The Director-General/Chief Executive, Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN), Dr. Dikko Umaru Radda, has assured that its furniture cluster park, currently under construction at the Industrial Development Centre (IDC), Idu, Abuja, will on completion in 2021, enhance the competitiveness of micro, small and medium scale enterprises (MSMEs) in the country and boost efforts to diversify the economy.

He pointed out that by design, clusters provide economies of scale by having shared infrastructure and common facility for small businesses, adding that this will have spill off effects on other enterprises.

Speaking during a facility tour of the Furniture Cluster Park Radda said, the project was conceived by the agency in 2017 to among other things, provide a favourable environment for furniture entrepreneurs to thrive.

He said though most MSMEs have had access to grants, the present unfavourable environment had limited impact.

He noted that the ongoing project was meant to enhance the competitiveness of MSMEs to produce quality products that are not only competitive within the West African market but also globally.

Represented by Deputy Director, Department of Engineering Technology and Infrastructure, SMEDAN, Mr. Anthony Igba, the SMEDAN DG, said the project would take advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA) by delivering products to other African countries, thereby boosting economic development.

He told THISDAY that there are 23 IDCs across the country for fast moving consumer goods, textiles, spices, leather and among others, specifically established based on the comparative advantage of the states.

He said though the IDCs had existed before the creation of SMEDAN, they had not been functioning.

He said: “So SMEDAN wanted to know what to do with it and got a grant of $600,000 from African Development Bank (AfDB) to conduct a viability study on its conversion to cluster park.

“And the study showed that the conversion of Idu IDC to furniture Cluster Park will be a very viable project.

“The beauty of clusters is that you have economies of scale by having shared infrastructure and common facility and will attract spill offs for other enterprises.”

Harping on the benefits, Radda said project would boost the development of small businesses as well as enhance their contribution to the economy through job creation.

He said the concept was unique as it brings together government, the academia and industry to reign in the initiative.

He said the furniture park, which is about 80 per cent completed will accommodate about 525 MSMEs and provide a one-stop-shop for businesses to get easy regulatory certification for their products.

He said the complex will house regulatory agencies including SON, NAFDAC and the environmental regulatory board to grant on the spot certification.

He added that the study is to provide facilities- work space, machinery to ensure that what they produce is competitive, has good quality as well as guarantee value for money.

The DG said: “When the study was completed in 2018, SMEDAN deemed it fit to approach the government that a pilot of it should be carried out and Abuja was chosen” adding that the furniture cluster is to provide a favourable environment for them to thrive.”

He explained that the programme was predicated on PPP arrangement, pointing out however, that the government had resolved to use the Abuja project as pilot scheme to demonstrate its workability.

In a separate development, Radda has commiserated with the government and people of Katsina State over the recent fire incident that destroyed hundreds of shops at the central market in the state capital and that of jibia and Funtua market respectively.

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