Changing the Narrative for Female Entrpreneurs

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Following the seeming undertone of suppression and relegation of female entrepreneurs in Nigeria despite their impressive population, Sigma Pensions in partnership with Lionesses of Africa, is set to change the narrative with strategic entrepreneurship seminars, global presence and networking, Nume Ekeghe reports

Entrepreneurship plays a great role in the development of any country’s economy, as it is a business created by an individual or groups of individuals who innovate or taking risks with the aim of making profits or money.

Experts have attributed good entrepreneurship to comprise 99 per cent communication, which is a way people interact, communicate, interfere, and even discover new things in and around them.

To this regards, for any entrepreneurship to bring about national development, entrepreneurs, particularly Nigerian entrepreneurs, must place premium on networking, and critical thinking for general wealth creation and development.

The 2018 Global Entrepreneurship Index (GEI) published by the Global Entrepreneurship and Development Institute (GEDI), ranks Nigeria 101st out of 137 countries with 19.7 GEI score, making the country 12th in Africa, in terms of numbers of entrepreneurs.

In terms of statistics, GEI likewise revealed that 41 per cent of early-stage businesses are run by females as opposed to 39 per cent for males. However, the sad truth is that, as compared to the males, only a few of the 41 percentage grows beyond the early-stage despite the creativity and innovativeness of these women.

According to GEI, “The average growth rate of women enterprises is still lower than the average growth rate for businesses run by men.”

Business analysts, however, have identified that quiet a number of factors are contributing to the slow growth rate in Nigeria. These factors include limited access to financing, gender discrimination, lack of career advancement, and poor networking.

This was the motive to which Sigma Pensions, in partnership with Lioness of Africa, and Actis, recently held a women entrepreneurship forum in Lagos state, with several women captains of industries and over 400 women entrepreneurs in attendance.

Speaking with THISDAY on the partnership between the trio, the Associate Vice President and Head of Relationship Management, Sigma Pensions, Ofilia Nwanyanwun, said it was to promote women.

According to her, “Globally, we found out that women are most likely the ones to be entrepreneurs. And for us, Lionesses of Africa is a fantastic global brand to partner with in promoting women entrepreneurs.

“If you noticed, for some years now, there has been a lot clamour for inclusion, diversity, and a lot of companies now have more and more products, specifically focused on women. So for us, this is a drive to build women capacity, to help women grow their businesses, and grow the economy.

“If women grow, the economy grows, and everything works. So we are glad to be part of that, to ensure that everything works. And we intend to make this a regular phenomenon, whereby we can bring key captains of industries that are women, camp under the same atmosphere with women entrepreneurs, just to build women capacity, so they can thrive better in their various businesses.”

In her address, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Security ID, Kofo Akinkugbe, spoke on the need for women entrepreneurs to continually improve on themselves, and the product or services they offer.

According to her, “when you make a little success, what do you do with it? When you start small, and then you experience small level of success, and you are able to move forward again and you experience another small level of success, then you move forward again, you need to scale fast.

“If you don’t scale fast, you can lose disruptions. You will get disrupted in your industry, so it is extremely important that you scale as fast as you can. In scaling, you must be able to spot idea services. Think about what else you can manufacture in line with your products, and equipment. And ensure you are adding value.”

Also speaking on the partnership, Founder and CEO, Lionesses of Africa, Melanie Hawken, revealed that the organisation is a public enterprise which partners with really savvy business strategic partners across the world.

According to her, “in each country, we try to find lead partners that actually share our vision. And our vision is to empower a million women entrepreneurs that can grow great and sustainable businesses. Businesses that employ people, create jobs, create locally manufactured product and get those into the global market.

“We are here to really support and promote women entrepreneurs. As a platform, everything we do is free for women entrepreneurs. On our platform you can showcase your company, promote your products, we launch products and services on our platforms.

“We want to see more resources being made available, so we are going to be producing more Nigerian-specific resources for the female entrepreneurs here. We are going to be inviting more Nigerian entrepreneurs to join us in our global event, so this is the first of many visits.

“The potentials for female entrepreneurs here in Nigeria is absolutely phenomenal. There are some world class businesses and brands being built here in Nigeria by women, but the world doesn’t know about them yet.

“What we hope to do as an organisation, is to give those women entrepreneurs more exposure. To get them profiled, and known outside of Nigeria, not just within the continent, but also globally around the world network, and see those companies grow.”

For the Global head, Private Equity Actis, Natalie Kolbe, it was all about inclusive growth and job creation.

According to her, “we have invested in Sigma Pensions, and are putting together with Lionesses of Africa and the three of us are very passionate about job creation and inclusive growth on the continent.

“And this is a fantastic platform to bring women entrepreneurs together, so that we can support them as a private sector actors. These entrepreneurs are going to therefore be the agent of growth and employment.

“Africa has always been a great place for entrepreneurs, but women here are often stuck in smaller businesses. So what we are trying to do is to empower women, give them space and tools to make them grow into bigger businesses, so they can grow to the next level, and in that way, create inclusive growth plus employment.”

In her address, the CEO, U-Connect Human Resources, Omomeme Odike, posited that when you selling a service, it has to do with a lot of ambience, the way you package yourself, they way you speak, the values of what you are selling, and as well as your office space.

According to her, “there is nothing you can’t make money from. And the least investment you can actually have is the one you have to make use of your brain, yourself and your portfolios.

“Your liquidity actually goes far higher, and rates far higher than most of those manufacturing businesses. And another thing you need to do when starting a business in Nigeria is to pay attention to your taxes. Monitor the books.”

She concluded that the greatest assets you can have being an entrepreneur is to “just have the courage to take the first step. Have the courage to do your homework. Don’t be swayed by social media, or what you see in it. Make research, intensive one. Be focused, and please know what you are doing”.