•N1.6bn interest, collateral-free loan for women entrepreneurs underway – Ministry
By Emeka Anaeto
The Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, has protested to Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, over alleged marginalization of women entrepreneurs in the disbursement of its N220 billion micro, small and medium scale, MSME, fund.
Addressing some women entrepreneurs at the just concluded second African Women Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum, AWIEF, the minister in charge of the ministry, Senator Aisha Jummai Alhassan, stated that women have accessed less than 5.0 percent of the CBN special intervention fund, but she did not disclose the proportion for men.
In her words: “women have accessed less than 5.0 percent of the CBN N220bn MSME Fund which had earmarked 60 percent of beneficiaries to be women.
“This situation is unacceptable and my Ministry has written the CBN on the need to relax the stringent conditions that have debarred women from this pool of resources”.
The minister also lamented that in Nigeria, although more than 48 per cent of informal micro-businesses are run by women, they access less than 12 percent of available financial credit.
She stated that social perceptions, stereotypes and biases limit women’s ability to reach the very top of the corporate ladder, while economic constraints prevent them from gaining access to adequate financing for their businesses, thereby inhibiting their potentials.
According to her, statistics released by the African Development Bank indicate that only 16 to 20 percent of women in Sub-Saharan Africa are able to access long-term financing from formal financial institutions.
She stated: “Although women-owned business enterprises account for only 25 percent of all businesses in Sub-Saharan Africa, the median capital available to male entrepreneurs is more than twice that of women in some of Africa’s largest economies, including Nigeria and Kenya.
“Consequently, women are being forced to enter and remain in the informal sector of the economy, where their contributions are usually overlooked and undervalued, making them less likely to receive the much needed technical and financial support”.
She, however, noted that in recognition of the enormous contribution of women to the Informal Sector of the Nigerian economy, the Federal Government has, in recent times, through her Ministry and other Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), carried out various forms of intervention programmes geared towards supporting women and women entrepreneurs in Nigeria.
According to her, “some of these interventions include the Women’s Fund for Economic Empowerment (WOFEE) implemented in collaboration with the Bank of Agriculture (BoA), and the Business Fund for Women (BODFOW) to provide soft loans for female entrepreneurs; The Growing Women and Girls in Nigeria (GWIN) programme designed to support young girls and women in targeted sectors of the economy.
“To further consolidate on these initiatives and reaffirm its commitment towards improving the productivity and livelihood of the Nigerian Woman, the present administration, under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari recently launched a N1.6 billion special intervention fund called the National Women Empowerment Fund (NAWEF).The Fund is targeted at supporting grassroot women operating informal businesses by providing start-up and scale-up credit for them”.
According to her “the NAWEF programme would be kick-started with eight (8) Pilot States, and is expected to target 10,000 women beneficiaries per State who will receive between N10,000-N100,000 each.
“An estimated N200million is to be disbursed per State through active and functional women cooperatives, local trade associations and other community based groups. The loans are interest free with no collateral required”.
She said that another programme called the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP), which is one of the five social protection interventions targeted at providing microfinance to young men and women from all States of the country, is also being implemented on the same conditions as the NAWEF Programme.