By Vivian Onyebukwa
Women in Africa face major obstacles to access formal jobs and are confronted with social norms that hinder them from succeeding as entrepreneurs. Report say that among African women in the labour force, 92.1% work in the informal sector, where social protection is rarely available and working conditions are often poor; women-led micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) lack access to financial resources and to professional support.
These challenges, which have intensified as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak and its economic side effects, demand broad action, including the creation of structures of technical assistance for entrepreneurs and access to finance. A holistic approach and a cross-sectorial multi-stakeholder collaboration are required to create a more favourable environment for women entrepreneurs. Making it possible for women to grow their business will lead to more employment opportunities and better working environments for women
It was for this reason that Team Europe initiative ‘Investing in Young Businesses in Africa’ (TEI IYBA), an exclusive investor pitching opportunity for successful women entrepreneurs from across Africa, under the auspices of the Women Entrepreneurship for Africa (WE4A) programme, was launched in Nigeria.
The event which took place in Lagos, provided an excellent opportunity to access startup deal flow and forge key connections in the industries.
High-ranking Nigerian government representatives including the minister of sports, Sunday Dare, attended the event. Others were Ambassador Samuela Isopi, head of the European Union Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, representatives of Switzerland, Germany and other EU member states, female entrepreneurs from the WE4A programme, and impact investors and business ecosystem actors.
The occasion also witnessed two plenary- the official launch of the initiative in the morning and an afternoon session where successful women entrepreneurs from across Sub-Saharan Africa pitched their business cases to soon-to-be investors.
Ms. Lalita Purbhoo-Junggee, an entrepreneur of the Women Entrepreneurship for Africa (WE4A), moderated the panellists.
The event highlighted the closing of the WE4A growth programme. The common denominator between the two is the European Commission, who is the funding partner for both
The WE4A programme forms part of the Team Europe Initiative ‘Investing in Young Businesses in Africa’ (TEI IYBA). Together they enable women entrepreneurs to flourish and create jobs in their communities.
Enabling women-led businesses to integrate into local, regional and international value chains is the goal of the Women Entrepreneurship for Africa (WE4A) project, which builds on the existing Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship programme. The WE4A project combines the expertise of its different partners to create a pathway to success for women entrepreneurs in Africa.
It strengthens African women entrepreneurs’ business skills, improves their access to formal financial services and contributes to closing the gender gaps that currently exist in labor markets. It also enables women-led businesses to integrate into local, regional and international value chains.
WE4A is a partnership jointly funded by the European Union (EU), the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Organisation of African, Caribbean, and Pacific State (OACPS).The programme is implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF), the Swiss Association for Entrepreneurship in Emerging Markets (SAFEEM).
While Team Europe Initiative ‘Investing in Young Businesses in Africa’ (TEI IYBA) supports early stage businesses and entrepreneurs especially women and young people in Africa in launching and growing sustainable, strong and inclusive businesses and creating decent jobs. It does so by extending the financial and technical support available to them in their early stages. It also strengthens the ecosystem of organizations supporting entrepreneurs and businesses, such as incubators and accelerators.
The WE4A project will contribute to closing existing gender gaps in the labour markets, especially in terms of quality of jobs. It will will ignite structural changes, as women who become successful entrepreneurs serve as role models in their societies and encourage other women and girls to pursue their choice of career. Beyond the immediate effects on directly supported businesses. WE4A will improve the support structures for African women entrepreneurs through collaboration with business associations, financial institutions and local service providers. Additionally, the programme will help African MSME’s navigate the through the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is expected that as a result of the WE4A project 2,200 women-led enterprises enhance business capacities (measured by turnover increase, staff increase, access to value chains or reaching sector specific standards), 2,800 jobs are created in women-led enterprises. 5,300 existing jobs in supported enterprises are secured, 120 women-led enterprises secure second stage financing to further expand their businesses.
While Team Europe Initiative ‘Investing in Young Businesses in Africa’ (TEI IYBA ), supports early stage businesses and entrepreneurs especially women and young people in Africa in launching and growing sustainable, strong and inclusive businesses and creating decent jobs. It does so by extending the financial and technical support available to them in their early stages. It also strengthens the ecosystem of organizations supporting entrepreneurs and businesses, such as incubators and accelerators.
One example of such a programme in Nigeria is a new €15 million agenda to improve the digital innovation ecosystem in Nigeria. While the EU and Germany are financing it, it will be implemented by GIZ, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH.
This project also supports policy-makers and institutions such as the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) in promoting digital transformation and strengthening business support organisations by enabling more women and young people to develop their digital and entrepreneurial skills.
Activities have been divided into three components. They include entrepreneurship training and seed capital where 2,420 female entrepreneurs from across Sub-Saharan Africa will be enrolled in the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) Entrepreneurship Programme, which includes online training, mentoring and networking opportunities as well as a seed capital grant of 5000 USD.
The second is value chain and supplier development based on the GIZ Programme Employment and Skills for Africa`s (E4D) existing networks of African and European companies and industry stakeholders, female-led MSMEs who are alumni of the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) Entrepreneurship Programme, that pass the start-up stage will be integrated into the supply chains of larger lead businesses and provided with needs- based technical trainings.
The third stage which is financing, is incorporation with SAFEEM (Swiss Association for Entrepreneurship in Emerging Markets), female TEF alumni with a high growth potential will go through an acceleration and growth programme and receive 2nd stage financing of 10.000 EUR accompanied with technical assistance to further enhance their businesses. Top performing beneficiaries will receive further add-on financial support of up to 50.000 EUR paid as a non-repayable grant.
In his opening remarks, Dare described the partnership between European Union and Nigeria as productive as EU’s Youth focus is both energetic and productive.
While thanking the EU on behalf of the federal government for its contribution and support in other critical areas of development, Dare insisted that youth business is everybody’s business. He described the launch as timely and couldn’t have come at a better time as the youth sector continues to amplify the voices of over 33 million youth entrepreneurs in Nigeria who no longer need empowerment but are in need of investment. He referred to the Fate Institute’s report on, ‘state of entrepreneurship in Nigeria 2021’, which states that 43 and 67 percentages of entrepreneurs in the country are women and youth whose age brackets fall within 18 and 35 years respectively.
“The report examined three thematic areas: the entrepreneurial index in Nigeria, women and youth-led businesses and thirdly the impact of technology on businesses. It revealed that the state of entrepreneurship development in Nigeria continues to wax stronger, but access to finance, inadequate infrastructure and insecurity are major obstacles to the desired entrepreneurial growth. Measuring the state of entrepreneurship in Nigeria around five pillars of business performance; perception, opportunities, digital adoption, skill acquisition and enabling environment shines a major spotlight on the potentials that are yet to be harnessed. Most businesses in Nigeria are less than 10 years old and 49 per cent of them are also led by young people.”
He further stated that following the impact of COVID-19 on Nigeria’s entrepreneurial community, the government have understood that working with the private and civil sectors, there is need to establish a well-functioning entrepreneurial ecosystem that supports innovation and business growth.
Speaking at the event, the executive secretary of Lagos State Employment Trust Fund, Teju Abisoye, acknowledged that a major challenge being faced by businesses run by young people in Lagos is the fact that they lack adequate information, saying that documentation and documents management are often overlooked by a number of businesses including startups in the tech space.
She said before one finds a business that is good with its documentation, such business would have gotten the necessary training at one point or the other, insisting that documentation is pivotal, especially when a business owner wants to grow his or her business.
She said: “When you look at the micro small and medium businesses in Nigeria for example, most of them started from the bedrooms and living rooms. Most times, they start as family businesses before they eventually grow. And due to lack of structure, and not being able to distinguish one’s child and employee, creates a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation on how the businesses should be run.
“Interestingly for tech, there are not many women going into tech businesses. I guess they’re not ready to take that risk. There’s that fear. And that brings me to some of the challenges we also face in terms of acceleration, which is really ambitious. Most women are not ambitious enough. And cultural elements exist in Nigeria.”