If you’re an entrepreneur in Nigeria, chances are you’ve been heavily involved in several conversations that have something to do with getting funds to scale your business operation. The struggle to expand one's fund raising options is so real that failure could lead towards the exit path. Conversely, the idea of bootstrapping has since become a appealing survival strategy.
But in spite of these challenges, more opportunities to access funding continue to awaken for Nigerian startups. Thus far into the new year, the sheer number of firms calling on startups to apply for funds have been overwhelming. The height of it is seeing calls for application from neighbouring countries; like in the case of Outlierz, a seed investment firm based in Morocco, that is offering African startups up to $200,000 in investment.
This not only shows that there are indeed opportunities in hidden places, but there is a level playing ground for Nigerian and African businesses that want to build the most innovative solutions. Surprisingly, only few of these opportunities have been taken advantage of. Laying credence to this conclusion is how many founders go on ranting about their failed forays to get fund, despite these apparent opportunities that are redefining the status quo.
Just recently, the Lagos state government announced its pledge pump ₦900 million into 700 Lagos-based SMEs, each of them getting as much as ₦5 million to scale their business. Soon, debates over how much interest rate should apply to the fund -- or if any should even apply at all -- trailed the wake of the announcement. While applications appear to have closed, it is unsure how many startups put in for this application. But my guess is few, and it all comes down to misappropriation of priorities by the fund seekers.
For all it is worth, there is no denying that such move was a welcome development from a government whose policies in the past often gave little or no consideration to SMEs.
Although there might be many underlying issues and bottlenecks to accessing these funds as the case may have been (and as with many other applications for funds), it doesn’t remove the fact that the least effort required was for startups to apply. Granted, the current economic situation of Nigeria can present a hard time for investment in startups, but things wouldn't seem as bad as they look if most entrepreneurs weren't quick to find loopholes in every opportunity that presents itself, and instead take advantage of it.
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The stage is set for Africa to grow 'investable' startups in its quest to bridge the gap between the Western countries, and really, their Nigerian counterparts don't have an excuse. Unless, as supposed giants of Africa, we want to be found playing catch up.