By Bimbola Oyesola
Nigerian women have come a long way in entrepreneurship despite challenges ranging from finance, infrastructure and the new normal of COVID-19 pandemic. But to surmount these challenges, the National Coordinator of the Association of Nigeria Women Business Network (ANWBN), an umbrella association for women business in Nigeria, Mrs. Anita Nana Okuribido, said it would be easier for women to be excluded from paying taxes on their labour.
The Association, which championed the campaign for patronage of Made-in-Nigeria products , believes that rather than overburden women with taxes, some pallatives that would be enticing to encourage them to go into business should be provided.
I really praise God for the privilege He has given me, to be the leader of the apex organisation and umbrella body for women entrepreneurs and professionals in Nigeria. It is a very great honour for me and I praise God for it.
The expectation for women during our summit, which had the theme: From fear to hope; Scaling Women’s Business in the Decade of Action. Honestly, the expectations of the women would actually commence from so many of the initiatives that ANWBN would be launching.
First and foremost, is the Women’s National Business Agenda that is being reviewed to go with the trending of the new normal since our businesses got hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a rude shock to women in particular. Like I’ve always said, this coronavirus pandemic has the face of a woman. First, it’s a wife that is bearing the brunt of the pandemic, either with the husband or children that has to stay at home 24/7 and she has to take care of them. It is something she has not experienced probably all through her marriage and being the mother, most of the time after 3 months, you go back to work, drop your children off at creche or school. But for the first time, you find yourself being at home 24/7 for about 3 to 5 months, continuously. It has not been easy because you have to rediscover your husband and your children. After that you have to attend to your business, staying at home doing the business that you normally go out to do, network and all that. Having to do this, particularly for women, who are not digitally skilled, it is a big challenge. So, the expectations for women in this summit, is for them to learn so much from all the wonderful speakers that we are bringing from government, from the private sector, global institutions, global organisations, academic institutions and security institutions. And the fact that we are now working with the five pillars, the priority issues of the Women’s National Business Agenda (WNBA).
Each of the priority, starting from the insecurity insurgency which COVID-19 has now taken a big chunk of have to be discussed in detail. The second one is the infrastructure and road network, lack of electricity is the third priority issue and the fourth one is the inclusion of women in governance. The fifth and last but not the least is lack of finance. So, the expectations are so high because we have gotten speakers from government, private sector, academics from the global institutions to handle each of the pillars. So, they would air their views and if possible network us to how we can actually achieve this. For finance, ANWBN is already planning to have a Women’s Empowerment Fund. So, I am sure that the speakers we would have from Central Bank, Commercial banks and other financial institutes would show us the roadmap of how we can have our own ANWBN empowerment fund. The same with governance, women inclusion and a lot of policy framework would need to be reviewed and by the time we get talking, the expectation would be so high that ANWBN would be promised the 35 percent Affirmative Action for women, at all levels of governance. We would definitely make sure that we tie the loose ends during this summit. For the priority issue on electricity, we are hoping to have the Minister of Power or his representative to come and talk to us about the challenges, the bottlenecks and how we can move forward to have the supply of electricity that would be seamless. Even if we have to go into energy efficiency programs and initiatives in renewable energy, like having own rural community, one solar hub, one Nigerian child, one solar lamp for education. So, we must have some specific initiatives confirmed through the supply of electricity forming Community Based Organisations, so that we can have the supply of electricity for occupational clusters in the communities. The expectations are just high and we are going to have high level speakers talk to us. Also, we are having stakeholders in the renewable energy sector to also show us the entrepreneurship aspects of how we can achieve having electricity supply and also make some money with the supply of electricity. So, it cannot be in the hands of the government alone. Individuals can now come in and be operators and be part of the Green economy. I am also a consultant, a specialist in the Green economy itself, a big player in it and by the grace of God, I will definitely lend my own voice to my beliefs and give the roadmap that I think women should take and be energy independent, energy sufficient and energy efficient. Coming back to the road network and transportation, we have all seen the decadence in this type of infrastructure. Most women for their road safety would have preferred to have more of their produce being transported by the railway corrridor, by the sea and so on and so forth. So, you just get to the port or railway with all your well packaged produce, with your waybill and send your produce to another station within the country or even outside the country. When we have such infrastructure, then we would have seamless operations and have the ease of doing business seamlessly. What we have now because of infrastructure, is a situation where you want to follow your goods to be sure that your goods get to the next station. We don’t need all that, you can spend your time doing some other things, giving your other services. You can see that productivity now with the lack of infrastructures shows that what we have is very low productivity. During the summit, we would be able to open up and strategise on how we can fill that gap of decadence in infrastructure, so that our women can now have a seamless road transportation, sea, air, and other forms of transportation that we need to apply to get our goods from one place to the other.
I’m very enthused to state that ANWBN happens to be the very first organisation to stage and organise a Webinar in Nigeria, Africa, or probably all over the world during the announcement of COVID-19 lockdown. We were not deterred at all. Normally, before COVID-19 set in, the National executives, zonal and state excos met physically periodically, to move the organisation forward. But with COVID-19, we were very proactive putting on our thinking cap quickly and with the help of our researcher for the Women National Business Agenda (WNBA), Mrs Bimbo Osuchukwu, we had the first Webinar and it was well attended. There we discussed the validation of WNBA and it was the right time for us to discuss COVID-19, to look ahead and suggest ways to mitigate the threats when the new normal comes in and how we would be able to tackle it. And the communuque which now happens to be the first project for ANWBN in the new normal is the digital skill acquisition for women. We discovered that, that is the way forward for the new normal post COVID-19 and we have been able to follow this thereafter. We have had series of Webinars thereafter. We were also able to have a lot of conferences, workshops on innovation having world renowned innovation guru, Morris Langdon from the United States and business consultant, Angela Faloye also from the United States. We then had a huge conference with the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), our international partner, the International director, Barbara Langley attended.
From the government, we had the representative of the Senior Special Adviser on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s), Princess Adejoke Orelope Adefuliere. We have had a series with the people attending conferences.