By Juliet Umeh
Global reckoning of Nigerian women has continued to surge with over 23 million female entrepreneurs putting Nigeria amongst the highest entrepreneurs in the world.
Nigerian women too, are said to account for 41 per cent ownership of micro businesses in Nigeria. This genre of business establishments has been serially described as the engine room of any country’s economy.
These statistics were revealed recently as women gather in Lagos in a conference tagged Women Entrepreneurs and Executives in Tech Summit.
Part of the mandate of the conference was to find a solution to bridge the digital divide that exists between men and women in the Information and Communications Technology, ICT sector.
Although ICT has been recognized as the energy driving every sector of the economy, fewer women however, play in this sector.
Some of the participants at the event, including the Executive Vice Chairman, EVC, of the Nigeria Communication Commission, NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, called for the up skilling of females as it is critical to removing social and economic barriers.
Danbatta, who was represented by the Director, New Media and Information Security, NCC, Mrs. Olatokunbo Oyeleye, said the Covid-19 pandemic opened opportunities for entrepreneurs, especially women.
Danbatta said: “Although Nigerian women accounted for 41 percent ownership of micro business in Nigeria, with over 23 million female entrepreneurs making Nigeria amongst the highest entrepreneurs globally, there is still insufficient real economic empowerment and inclusion of women across the real sector of the economy.
“As we begin to see a shift in the banking sector where 27 percent of the CEOs, as at July 2021 is females , the numbers can be higher and this can also happen across the real sectors of the economy especially in Technology” he added.
Danbatta however said that in spite of the gender gap and social challenges, entrepreneurial women around the world are leading the way in harnessing the power of the digital economy to succeed and grow.
Identifying some of the reasons constituting hindrances for women, General Manager External Affairs and Communications Seplat Energy Plc, Mrs. Chioma Nwachuku, fingered cultural, funding and family expectations among others. She, however, noted that organisations led by women perform much better most times.
Managing Director, Nigerian Communications Satellite Limited, NICOMSAT, Dr Abimbola Alale, promised to help champion said the policy to increase the internationally accepted percentage of women to be engaged from 35 to 45 per cent.
She said her agency had initiated over 1,667 digital projects and conducted over almost 220,000 trainings across Nigeria, and has deliberately, made sure about 45 percent of women were represented.
She said: “Even the trainings that NIGCOMSAT conducted for over 600 youths across Nigeria, we make sure that women were actually part of those trainings because we understand the ability of women to improve anything they engage in”.
Meanwhile, at the summit, experts came up with recommendations that will alter the perception that roles of ICT are majorly for men.
According to them, the government will need to provide definite policy direction on digital agenda that carries women along.
The Bank of Industry and other banks also need to give more support to start-ups, especially women entrepreneurs because when funding is available, there should be a mechanism to communicate their availability to women and how to access them.
Government and telecom regulators were also advised to identify gaps in capacity building for women by opening up establishments like the Digital Bridge Institute, DBI, and Innovation Fund for universities to empower women in Nigeria.