1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
There is no doubt that small and medium scale enterprises constitute the real fabric of a nation’s economy. Ever since the country’s (Political) independence, this has been so, and even today the entire economic system is exclusively held in place by small and medium scale enterprises, Owualah (1998:8). However, the environment in which this sector operates is both challenging and rewarding. The fact that SMEs forms the engine for industrial growth and development in the economy recommends efforts that could make them strive.
By definition, Small and Medium Scale enterprises are business with investments in fixed assets (excluding land) of not more than #10 m (Ten Million Naira). There are several other criteria by different authors and scholars to describing Small Medium Scale enterprises. A significant aspect of small and medium scale enterprises is in the following developing areas, creation of employment, stimulation of indigenous entrepreneurship, transformation of traditional industry, linkage effort, contribution to regional activities or cooperation, utilization and multinationalisation of indigenous enterprises. To Adewolu (2005:43) small and medium scale enterprises are activities undertaken by a person or group of persons for the provision of goods and services to meet the present and future needs of third parties at a price and for a profit through the management of available resources. To him, small and medium scale enterprises could be found in the following areas; marketing of goods, provision of services, manufacturing of goods/products, cultivation of land and dissemination of information/knowledge. On the strength that small and medium scale enterprises are formed on the basis of partnership between owner(s) and the providers of conducive environment (i.e. the government), suggests that encouragements and assistance (i.e. empowerment) are usually expected from the government and her agents.
To Balogun (2004:22) some of the empowering factors from government to SMEs include; electricity, transportation, communication, water supply, financial infrastructure and educational facilities among others. Thus, government, agencies, corporate organizations, international sponsors, etc are expected to adequately provide or empower SMEs for sustainable economic (activities that guarantees) development and growth. Trade policies and barriers are other critical areas to which government empowerment are needed for small and medium scale enterprises to effectively and efficiently accelerate or sustain the economy. To Daniju (2007:54) finance and skills acquisition which cut across all ages forms the key to empowerment of small and medium scale enterprises. A typical empowerment banks initiative to small and medium scale enterprise is the small and medium scale industry equity investment scheme (SMIEIS) and bank of industry (1301). Similarly the National Economic empowerment and development strategy (NEEDS) by the federal government addes as path of sustainable economic growth and development for small and medium scale enterprise in Nigeria.
The said NEEDS initiatives were borrowed from the programmes of the new partnership for African Development (NEPAD) in African Union. The government through NEEDS is a facilitator, providing the enabling environment for a free-maker system. Other areas of special empowerment of small and medium scale enterprises are; research institutions provision of industrial estate, protective benefit laws (i.e patents, copy right, trade marks and farm close), etc. Infact from forgoing analysis it could be understood that empowering small and medium scale enterprises as given by government and institutions is favourable as it reflects all sector of the economy, hence even or sustainable economic growth. A more result oriented step about developing small and medium scale enterprises in Nigeria is the focus on initiating and practicing courses on small and medium scale enterprises in the educational systems (at all levels) in Nigeria. This step is capable of expanding the entrepreneurship and the production of goods and services in the economy. It is strongly believe that if business owner(s) could respond according to the various ‘empowerments, small and medium scale enterprise will continue to occupy their pride of their place as “bedrock” for national development and growth. Moreso, it need be emphasize here that empowerment of small medium scale enterprises and their operations are limited to market forces, information and knowledge available to operators, technological innovations, international standards and financial I resources available.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Empowering small and medium scale enterprises for sustainable economic development could have been very much appreciated and practiced if not for certain deficiencies, hence the need to tackle the following problem areas: