The Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Amb. Maria Katagum has called for increased economic empowerment of women by addressing the challenges they face.
She identified the challenges as including unequal opportunities to leadership positions, difficulty in owning land, difficulty in accessing credit and unequal opportunities for education and jobs.
According to a statement, she made the remarks at the Bank of Industry’s (BoI) International Virtual Women’s Day 2021 Celebration in Abuja recently, stressing that across the globe and even before the COVID-19 Pandemic, the economic empowerment of women entrepreneurs remained vital to accomplishing the far-reaching objectives of financial inclusion, sustainable growth and poverty eradication.
She said, “Recent studies have shown the significant role women play in promoting social unity and economic advancement.”
Citing a report by the McKinsey Global Institute which concluded that as much as US$28 trillion could be added to global annual GDP by 2025, if women participated in the work force at the same rate as men, she stressed the need of stakeholders to strive to increase women’s overall involvement in the work force.
She said the Ministry’s strategic aspiration was to accelerate the diversification of the Nigerian economy for economic growth, job creation and poverty alleviation, with specific focus on women-owned businesses.
“We have reinforced this through the MSME Survival Fund, where 45 per cent is dedicated to women-owned enterprises. We thank Mr. President for granting women this priority!
“Furthermore, this government has tried to balance female entrepreneurship through the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP); a N112 billion social intervention fund, which provides zero-interest financing to beneficiaries at the lower echelon of the business ecosystem, who are also predominantly market women.
“Since the introduction of the Fund in 2018, the Bank of Industry has recorded disbursements in excess of N38.1 billion, with over 2.4 million citizens having benefited from the programme nationwide.”
She cited other pro-women initiatives including those of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the National Financial Inclusion Special Interventions Working Group (NFISIWG), which aims to address the structural issues that hamper women’s access to financial services.
“Then, there is the MSME Development Fund (MSMEDF), a N220 billion fund, which is designed to address the unique challenges encountered by women in accessing credit in Nigeria; consequently 60 per cent of this Fund has been earmarked specially for women. These interventions were deliberately focused to increase women’s financial inclusion in Nigeria,” she added.
She applauded the President Buhari administration’s focus on women empowerment, citing several women who currently occupy leadership positions in the country and on the international scene.
She also commended the Bank of Industry for the continuous focus on supporting women-owned enterprises across the country.
The minister said, “I always feel a sense of pride when I have meetings with the Managing Director of the Bank and realise the conscious efforts to put women in positions of leadership across the Bank.
“Furthermore, I find the Bank’s numerous programmes and activities to support women enviable, and I can only hope that other organisations are as progressive as the Bank of Industry, in recognising the importance of women to their continuous growth.”
Confirming the minister’s observation, the Managing Director of the bank, Mr. Kayode Pitan said BoI remains committed in its drive to support women and take deliberate steps to address issues around gender equality in entrepreneurship.
He announced that the bank has partnered with the African Development Bank (AfDB) to provide funding for female-led businesses, and small and medium-sized enterprises.
He explained that the partnership, in line with AfDB’s Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) guarantee for growth (G4G) programme, aims to make up to $3 billion in financing available for women entrepreneurs through de-risking and technical assistance measures.
Additionally, “BoI is collaborating with the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) to implement the business resilience assistance for value-adding enterprise (BRAVE) women Nigeria project.
“BRAVE Nigeria is part of a larger $32.2 million five-year initiative coordinated by the Islamic Development Bank,” Pitan said.
“The project combines training and grant-matching to support the growth and resilience of women-led enterprises in spite of their challenging operating environment.”
Pitan listed other BoI’s initiatives in financing and supporting female-led businesses, including a $10 million investment in Alitheia Identity Fund, a joint venture company that drives growth in African SMEs by leveraging gender-balanced businesses to generate high returns and impact.
Special Guests and other participants of the event included Minister of Finance and Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed; Chairman of First Bank of Nigeria, Dr. Ibukun Awosika; and Country Representative of UN Women, Nigeria, Comfort Lamptey.