The federal government is set to end two major problems confronting women in investment and enterprise: difficulty in accessing markets for their products and hurdles in accessing finance.
Women in business face more challenges than their male counterparts and this is exactly the problem the federal government is out to address using a project christened Women in Investment and Enterprise (WinIE).
WinIE is a women economic empowerment initiative run by the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment in partnership with Growth and Empowerment in States (GEMS).
The initiative seeks to build the capacity of women’s groups across Nigeria through a framework which helps connect women with markets and help facilitate accessing to credit.
A report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) revealed that women registered about 30 per cent of existing small and medium businesses in the country.
A factsheet of the WinIE project seen by Daily Trust stated that the average growth rate of businesses owned by women was far lower than that of businesses run by men.
At the launch of the project in Abuja recently, the nation’s Trade Minister of State, Mrs. Aisha Abubakar, agreed with the factsheet that women faced more challenges than their male counterparts in business.
The minister said female entrepreneurs accounted for about 43.22 per cent in the ownership structure of micro-enterprises as against 22.76 per cent in small and medium enterprises and only about 10 per cent of these women have access to the finances needed to successfully launch a new venture or grow existing businesses.
She said most women obtained their initial start-up investment and working capital from internal sources such as savings and contributions from family and friends.
“This restricts them from being ambitious about their enterprises and seeking advice from business support providers for proper legal and corporate structures,” she said.
WinIE is built on a structure with four parts to solve the problems facing women in business: women in corporative (WC), business development service providers (BDSP), financial service provider (FSP) and end market (EM).
The project groups women who are into the same enterprise into a corporative, put them through a training through a BDSP, forward a funding request to a financial institution, such as the Bank of Industry (BOI) which is an FSP for the project, and identify an off-taker who will buy off all the products produced by the members of the corporative.
The WinIE initiative was piloted in Kaduna State and the success of the pilot project encouraged the federal government to expand the implementation to seven states - Abia, Akwa Ibom, Ebonyi, Bauchi, Niger, Kaduna and Ekiti.
In the pilot case study carried out in Kaduna, 17 informal sectors, which women across Nigeria operate in, were identified, and hairdressing was selected for the pilot.
The government engaged the Association of Hairdressers in Nigeria, and 30 hairdressers agreed to participate in the pilot, which facilitated the braiding of wigs.
Government also engaged WOW Braids, a company which markets braided hair wigs, to participate in the pilot as the off-taker of the goods.
The Sir Ahmadu Bello Foundation supported the women by providing the Business Development Services which assisted them in understanding the off-taker’s requirements.
The foundation also supported the women in accessing finance from a microfinance bank.
Representatives of the pilot group converged in Abuja for the launch of the project, where they narrated their success stories.
They got the training, received funding, produced the wigs, supplied to the off-takers and received payment for their products.
Here is the testimony of a hairdresser who participated in the Kaduna pilot phase, Mrs. Cecelia Benjamin: “After the training we got and then the money that WOW Braids paid us after we sent off the first batch, I am happy.”
As laudable as the WinIE may appear, it is worth noting that this is not the first time the federal government will be attempting to solve the problem affecting women entrepreneurs.
In December 2006, the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the BoI to address challenges faced by women in accessing credit facilities.
The 2015 Annual Report and Accounts of the BoI stated that the MoU was meant “to deepen the credit extended to female entrepreneurs in all parts of the country who are desirous of transiting their respective businesses from micro to small scale and later to medium scale enterprises.”
In March 2007, the ministry released N90 million to be disbursed to businesses owned by women at an interest rate of 10 per cent per annum.
These are sure ways of solving the challenges faced by these women in addition to the WinIE initiative as government extends the project to the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
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