Start-ups and emerging businesses play a prominent role in the growth and economic development of any nation. The start-ups and emerging business in Nigeria is gaining momentum as efforts are being made by the government to create a conducive environment for business to thrive. However, despite the moves by the government to encourage start-ups, the fear nursed by a lot of people has always been the lack of capital to fund and run their businesses. This has discouraged many from taking a step. Lack of basic information and adequate sensitization on the finance options available in Nigeria for start-ups and emerging businesses has been a major challenge.
The journey to becoming a large and influential company begins with a step, and that step is giving life to that business idea, expanding that small business in the corner of your house without the fear of capital. Here, we shall attempt to discuss some of the financing options available to you in Nigeria to take your business on a flight. But before then, it is important that we explain what start-ups and emerging businesses are.
A start-up or start-up is an entrepreneurial venture which is a newly emerged business venture that aims to meet a market place need, want or problem by developing a viable business model around products, services, process or platforms. A start-up is a new business venture designed to effectively develop and validate a scalable business model. Put in a more simple way, a start-up is a business enterprise that has recently been started. So, basically start-ups are emerging businesses.
Start-ups form a large chunk of Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in Nigeria which are mostly registered companies and business ventures. Therefore, the first step into the journey of becoming that big business brand is to have your business registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) either as an enterprise or a limited liability company. Once you have your business registered, you automatically fit into the MSMEs family and can benefit from the various financial opportunities available for MSMEs in Nigeria. Let me quickly add here, that start-ups are MSMEs but not all MSMEs are start-ups. Confused? A definition of what constitute MSMEs will help in dealing with this.
There is no stand-alone definition of MSMEs but for our purpose here, we shall be adopting the definition given by Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN). SMEDAN defines MSMEs as follows:
ü Micro enterprises are those enterprises whose total assets (excluding land and building) are less than Five Million Naira with a work force not exceeding 10 employees.
ü Small enterprises are those enterprises whose total assets (excluding land and building) are above five million but not exceeding fifty million Naira with a total work force of above 10, but not exceeding 49 employees
ü Medium enterprises are those enterprises with total assets (excluding land and building) are above fifty million Naira, but not exceeding Five Hundred Million Naira with a total work force of between 50 and 199 employees.
By the above definition, it is seen that MSMEs are classified using employment and asset criteria. Now back to our purpose of giving the above definition. It is possible for a business to have been in existence for more than a decade with an asset of 50, 000 naira to 500 million naira and a work force of less than 200. This category of enterprise, considering the duration of its existence, though a MSME, will not be regarded as a start-up going by our earlier definition of a start-up business. On the other hand a newly formed enterprise having an asset of 50, 000 naira to 500 million naira and a work force of less than 200 can be both a start-up and a MSME. Basically, start-ups are so regarded because “they are new businesses”.
Now, as a new business, it is important to be aware of some of the finance options available to you in running your business. Whilst our main focus in this piece is to do an exposition of some of the finance options for start-ups in Nigeria through government initiatives, we shall attempt to quickly run through some of the general methods of funding a business. Generally, businesses are financed through; personal savings/friends & family support, debt and equity financing, venture capitalists, grants, and loans. Some of these are briefly explained below.
Equity Financing is the process of raising capital through the sale of shares in an enterprise. Equity financing essentially refers to the sale of an ownership interest to raise funds for business purposes. (Investopedia). Equity financing span a wide range of activities in scale and scope, from a few thousand naira raised by an entrepreneur from friends and family, to giant Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) running into billions by household names such as Google and Facebook. (Investopedia). Usually, equity financing is associated with public companies listed on the stock exchange (Nigeria Stock Exchange), it also includes financing by private companies/enterprises as well.
As a startup, with a potential of growing into a big and successful company, you may need to be involved in different equity financing to take off your business or keep it running. One of the equity financing instrument available to you as a startup is the use of venture capitalist. This is discussed below.
Debt Financing occurs when a company/enterprise raises money for working capital or capital expenditure by selling debt instruments to individuals and/or institutions. In return for lending the money, the individuals or institutions become creditors and receive a promise that the principal and interest on the debt will be repaid. (Investopedia). This method of financing basically involves issuing debt securities such as bonds, bills, notes to investors in the capital market. The investors have no stake in the business save for the principal sum invested and the interest on the sum.
For startups, debt financing may not be a good option considering the complexities and risk involved, especially access to the capital market.
A Venture Capitalist is an investor who either provides capital to startup ventures or supports small companies that wish to expand but do not have access to equity markets. Venture capitalists are willing to invest in such companies because they can earn a massive return on their investments if these companies are a success. In deciding whether or not to invest in a business, venture capitalists look for a strong management team, large potential market, and a unique product or service with a strong competitive advantage. They also look for opportunities in industries that they are familiar with, and the chance to own a large percentage of the company so that they can influence its direction.
Unlike debt financing, venture capitalist by investing in a business holds a stake in such business and are entitled to dividends like every shareholders in the company. In reality, giving their nature of investment, they occupy a giant place in the control of the business. Although, this is a good finance option for any startup, the downside to it may have a dire effect on the owners of the business in that the probability of them being relegated to the background is high.
Grants are non-repayable funds or products disbursed or gifted by one party (grant makers), often a government department, corporation, foundation or trust, to a recipient, often (but not always) a non-profit entity, educational institution, business or an individual. (Wikipedia). Unlike business loans (to be discussed next), grants don’t need to be repaid, so there is no worry over term length, interest rates, refinancing etc. The only requirement for a grant is an application and in most instances, a feasibility report (business plan). Grant is the most seamless and zero risk means of financing a startup. In Nigeria, there are various grant scheme available which are engineered by governments, individuals, foundations etc. Some examples of these business grants are: Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme (TEEP), YouWin Connect Nigeria, Youth Entrepreneurship Support Programme (YES) – a Bank of Industry (BOI) initiative, Diamond Bank Bet Programme – an initiative of Diamond Bank Plc, etc.
A Loan is a sum of money borrowed from the bank to assist for certain planned or unplanned events. The borrower is required to pay back the loan, including the interest charged over a stipulated period. A bank can grant loan in the form of a secured or unsecured loan. One of the primary functions of banks is financial intermediation that is, giving out credit facilities to individuals, enterprises and corporate bodies with interest to run their businesses. These credit facilities are usually secured by collateral (security interest). These collaterals are usually, but not always landed properties. Due to the stringent requirement (particularly as it relates to collateral), accessing credit facilities by startups is often difficult. Apart from this, banks are often wary of lending to startups as most of them do not have confidence in the viability of the businesses and the ability of these startups to pay back.
In the face of the difficulties being encountered by startups in accessing funds to run their businesses and the recognition of the impact of startups in the growth and development of the economy, the government of Nigeria, has over the years initiated various programs aimed at ensuring the smooth running of business by SMEs through unhindered access to finance. Some of these are:
a. Small and Medium Enterprises Equity Investment Scheme (SMEEIS)
SMEEIS is a voluntary initiative of the Banker’s committee. The initiative was a response to the Federal Government concerns and policy measures for the promotion of Small and Medium Enterprises as vehicles for rapid industrialization, sustainable economic development, poverty alleviation and employment generation. The objective of the scheme was to facilitate finance management expertise to small and medium scale industries in Nigeria. Banks were to set aside 10 percent of their profit after Tax annually in support of equity investment in support of small and medium enterprises. The arrangement eliminates the interest burden and other associated charges on SME financing. This innovative scheme affords SMEs access to long term funding.
b. The Micro Small and medium Enterprises Development Fund (MSMEDF)
In recognition of the considerable contributions of MSMEs sub-sector to the Nigeria economy and the huge financing gap in the country, the CBN launched the MSME improvement fund on August 15, 2013, with a share capital of N220 billion. Ten (10) percent of the fund has been devoted to developmental goals while ninety (90) percent to commercial components to be released to participating Financial Institutions (PFIs) at 2% interest rate for on-lending to MSMEs at a maximum of 9 % per annum. Eligible activities to be financed consist of agricultural value chain, services, cottage industries, artisans and, any income generating business as can be prescribed by CBN.
c. Small and Medium Enterprise Credit Guarantee Scheme (SMECGS)
SMECGS was introduced in 2010 to fast-track the development of the manufacturing and SME sub-sector by providing 80% guarantee for bank credits. The purpose of the intervention is to create more jobs and to provide N100 million maximum loan facility with 5 years tenor for each project.
d. N200 Billion Refinancing/Restructuring Facilities to Small and Medium Enterprises/Manufacturing (RRF)
The scheme was introduced in April, 2010 to fast track the development and revitalization of ailing SMEs in the country through refinancing and restructuring of Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) existing loan portfolio. The facility has a tenure of 15 years and an annual interest rate of 7.0 percent repayable quarterly.
e. Real Sector Support Facility (RSSF)
The CBN had in November, 2014 approved the establishment of a N300 billion Real Sector Support Facility to address the funding needs of large ticket SMEs in Nigeria. It is aimed at closing the short-term and high-interest financing gap for SME/Manufacturing and start-ups as well as create job through the real sector of the economy. This particular scheme is of much importance to start-ups in the real estate sector.
f. Youth Entrepreneurship Development Programme (YEDP)
YEDP was launched on 15th March, 2016 to enhance the deployment of the ingenuity and resourcefulness of Nigeria youths for maximum economic development. The YEDP is aimed at fixing the tripled-barreled constraint of insufficiency, high cost and inadequate term of capital usually faced by start-ups. It offers credit of up to N3 million to eligible youths and start-ups or 10 million for groups of 3-5 youths, interest rate is 9% per annum. Tenor broadly depends on project complexity and cash flow but is between 1 year for working capital and 3 years for term loan. The collateral requirements are quite simple: academic and NYSC certificates, third party guarantee and other movable assets.
The modalities for applying and participating in some of these schemes will be discussed in our subsequent article. Also, other individual state governments initiatives aimed at availing startups/SMEs with capital will be discussed.
Access to finance has been a major factor militating against the growth of startups/MSMEs in Nigeria. In recognition of the prominent role of startups/MSMEs in the growth of the economy, the Federal Government and some State Governments in Nigeria have come up with various schemes aimed at making access to capital seamless to SMEs in Nigeria. It is therefore important for SMEs to be aware of the finance opportunities opened to them to grow their business.