Advanced manufacturing is considered one of the key strategic approaches to the strengthening of manufacturing in Nigeria. Sadly, it has not been utilised as a competitive weapon in our industries. Over the years, small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) with all its spread, attractive benefits including strong linkages with the entire range of economic activities could not make any reasonable impact in the industrial development of the country. The mortality rate of these small firms is generally very high, especially within a few years of start-up. Several constraints are responsible for these untimely close-ups, ranging from multiple taxation to use of obsolete technology.
SMEs are a very important part of the Nigerian economy. In developing countries like Nigeria, SMEs contribute a much higher proportion to GDP than currently observed in Nigeria. Compared to other emerging markets, Nigeria has historically shown lack of commitment to building a strong SME sector. In the light of recent events in the Nigerian macro-economic environment, SMEs have compelling growth potential and like other emerging economies are likely to constitute a significant portion of GDP in the near future.
The impact of SMEs in global economy plays a very crucial role in the building of a society which is free of poverty. The reason is that they do not only provide ample job opportunities to the different strata of society but also ensure the flow of money across the various level of the society. The small and medium sized enterprises are the backbone of successful economies like the USA, EU and China where over 43 million small businesses employ about 60 to 70 per cent of the overall workforce, and generate more than half of the nations’ gross domestic products (GDP).
It was in acknowledgement of this truth that the National Agency for science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI) was set up by the Federal Government to actualize the importance of linkages between manufacturing and research institutions like NASENI and SMEs. The agency and SMEs are critical in development of Nigeria economy. In 1990, Nigeria inaugurated a national committee and charged it with the task of producing a blueprint for the development of endogenous engineering infrastructure for the country.
In January, 1992, the government set up NASENI and charged it with the responsibility of establishing and operating a science and engineering infrastructural development programme (S-EIDP). The committee of about 150 engineers, scientists and other professional and private sector experts drafted a comprehensive plan that gave birth to a national policy on science and engineering infrastructure. The national policy has an investment opportunity which was created to become attractive enough to entice the active participation of the private sector which is crucial to the success of the programme and its full impact on the economy. Government by the policy shall make appropriate financial provision available to ensure a vigorous presentation of the S-EIDP as well as provide the necessary conducive investment climate to encourage private sector – the SMEs’ participation in the S-EIDP enterprise for an effective prosecution of the programme.
Accordingly, and in view of NASENI vision and mission statements, NASENI’s primary target is to empower small and medium scale enterprises (SMES) through impartation of technologies, engineering principles and practices for the production of equipment that will meet international standards as well as sustenance of a flourishing local capital goods or industry, to attain industrialization.
The current national calls by government to grow our economy beyond the oil can only be achieved by the present government if NASENI and SMEs are encouraged and supported to domesticate and promote our local technologies to an enviable height. NASENI over the years has lived up to her mandate which includes capital goods research, production and reverse engineering with respect to the following broad areas: engineering materials, scientific equipment, engineering accessories, engineering design, power equipment and mechanical engineering. In all these areas, NASENI has established research institutes which carry out research and production of equipment and spares, some of the capital goods and research products and equipment have already been ceded to private sector (SMES) for onward commercialization.
The reason not so much has been seen in the Nigerian market is the attitude or preference for foreign goods over the local products. A deliberate enhancement of national policy on science and engineering and the government political will is now needed.
Researchers on advanced manufacturing technology implementation believe that companies need to assess and evaluate their current conditions with AMT requirements to identify gaps and predict their performance. Manufacturers are challenged on becoming more responsive and flexible due to the competition involved in design, innovation and delivery of their products. To stay alive, factually, the adoption and successful implementation of advanced manufacturing technology will improve the performance of SMEs in the country.