As Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), back in 2012, the current Emir of Kano, Alhaji Mohammadu Sanusi 11, never doubted the capacity of the Nigerian woman to create jobs and contribute to the nation’s GDP if only her access to finance could be enhanced.
In recognition of her unique role in national economic development, the then apex bank’s boss’s next challenge was on how to activate the various buttons to improve women entrepreneurs’ access to business finance hitherto beclouded by a variety of cultural, religious and legal encumbrances, realising that financial empowerment of women-run businesses could be a stepping stone to higher standards of living for more people in the country.
That he did with the launch of a dedicated fund for women entreprenuers at single digit interest rate.
Following that historic flag off by Sanusi, the current leadership of the CBN under Mr Godwin Emefiele, took the initiative higher with the Revised Microfinance Policy, Regulatory and Supervisory Framework for Nigeria which set aside a N220billion intervention fund to increase access to credit opportunities for women in business to expand their projects.
In collaboration with the Bankers Committee, a body of Chief Executives of banks in the country, the CBN backed up these credit policy initiatives with management toolkit and capacity building schemes embedded in its financial inclusion mandate to equip intervention fund beneficiaries with hands-on knowledge on book keeping, financial planning, and improved bankability of their projects, as well as the financial discipline needed to sustain a mutually beneficial relationship within the banking industry.
In the last five years, the narrative of financial services for most women entrepreneurs has drastically changed given the speed of implementation and disbursement of the N220billion set aside for small businesses owned and managed by women having been statutorily allocated 60 per cent of the fund.
Recent reports on the performance of the intervention fund show the initiative has created thousands of successful women entrepreneurs, who have been able to increase their networth, employ more labour and are also contributing to the nation’s GDP through taxes to the government. As in other sectors of the economy, the apex bank’s new stimulus to carving a niche for women in business has boosted their access to financial services with a financial inclusion rating rising higher year on year.
With Nigeria’s adult financial inclusion rate at over 60 per cent according to a 2018 survey by EFInA, women position has also risen higher with opportunities now available to them to borrow from formal financial channels.
Before now however, although the contributions of women to Nigeria’s economic development were well recognised,, not much was done in the area of credit to help them fully optimise their potential.
Today the story of the Nigerian business women is changing from small family enterprises to bigger and more formalised organisations with improved access to credit.
A recent publication by the Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion highlights that in developed countries, women are starting businesses at a faster rate than men, and making significant contributions to job creation and economic growth and this is also true for transition economies, although the comparable rate of growth could be slower.
This improvement is largely attributable to their enhanced capacity of women-owned businesses to get funding from the banks, unlike before when such barriers like absence of collateral ownership and lack of credit histories due to the fact that most of them ran unstructured businesses stood against their efforts
Yet, it is a fact that improving financial support for women would increase the number of new businesses, which in turn, would boost economic activity, enable the expansion of old businesses, leading to increased productivity and growth. Financial empowerment enhances the bargaining power of women at the family level and this allows larger latitude for investment in child-nutrition, health and education, thereby regenerating the future workforce.
The experience of the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh provides evidence that women might be better fund managers. It noted that of the loans given out by the bank, over 98 per cent were recovered, implying a near 0 per cent default.
Moreover, giving women access to finance has emerged as a lucrative business for fund providers. The Global Banking Alliance for women has seen a steady upward trend in its profits, which has also put its operations on the path to sustainability.
Initiatives by the Central Bank of Nigeria
One of the key targets of the Revised Microfinance Policy, Regulatory and Supervisory Framework for Nigeria is to eliminate gender disparity by ensuring that women’s access to financial services increases by 15 per cent annually.
In view of the peculiar challenges that women face in accessing financial services in Nigeria, the CBN approved the establishment of MSMEDF intended to ensure that a minimum of 60 per cent of the MSMEDF are committed to providing funding to women in order to address their peculiar financial exclusion challenges. The key objectives include providing grants for capacity building of staff in microfinance institutions (MFBs, MFIs and similar institutions) and their apex bodies on women based lending, promoting the development of regulatory provisions that are favourable to women lending, supporting initiatives that can improve financial literacy, entrepreneurship development for women clients, supporting programmes that are geared towards the mobilisation of women, research and development, and promotion of women friendly financial innovations and products.
The CBN also supports, inclusion and literacy as cornerstones for reducing poverty against which background it took the lead in developing Nigeria’s National Financial Inclusion Strategy to ensure that a clear agenda is set for increasing both access and usage of financial services within a defined timeline for excluded groups including women is achieved. Indeed, the financial inclusion strategy provides for reducing the exclusion rate of women from 54 per cent to 20 per cent by the year 2020. To achieve this, special incentives and provisions would be made available to financial institutions to develop products that would meet the needs of Nigerian women. The CBN as part of its developmental efforts supports Entrepreneurship Development Centres (EDC) in the six geo-political zones of the country with special focus on women in the implementation of these centres.
In addition to the above, it has also been promoting women into leadership and decision- making roles with the Bankers’ Committee comprising the CBN, Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC), Deposit Money-Banks and Discount Houses leading to its declaring 2012 the year of “Women Economic Empowerment”. The Bankers’ Committee has also dedicated a sub-committee focused on women economic empowerment headed by a female bank chief.
The Fund took off with a seed capital of N220billion, 60 per cent of which was available to providing financial services to women managing small and medium scales enterprises (SMEs) so that they can be gainfully involved in the private sector of the economy. The remaining 40 per cent of the loan goes to other micro business entrepreneurs such as vulcanisers, hair salon owners, bakers, tailors, as well as other medium-scale businesses that help to promote production of goods in the country
Improving the bankability of women entrepreneurs,
To make the project achieve its purpose, the apex bank in collaboration with the Bankers Committee has also taken steps through capacity building to enhance the bankability of women businesses to prepare them for lenders/investors willing to finance. In this regard a number of these entrepreneurs have given the capacity to be able to run the numbers to understand their future cash flows – (the net value of what you receive vs your expenses), to know if their cashflow projections would be sufficient to repay the loan on time.
With such trainings too, the women business managers can understand when they are at break -even point assuming the business profitable.
Furthermore, all the issues about collateral security that would enable them stay on the right side of the law and complying with industry regulations are now being resolved to avoid unnecessary sanction that can threaten the future survival of the entity.
It is also very critical that women entrepreneurs understand the need to separate their company’s financials from your personal finances since personal lifestyle should not be funded using the capitalincome of the company.
To make a business case attractive, the business plan should include details such as the scalability of the project; profitability, liquidity; technology and quality of management. Other important aspects of the business plan are a clear description of the market and the value- added proposition which clearly articulates the uniqueness of the project or service.
There are several examples of Nigerian women who have successfully balanced passion and viability with the support of some of the financial institutions with passion for supporting businesses owned and managed by women.
Through the banking industry’s deliberate policy initiative to support women entrepreneurs, several Nigerian women has now come up to fill identified gaps in specific niche markets to create products and services that meet the needs of the customers across sectors with the very robust support of the banks that assisted to expand and create more jobs for the youths
Leading the rank of banks partnering the Central Bank of Nigeria to provide funding for women-run enterprises are, Zenith International Bank Plc and Fidelity Bank Plc and Access Bank among others.
Zenith Bank Plc
Zenith Bank has been deepely involved in the promotion of small and medium enterprises including those founded and managed by women.
For instance, “STYLE BY ZENITH 2.0” comes naturally as one of the flagship programmes for empowerment of women run businesses.
Using it extensive network of branches within and outside the country, Zenith Bank Plc, has in the last three decades emerged as a preferred financial services provider for the Nigerian business community wishing to be different from the rest of the crowd.
It is therefore not surprising that Zenith Bank is staunchly supporting businesses owned and run by women entrepreneurs through its robust financing packages for small and medium enterprises across different sectors of the economy.
Indeed, apart from its deep understanding of the peculiarities of the Nigerian business environment, the bank has also proven it has adequate resources to meet the needs of the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME), against which it has built a global network of financial services and products that have made it a reliable partner for Nigerian women entrepreneurs. This attribute coupled with its globally acclaimed sustainability principles and Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives have place Zenith Bank in a class of its own.
A classic example of the bank’s commitment to changing the narrative of women MSMEs in its annual sponsorship of its small businesses clinic, “STYLE BY ZENITH 2.0” following the success of the maiden edition of that signature product,”
Available report says the impact the programme has left in the lives of the business community since the maiden out was huge against the management adopted it as the spring board for mentoring thousands of budding women entrepreneurs in the Nigerian MSME space, hence the second outing last August.
The bank believes that with the sustained hosting of that signature project “Style by Zenith 2.0”, as its flagship lifestyle fair dedicated to intentionally celebrating the ‘small’ things that make ‘big’ differences in the lives of Nigerian people, many more Nigerians would be lifted out of poverty.
First hosted in 2018, the “Style by Zenith 2.0” initiative was created with the objective of supporting and creating value for customers by focusing on various aspects of their lifestyle and covers a wide range of activities where most Nigerian women have excelled including fashion designing, makeup artists, ICT and programme design among others
For 2019, “Style by Zenith 2.0” took things up a notch with the theme, “Style the Life you Desire”, aimed at encouraging Nigerians to live their best lives and be extraordinary. The platform sought to inspire people to be authentic, while showing them that with ordinary talent and extraordinary effort, they can thrive and make a real change in this world.
Speaking on the rationale behind “Style by Zenith 2.0”, the Executive Director of Zenith Bank Plc., Dr. Temitope Fasoranti, said, “Banking, for Zenith Bank means going that extra mile to be present in the lives of our customers. Driven by a culture of excellence and providing cutting edge solutions, the bank is championing this cause to enable individuals and businesses to grow wealth.”
He added that “Beyond providing financial solutions, Zenith Bank Plc seeks to be a reliable partner to its customers, ensuring that they excel on every front. With “Style by Zenith 2.0”, the bank continues in its commitment to empowering individuals and entrepreneurs by celebrating real talents. We will be helping people do what they know how to do best and repositioning them for greater levels of success in their various endeavours.”
This year’s programme included an interesting line up of activities all culminating in the 3-day Lifestyle Fair taking place at the end of 2019. Kicking off the array of activities is the “Style by Zenith 2.0” Fitness Walks being held in conjunction with Mass Medical Missions, a non-profit organisation, and Venus Medicare Ltd, a leading Health Management Organisation in the country.
The Fitness Walk served as a platform to promote Mission Pink Cruise – a project of Mass Medical Missions supported by Zenith Bank, aimed at taking holistic cancer prevention and health promotion to various communities across the country using Mobile Cancer Centres (MCC) nicknamed Pink Cruises, the first of its kind in Nigeria.
These Fitness Walks and Cancer Screening exercises were held in five cities across Nigeria – Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Kano and Onitsha.
Aside the fitness walks across the country, there is a whole lot of activities such as conferences, online engagements, and a special event for models that builds on the masterclass held last year, not forgetting the special play arcade and activities designed for children at the fair. The whole gamut of events and activities lined up also come with free medical check-ups like free eye, dental and cancer tests, amongst other special promotions both online and at the events leading to the final crescendo which is the 3-Day Lifestyle Fair.
With initiatives such as these and many more to come, “Style by Zenith 2.0” offered an all-encompassing experience touching on key aspects of the lifestyle of Zenith customers and the public.
The “Style by Zenith 2.0” platform is also a testament to the priority given to SMEs and the retail segment of the market by the bank. Along with its various partners, Zenith Bank will be laying the foundation for a future where individuals and SMEs can live up to their full potential.
Fashion One, the leading global fashion and lifestyle channel will once again be working with Zenith Bank on the “Style by Zenith 2.0” initiative.
Established in 1990, Zenith Bank Plc is a leading multinational bank providing corporate, business, retail and personal banking services through its network of over 500 branches and business offices, serving millions of customers. The brand is a proven leader in the deployment of various channels of banking technology and has become synonymous with the deployment of state-of-the-art technologies in banking.
At Fidelity Bank Plc, helping to build startups in all sectors including women owned enterprises comes naturally.
That perhaps explains why as a leading player in the financing of Nigerian Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) evidenced in its successful running of the Fidelity Managed SMEs initiative where many women managed organisations have been largely supported, the bank has always taken a front row in development financing.
The bank had continued to leverage local and international financing windows from the Central Bank of Nigeria the on-lending initiatives with the Bank of Industry, the Development Bank of Nigerian and the World Bank to promote financial inclusiveness of Nigerian women by financing their various projects, particularly under the Fidelity Managed SMEs scheme to give a helping hand to various women -run enterprises in parts of the country . The project focuses on providing solutions to the challenges faced by MSMEs in Nigeria through a multifaceted approach. At the core of the solutions that the bank provides to MSMEs is the robust business advisory service component that embodies the totality of the practical steps needed to handhold and guide aspiring and existing entrepreneurs to building sustainable businesses. Fidelity Bank also has the all new Fidelity Business Plus, a combination of low-cost current account product and the Sage One Accounting Software.
Over the last few years, the bank has helped thousands of women-owned and managed enterprises rediscover the winning ways, thus creating jobs for Nigerian youths and supporting the government build a sustainable economy.
Access Bank Plc
In the business of financing women owned businesses, Access Bank Plc stands out in the Nigerian banking industry with its iconic W Initiative which seeks to promote enterprises owned and run by women.
Through this project, the bank has given more women a stronger voice in corporate Nigeria, by nurturing them from their informal activities to a more formalised structure
Only last September, Access Bank’s W Initiative partnered the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF) to launch LSETF designed to empower women in the state.
The initiative, with a total loan portfolio of N10 billion, will be available for businesses that women hold at least 50per cent ownership share and must have been in operation for one to five years.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, of Lagos state, summed it all when said at the MoU signing ceremony that: “The LSETF W Initiative has come at a very critical time for our economy, as we believe that women have a great role to play towards achieving the developmental results that we seek in our state.
Sanwo-Olu said “It is important to leverage on the accumulation of resources built through relationships, trust, goodwill, and influence between the State and other private sector stakeholders to make things happen quickly, stressing the state was very proud of Access Bank which has continued to make its financial and business expertise as well as funds available towards ensuring that Nigerian women are given adequate access to resources that will aid their successes.”
Although that LSETF launch with the Lagos government was not the first for the bank, Mr Herbert Wigwe, Access Bank group managing director, used it to restate its commitment to partner various stakeholders to give women the support they need to successfully implement their business ideas.
“Looking at the number of women present here today, I don’t think the initial N4billion we set aside to help them will be sufficient and based on that, the initiative fund will be increased to N10billion.
He noted that through partnerships with organisations like the LSETF, Access Bank will continue to help women break boundaries, reinvent the status-quo and take advantage of opportunities provided by technology and quality financial systems to make a significant impact on the economy of Lagos State and Nigeria as a whole.