The Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), Mr. Olusegun Awolowo has said Nigeria is currently experiencing a 63 per cent loss in potential human development as a result of gender inequality.
Awolowo, who disclosed this at the ITC SheTrades in the Commonwealth Forum, pointed out that only 30 per cent of the country’s female population was employed in Nigeria’s formal economic sector.
However, he noted that with the informal sector, female labour force recorded an increase of in 78.2 per cent in 2017 alone, according to National Bureau of Statistics.
He recalled that the Council in partnership with ITC had launched the SheTrades Initiative in 2016, with a commitment of connecting 200,000 women entrepreneurs to the global market by the year 2020, as part of the broader United Nations goal of bringing 1 million women to the market by the same year.
The success of the initiative, Awolowo said, has led to a more ambitious target of taking three million women to the market by 2021, adding that one of the major objectives of the NEPC is to create value addition particularly for female entrepreneurs who are involved in exports of finished products and services.
According to him, “The Commonwealth SheTrades project has made huge strides in enabling the increased participation of women-owned businesses in international trade not only here in Nigeria but across other Commonwealth nations including Ghana, Kenya and Bangladesh.”
He disclosed that the Council conducted a mapping exercise of 4,000 women entrepreneurs and surveyed 400 women businesses nationwide to gather valuable data on the challenges facing women businesses while a monthly e-commerce master class training for women-owned businesses have also instituted as part of measures to expose the women to latest trends in international business.
According to Awolowo, with women entrepreneurs, present at the Abuja Forum, from apparel and textile industries, outsourcing businesses, information technology other enabled service companies, “It is clear that women are the ones leading in the structural transformation of our economy.
“We are looking to create more value addition in our businesses, and it is female businesspersons who are leading this with their exports of finished products and services.”
Also speaking in support of the forum, the representative of Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM), Mrs. Stella Oketete, who is the Executive Director, Business Development, urged women in export-oriented small and medium scale entrepreneurs to take advantage of the N500billion Export Stimulation Facility (ESF) and the N50 billion Export Development Fund (EDF) being managed by the Bank to boost their businesses, create more jobs, and contribute to the foreign exchange revenue earnings of the country.
According to Oketete, “The general objective of the ESF and EDF is to reduce the costs of Nigerian exporters so that their products will compete favourably in international market.”
She appealed for synergy among women entrepreneurs along the same line of businesses as this would enhance their performance, highlighting that NEXIM Bank also has a programme for Women/Youth Development, which provides support to industries especially the ones involved in Apparel/Garmenting, Cashew, Shea, among others.
The cardinal objective of ITC’s SheTrades project is to increase economic growth and job creation in Commonwealth countries by provision of enabling platforms for increased participation of women-owned businesses in international trade.
Since its first launch by wife of the President, Aisha Buhari in 2016, this is the first major event in Abuja, attended by over 1, 000 women entrepreneurs, organised in consonance with the country-level intervention agreement to support the implementation of the project. Terfa Ashwe is the National Coordinator of SheTrades in Nigeria.