Tuesday, 11 June 2013
Empowered & Entrepreneurial: Nigerian Women Receive Boost From New Business Network
Launched on 1st March 2013, Women Of West Africa In Entrepreneurship (WOWe) was created to meet the needs of Nigeria’s ‘missing middle’, young educated African women who are driven to start in business but face significant challenges in competing with their male counterparts.
The Global Banking Alliance for Women says women entrepreneurs drive 20% more revenue in spite of 50% less being invested in them. This picture becomes even more extreme when viewed at a national level; according to the IFC, in Nigeria women owned businesses represent over 25% of registered businesses but have access to less than 3% of commercial bank finance.
Launched just a few weeks ago; Women Of West Africa In Entrepreneurship (WOWe) has garnered wide support from the female business community in Nigeria, connecting a landmark 10,000 members in just under 4 weeks. Entrepreneur and WOWe member Victoria Benedicta Okpanachi says “I have waited a long time for this kind of organisation. I have two products, both are doing well but there are lots of challenges in getting things done. Labour is scarce for me to get as a starter; I can't pay more than I gain. The banks are not helping matters at all. If more women get empowered in Nigeria things will get better.”
The organisation’s first conference will take place on the 20th and 21st of June at the Eko Hotel on Adetokunbo Ademola Street, Victoria Island, Lagos, and workshops will take place on the 22nd at the Wheatbaker Hotel on No 4 Opitolo Rd, Ikoyi, Lagos. The objective of the WOWe conference is to raise the profile of excellence in entrepreneurship to Nigerian women between 18 – 40, as well as profile and promote young upcoming female entrepreneurs. A key aim is to make entrepreneurship accessible to women through social media, interactive panels, Q&A sessions and participation from young upcoming female entrepreneurs.
PhD Student, Entrepreneur and WOWe member Tosin Alabi agrees with this approach, “I get inspiration, especially from the stories of other women who have succeeded in their own businesses. These success stories reassure you that with hard work you can also succeed. It is not just a community for me anymore, it’s a family of successful female entrepreneurs who encourage and support each other.”
She goes on to observe, “Nigeria has a population of about 50% women and only in the last couple of years did their role in development gain serious attention. As women, there is still a lot of work to be done as regards our contribution to the development of Nigeria. Women are still yet to totally overcome the clutches of the cultural set back placed on them, as they are often viewed only as mothers and wives. I believe we can only contribute our quota by working hard ourselves and encouraging as many hard working women around us as we can.”
The cultural obstacles faced by women are universally acknowledged. It is widely accepted that creating entrepreneurial opportunities and building capacity in financial literacy, business and financial management and ICT for women and girls is critical for economic development and prosperity in Nigeria. However, while there are many high profile initiatives, funds, grants and training programs available to empower and support women in this regard, there isn’t an impartial national platform that allows all the key stakeholders in this sector to meet.
Additionally, many women entrepreneurs are not aware or have the skills or network to take advantage of these initiatives designed for their development. In fact some of the funds and special budgets allocated to support women entrepreneurs remain unspent in Nigeria. Student and WOWe member Anurika Kenneth says “We need to enlighten society on the dangers of excluding our women and girls from education. Society also needs to know the potential dangers of such acts to national development.”
Recently, CBN launched N200bn fund for SMEs, 60% of which should go towards women-owned enterprises providing them with single digit interest rate repayment terms. According to a study released by the World Bank, if girls in Nigeria were employed at the same rate as boys, they would add $13.9 billion to the country’s annual GDP. Unlike men, women tend to invest 90 percent of their income back into their families and communities (Cherie Blair Foundation for Women on April 29, 2013).
Speaking at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Christine Lagarde said, “When women do better, economies do better.” The writing is on the wall, the message is clear and the time in now for the women of Nigeria to drive their nation’s development to the next level.
The first WOWe conference will gather representation from women from all walks of life from female entrepreneurs to aspiring businesswomen. The forum will also include banks, financial services organizations, development finance and impact fund investment institutions, Government agencies with responsibility for the empowerment of women, SME development organisations, corporations, NGOs and Charities, ICT & mobile companies.
This event will be one of the largest Women Entrepreneur Conferences to hold in Nigeria.
WOWe is sponsored and supported by Eden Lifestyle, Internal Revenue Service Lagos State, QuickBooks Accounting Made Easy, The Wheatbaker Lagos and more!
WOWe also has strong media partners including Forbes Africa, New African Woman Magazine, Ventures Africa, Exquisite Magazine, The Guardian Newspaper, Thisday Style, Bella Naija, Cool FM, Nigeria Info, Wasabi FM, Precious Success, TW Magazine and more!