The Nigeria chapter of the New Faces, New Voices (NFNV-Nigeria), a network of women in finance under the Graça Machel Trust (GMT), under its Women Leadership and Financial Inclusion (WLFI) project, hosted a resilience-building webinar for Women in Business, Trade and Export.
The event, which was themed “’A Roadmap to Resilience – An Entrepreneur’s Journey,” equipped women in business, trade, and export with the needed strategies and insights to thrive in an ever-changing and competitive business landscape, as well as learning the keys to resilience and success from experienced entrepreneurs.
Amongst others, the webinar examined the barriers to accessing government and private financing in relation to narrowing the wealth-gender gap in Nigeria, as well as how to overcome gender-related and gender-neutral difficulties necessary to exploit emerging opportunities for women in business, trade, and export. It also explored strategies for improved economic inclusion among women in Nigeria.
In her welcome address, Hajiya Aishatu Aminu, Country Director of NFNV-Nigeria, said her organization was on a mission to amplify the voices of women and youth and empower them economically. Thus, she said, NFNV Nigeria nurtures entrepreneurship and promotes financial literacy, as well as addressing gender-related disparities towards the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Nigeria.
“We aim to bridge the wealth-gender gap, create opportunities for women in business, trade, and export, and propel our nation towards the achievement of SDGs 5 and 8. Discussions in this webinar will be centered around identifying barriers, exploring policies, and crafting strategies to boost women’s economic participation. Together, we can pave the way for greater economic inclusion and resilience,” she said.
A panelist, Mr Tilewa Adebajo, CEO of CFG Advisory, bemoaned the paucity of startup capital in Nigeria, noting that irrespective of the fact that about $3bn went into funding startups from private sources over the last 6 years, more than 70% of the funds went to fintech and renewable startups, while startups in other sectors grappled with high interest rates from banks.
“Even when financing is available to fund startups in Nigeria, the current interest rate is about 19%. After the banks add their own charges, the interest rate rises to 25%. Not many businesses can survive this high interest rate. This means, unless for those in the import or Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) industries, it is very difficult to leverage loans at 25% to build and sustain a business,” he decried.
Mr Adebajo thus emphasized prudent financial management and capacity building among business owners as pathways to prevent their enterprises from crashing, particularly in the current harsh economic realities in Nigeria, occasioned by the skyrocketing cost of doing business and factors of production, coupled with multiple taxation and rising tariffs.
“Most people in the informal sector are excluded from accessing finance because of constraints such as extreme collateral demands; hence, it is better to leverage personal funds or take advantage of informal private capital to build businesses to a level where they can have a significant cash flow to attract bank financing and subsequently other kinds of private equity financing,” he urged.
In this vein, Mr Adebajo commended banks like Taj, Lotus and Jaiz for their non-interest facilities, describing them as business-friendly and calling on other banks to set up subsidiaries that will facilitate access to loans for Nigerian SMEs, which will allow them to grow and subsequently improve the country’s economy. He stressed that supporting 25 million SMEs will boost Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to over $1trn.
Another panelist, Ms Aderonke Onadeke, a serial entrepreneur, said entrepreneurs must continue to innovate and keep refining their strategies so as to improve the standing of their businesses. This, he said, was necessary due to increased competition, which is prompting a change in the dynamics of various businesses in an ICT-driven world.
“Entrepreneurs can adopt new strategies from other businesses; the game changer today is the adoption of ICTs in businesses. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, most businesses were strictly physical but now most businesses have an online presence and deploy diverse strategies to keep their businesses afloat. Utilizing technology in business improves efficiency, increases cost effectiveness, and widens the reach of businesses beyond borders.
“Therefore, entrepreneurs must continue to enhance their capacity and stay informed on new trends and developments in their businesses through continued business education and training. There is also the need to go the extra mile by taking courses or getting trained in new areas, in case the need arises for the application of such knowledge in their businesses. This is why certain companies stand out among others,” she urged.
Ms Onadeke added that networking and building valuable connections will help entrepreneurs navigate through entrepreneurship hurdles, calling on business owners to keep developing their customer base and explore opportunities for collaboration. “There is value in collaboration. Businesses can collaborate to achieve reduced production costs. When entrepreneurs combine their resources, it leads to a win-win situation for all.”
In her remarks, Ms Mobola Sagoe, CEO of Shea Origin, said Nigeria stands at a crossroads of global trade and contributes significantly to international trade through the export of diverse commodities. She described Shea as one of such products that empowers local producers, contributes to economic growth and fosters a positive impact on rural livelihoods in Nigeria.
Despite its immense economic benefits, Ms Sagoe said the Nigerian Shea industry faces a lot of challenges, such as inadequate storage facilities and a lack of proper storage options, which lead to spoilage and wastage of harvested Shea nuts. She said this challenge not only results in financial losses for Shea producers but also hampers the overall quality of the products, affecting their market value and, subsequently, the income of the producers.
“One key solution lies in the implementation of modern storage facilities equipped with climate control mechanisms. These warehouses, specifically designed for storing Shea nuts, can regulate temperature and humidity, ensuring the nuts remain fresh and of high quality. By imparting this knowledge, the industry can significantly reduce spoilage, preserve the quality of the Shea nuts, and ultimately enhance the economic viability of shea-producing communities across Nigeria,” she said.
Ms Sagoe noted that strengthening Shea processing in Nigeria requires government support, particularly incentivizing investments in the Shea industry and the provision of tax breaks, grants, and low-interest loans to encourage entrepreneurs to invest in modern equipment and processing techniques. She described establishing processing centers, standardized production facilities and knowledge transfer as crucial to the strengthening of Shea production in Nigeria.
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