDAN Undergraduate Internship Program (SUIP). Talk about thinking ahead! This program is preparing students for the world of entrepreneurship before they even graduate. It’s offering real-world business experience, starting with a pilot phase at Baze University and plans to roll out to other universities. Imagine graduating with not just a degree, but hands-on business know-how. That’s setting up the next generation for success!

And let’s not forget about the Women and Youth Desk. Odii isn’t just paying lip service to inclusivity; he’s putting it into action. This dedicated desk is all about giving women direct access to opportunities tailored just for them. It’s a recognition that women play a huge role in SMEs and deserve specialized support. It’s like Odii is saying, “Ladies, we see you, and we’re here to help you thrive!”

However, one of the important efforts towards SMEs prosperity which we must not sweep beneath the carpet is the appeal to the Federal Government of Nigeria to award 25% of its contacts to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). “Government is the biggest spender; the biggest employer of labour. We want small businesses to benefit from contract awards”, Charles Odii pronounced during his meeting with young legislators and small business owners.

Under Odii’s guidance, SMEDAN has become a beacon of hope for aspiring entrepreneurs and established business owners alike. A very perfect match to this is the SMEDAN partnership with Sterling Bank to provide 5 billion single-digit loans for small businesses. Say it is laudable, commendable, and timely. You have not gone out of context. On this, I am sure the daring Odii will be blooming in pride that his interest in fostering prosperity by facilitating the growth of small businesses through enhanced financial access is achieved. Interestingly, no fewer than 200,000 business owners applied for the loan which indicates the cooperation and readiness of young Nigerians to promote their businesses and contribute meaningfully to the vibrant Nigerian economy.

Odii’s hunger for SMEs prosperity extends far beyond the confines of the four walls of SMEDAN. He has embarked on a national and international crusade, engaging with stakeholders, policymakers, and the business community. Everywhere and anywhere, you’ll see Odii championing the cause of SMEs and advocating for policies that remove barriers and unlock endless opportunities. If you’ve seen or watched him speaking, his voice echoes with conviction, reminding all who listen that the prosperity of Nigeria’s businesses is not just a goal, but a necessity for the nation’s sustained growth and development.

In the annals of Nigeria’s economic history, Charles Odii’s name will be etched as a trailblazer, a visionary who dared to dream of a nation where SMEs thrive, prosperity flourishes and the entrepreneurial spirit knows no bounds. Without an iota of doubt, his hunger for SMEs prosperity is more than a quest; it is a movement, rallying cry that reverberates across the nation, inspiring generations of entrepreneurs and redefining the very essence of Nigeria’s economic destiny.

You know what? I never planned on writing about this topic. It all started with a casual chat I had with a buddy of mine. We were shooting the breeze about everything from politics to the economy – you know, the usual “Naira vs Dollar” drama. Then he threw me a curveball. “Hey,” he says, “what’s the deal with small businesses in Nigeria? They’re really struggling, aren’t they?” And then he hits me with, “What’s this Charles Odii doing over at SMEDAN? Anything special?”

Well, let me tell you, I couldn’t help but light up. I mean, as someone who’s part of the agency, I’ve got the inside scoop, right? So I gave him the lowdown on our journey so far and how our DG, Charles Odii, is really gunning for SMEs to thrive. My friend listens to all this and then goes, “You know, you’re pretty good with words. How come I haven’t seen you writing about all these cool things you’re talking about?” And just like that, folks, here I am, putting fingers to keyboard. Consider this my response to a friend’s challenge and a little shout out to all you entrepreneurship enthusiasts out there!

Shafihi Abdulrasheed is a Corps Member at SMEDAN Headquarters . He can be reached via