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ECOWAS, NACCIMA speak on opportunities for women in Mining and Agricultural sectors

….as the organisation celebrates NAWORG Day

By Ebunoluwa Sessou

National President of Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, NACCIMA, Hajiya Saratu Iya Aliyu has said that women must change the way they do business by creating the paradigm shift in the mining and agricultural sectors in the country.

She also urged women to join the platform of women entrepreneurs including NAWORG, to take advantage of capacity-building and networking opportunities to arm themselves with business skills and use this to create value chain of agro-processing for exportation.

The President who noted that the real challenge in ensuring these mining potentials translate to economic development is lack of access to land and mining infrastructure and in Nigeria, two per cent of licensed miners are women.

Speaking at the maiden edition of NAWORG Day Celebration with the theme: Women in Business, Paradigm Shift, The New Vista and Opportunities held in Lagos, she said: NAWORG was constituted as one of the trade groups of the association and has become a positive force for women empowerment.

Adding that the theme paved the way to deliberate and network with a view to strengthening the organisation of women business groups.

While speaking on the topic, Agricultural Value Chain, Agribusiness and Mining, the National President who was represented by Chief (Mrs) Anita Nana Okuribido, Managing Director, SIMAN Engineering Limited, said there are lots of opportunities in the Mining and Agricultural sectors strategically positioned for women.

According to her: “With a population of over 190 million people in this country, the local market for agricultural products and services is huge. With regards to the mining sector, Nigeria is truly blessed with vast solid minerals deposit including limestones, iron ore, gold, tin, lead, zinc, silver, columbite among others.

“The Economic Recovery Growth Plan, ERGP,  has been published with Agriculture and Mining playing pivotal roles in this document. Within the agriculture programme, the government is committed to opening up a minimum of 100,000 hectares of irrigable land by 2020; and to immediately expand the use of dams for agribusiness, commercial fish farming and agriculture.

“This project when implemented will give room for more women to delve into agribusiness with a view to going through the complete value chain of agro-processing for exportation.

Also read: Nigeria calls for implementation of ECOWAS Protocol on free movement

“Similarly, the Nigerian mining sector is beginning to experience a revolution through the Sustainable Management of Mineral Resources Project, SMMRP, and the 2016 road map for the growth and development of the Nigerian Mining industry which aims to diversify the economy, reduce dependency on the monolithic oil economy and improve the contribution of the mining sector.

“According to the Road map, the government will encourage the formalisation of artisanal miners and also take vigorous action for the exploration and mining of seven Priority Minerals where data already exist in commercial viability. These priorities are iron ore, coal, bitumen, limestone, lead/zinc, gold and barite,” she said.

She urged Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government involved in the implementation of key activities in the ERGP 2017-2020 to swiftly and efficiently implement the programme as well as provide avenues through which assessment by the private sector and other stakeholders can be done with the intent of achieving desired goals while urging every woman not to miss out on the opportunities that agribusiness and mining sectors bring into the economy.

In her welcome address, the Convener, NACCIMA Business Women Group, NAWORG, Iyalode Alaba Lawson, MFR, FloD, disclosed that the maiden edition of NAWORG day was a forum to celebrate women entrepreneurs.

“We have come together to brainstorm on how to integrate among women across West Africa and utilise the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme, ETLS accordingly.  It is also an avenue to discuss what to do to make it easier for women to integrate among themselves across the border, do business and network.”

Speaking on how the organisation has been tackling challenges women face in starting a business, she said the issue of finance has been a major factor, adding that the organisation is working assiduously to resolve the challenges. “We are partnering with banks on some areas in which women can collaborate without having challenges in their businesses,” she added.

On the involvement of women in decision-making, the Iyalode urged President Muhammadu Buhari to borrow a leaf from the South African Government who made it 50:50 ratio for both women and men.

Reiterating the roles of women in a managerial capacity, Iyalode Alaba Lawson said: “Women are capable managers who run their homes and businesses and are doing very well in all spheres of life.

“I want President Buhari to look into that. Even if it is not a 50:50 ratio, he can give 40:60 and see the progress he would record in his government.

“I can boldly say that the economy of the country will be efficiently managed because women are credible managers. Women are really endowed with the capacity to do whatever they do. And I think, we can do much better if we are put in the position of power, we can do it properly.

“We have the advantage of the population and I think more women should come into entrepreneurship, the more, the merrier.

“I will advise women to take advantage of mentorship programmes. They need to be properly mentored and educated, we must come together, we have to network and we have to share experiences and challenges together so that we can learn from each other.”

On his part, the Director-General, NACCIMA, Ambassador Ayoola Olukanni who also spoke on the theme: Women in Business: A Paradigm Shift, the new vista and opportunities: Changing the Sexist Poverty Narrative – The Opportunity Agenda, disclosed that the opportunity agenda referred to the feminisation of poverty and how this is being combated and how progress can be made seizing the various opportunities that have been thrown up in the course of the long struggle.

“From the dawn of history and across the world, women play key roles in every sphere of life, either as wives, mothers, traders, professionals among others, we see them playing key roles in the economic and social spheres and in some cases, even in the political arena. Unfortunately, it is still this same class that lives in poverty and discriminated against.

“According to the World Bank 2018 report, 10.9 per cent of the world’s population live on less than $1.90 a day (that is, about 783 million people). According to World Bank-supported report of September 2018 based on available data, about 50 per cent and not 70 per cent of women of the world’s extreme poor, are women.

The narrative underscores the fact that women are not visible enough in the economic arena in monetary business and tax. Governments were, therefore, encouraged to enact and enforce legislation that can encourage women.

The DG, however, called on government at all levels to device a mechanism and take positive action to enable women gain access to full and equal participation in the formulation of policies and definition of structures such as ministries of Finance and Trade, establish mechanism and other forums to enable women entrepreneurs and women workers contribute to the formulation of policies and programmes being developed by economic ministries and financial institutions.

“Promote gender-sensitive policies and measures to empower women as an equal partner with men in technical managerial and entrepreneurial fields. It is not just a women’s struggle, it is a struggle for development.

“It is not for women alone, it is a fight by men and women. It is widely recognised that you cannot leave half of the human race behind and make progress. That’s why women have been incorporated into the economy now.

“Our institution needs to be adjusted to mainstream equality and advancement of women into every facet of life policies and programmes with due recognition for affirmative action. It is a gender issue and that is why I think that at the institutional level, we need to take immediate step to change the Ministry of Women Affairs to the Ministry of Gender Affairs and Social Development.

“Only through this can we be able to internalise the paradigm shift that has taken place to overcome the sexist and misogynist view and that it is a struggle for both gender and the spectre of sexism can be combated for the desired progress,” he said.

The keynote speaker, Prof. Jonathan Aremu, Professor of International Economic Relations, Covenant University, who narrated opportunities that women could explore in ETLS, while speaking on the topic, ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme: Opportunities for Women Entrepreneurs, ETLS, said although both men and women face the challenges of crossing border with their products, he said women may face further challenge because people might want to take advantage of them thereby facing more challenges than men.

He, however, called on the Federal Government to establish the policy of single window which allows for easy documentation of papers for business owners instead of making it cumbersome for them.

“The Federal Government is already putting in place an implementation scheme for a single window, they should buckle up on the policy because other smaller countries including Togo, have already implemented it,” he said.

Speaking on the ETLS, Aremu noted that it provides opportunities, including enhancing intra-regional trade and investment. ETLS, as expected of any FTA,  will encourage Nigerian women to increase their trade with other countries in the region as well as allow business activities and projects to be designed from a regional perspective for greater efficiency and cost-sharing between relevant stakeholders across the region.

Adding that it increases price competitiveness and performance, it allows for investment efficiency, economic and political reform as well as efficient security.

“Effective implementation of ETLS will not only enhance trade between the ECOWAS-member States, but create a, ‘web of positive interactions and interdependency that would build trust, and reduce the risk of conflicts between them.

“The role of the governments of the ECOWAS-member States and the ECOWAS Commission is to create the necessary environment for the private sector whose primary responsibility is the movement of goods across borders.

“To improve the performance of the ETLS and deepen ECOWAS market integration, tripartite organisations of NAWORG, NACIMA and FEWACCI to which you belong, should serve as champions for not only the ETLS project but in other phases of ECOWAS economic integration;  Continue to strengthen the capacity of your members for effective participation in the ETLS processes and other ECOWAS programmes.

“Promote networks for the establishment of regional enterprises through the Federation of Business Women and Entrepreneurs, FEBWE, to enhance regional value chains. In collaboration with ECOWAS, organise trade fairs to show case products of ECOWAS origin so as to promote the growth of intra-regional trade through ETLS;  Collaborate also with ECOWAS Commission through FEWAACI and/or FEBWE to address the various problems facing the implementation of ETLS and make recommendations towards effective monitoring and evaluation strategies in ETLS implementation;

Provide regular feedbacks, through established strategies, to member-States and ECOWAS Commission on your membership experiences with the implementation of the ETLS; and

Endeavour to strike an appropriate balance in the pursuit of protection of national markets for your members without trading off the deepening of the regional market and continental integration (under AfCFTA)”, he pointed.

In her remark, the Chairperson, Organising Committee, NAWORG, Flora Takim Ndifon, said the event was an avenue to avail women the opportunities of networking and taking advantage of what they learnt in the conference.

“NAWORG is not just an organisation but it incubates young businesses and creates a platform to reach out to entrepreneurs. Therefore, I will implore entrepreneurs to join the platform.

Participants at the conference included women who came from different states – Ogun, Kwara, Kano, IMO, Rivers, Lagos, Oyo, Anambra, FCT Abuja, Bayelsa and Edo.

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