～What I learnt from Omi Merchant Philosophy～
Organization：Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Name：Mr. Okoroafor Eze Kingsley
Name of the program: Managerial and Financial Support for Small and Medium Enterprises
Program period：27 August – 29 September, 2018
Eze san participated in “Managerial and Financial Support for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) Development（B）” last year. After return to his country, he has been working hard to contribute to the promotion of SMEs in Nigeria. Here is his post-program report.
My name is Okoroafor Eze Kingsley and I work with the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry as Membership Relations Officer to the SME Group. It has always been my passion to alleviate the conditions of SMEs in my community. I have been engaged in series of public and private sector programs targeted at supporting SMEs, particularly procurement of finance from the Central Bank of Nigeria and recommending business experts for requesting SMEs. There is no doubt that SMEs are very important sector of any economy, and of course, in Nigeria they are said to be the engine of the economy. There are well over 35million SMEs (including micro enterprises) in Nigeria contributing their quota to the country’s GDP.
The JICA program, to which I owe my due gratitude, gave me the privilege to be enlightened about how Japan, a country without natural resources, was able to develop into a first world industrialized nation, only by the quality and resolve of the citizen’s mindset. I appreciated the firm sense of confidence and trust reposed on government agencies by the private sector and the advanced sense of responsibility sharing among Government, Industry, Academia and the people towards the enrichment of citizens’ welfare. This healthy relationship creates an avenue for confidence building in which everybody actively participates in the development of the country.
There is no disputing the fact that the enormous tasks to be done in my home country, particularly in the aspect of SME financial inclusiveness and human capacity development. I learnt to start small; at least, bearing in mind the bigger picture, as it was obvious, I could not attempt to address the whole problems of SMEs in Nigeria. However, I had strong conviction that I could advocate the creation of credit guarantee systems, to which end we would tackle financial and lending constraints of both SMEs and financial institutions.
The Lagos International Trade Fair (LITF), organized by the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry is known to be the largest trade fair in the West-Africa sub-region. The 2018 LITF had about 200 foreign exhibitors from 16 countries of Japan, China, India, Indonesia, Ghana, Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, Turkey, Cameroon, Kenya, Singapore, Jamaica, Republic of Benin, South Africa, European Union and over 500 local companies, with a record of over half a million visitors both international and domestic.
Indeed, it was a great honor to be given the opportunity to make presentation on SME-Financial and Managerial Supports in Japan at the Japanese Pavilion. The ambience was overwhelming as I delivered on the subject with passion, in the presence of visitors and students who listened with keen interest and admiration of the frameworks instituted by Japan to support SME vitality and community enrichment. Many Japanese exhibitors were among the audience.
I saw the need to seize the opportunity to share one of the outstanding lessons from Japan “the OMI-Merchant philosophy (Good-for-three)” with my audience. I encouraged my audience to study about the Omi Merchants. The Spirit of the Omi-Merchant stresses probity and win-win relations and provided enterprises in Japan with a strong value sense for quality assurance and control. Omi-merchants were active from medieval to the 19th century Japan. They were one of the most successful merchants in Japan during that period. They were not only prosperous, but also were well respected. They strongly believed in the tripartite satisfaction, in which, a commodity must satisfy the buyer-the seller-and the community at large. The concept of Corporate Social Responsibility in Japan can be traceable to the activities of the Omi-Merchants. The spirit provided an environment where everyone can be prosperous and happy and pass the prosperity onto seven generations into the future.
I encouraged my audience to be develop a critical thinking ability and be proactive in addressing concerns. I urged students to disconnect from slothfulness and be hardworking, making them understand the level of opportunities and competition, which is increasingly becoming borderless, because of globalization.
The Japanese experience really did vitalize my knowledge base. My question of what mechanism can bridge the gap between high risk SMEs and vulnerable financial institutions was put to rest, the point I was introduced to the operations of the Credit Guarantee System in Japan. Since my return, I have worked tirelessly to secure the goodwill of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry to support my mission. In the final instance, I succeeded in having presented my action plan on “Advocacy for the Creation of Credit Guarantee Corporation as Incentive for SME Formalization” in February 2019.
Preparations have begun to advocate this concept through and organized stakeholders’ forum on October 2019, which will have attendance representatives of National SME Agencies, Private Sector bodies, State Government parastatals, Financial Institutions and Artisans.
All my expectations of Japan were surpassed as I beheld a very tidy country peopled by polite and hospitable citizens. In my little way, I will oblige every call to make my community habitable and prosperous utilizing the knowledge gained from my experiences in Japan.
In all, I say a resounding Arigatogozaimashta to Japan and JICA for extending a hand of grace to somebody like me from Nigeria.
Edited by YOKOTANI Kimie, Program Division 2, JICA Kansai