Wider Perspectives Limited, a firm specialising in human capital development and business processes consulting especially in the south-south and east has undertaken to groom 50 small business owners in Bayelsa State.
The firm would handhold them till they are able to meet international standards able to access support and finance through global best practices.
The firm disclosed this in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State capital, at a panel session on ‘Women in Business: Challenges and Prospects’, which was part of a forum on ‘‘Exploring Opportunities through the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA): with focus on Women-led Businesses” aimed at providing insight to SMEs in Bayelsa State and beyond to see and explore opportunities in the African market.
Wider Perspectives Limited (WPL) delivered the forum in collaboration with Bayelsa State Government through the Ministry of Trade, Industry & Investment (MTII) and Yenagoa Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines & Agriculture (YECCIMA).
The managing director of Wider Perspectives, Edughom Hanson, who disclosed the intention of the firm, was one of the panelists on ‘Women in Business’ along with Funmilayo Arowoogun (National President, NECA’s Network of Entrepreneurial Women (NNEW)), Achilam Chioma Fidel (Head of Gender, Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment), Faith Opene (Commissioner, Ministry of Women, Children Affairs, Empowerment & Social Development (MWCAESD), Bayelsa State) who was represented by Stephanie Ekinabhari Dumatein (Permanent Secretary, MWCAESD), Embeleaklo Apere (DG, Bayelsa State Microfinance & Enterprise Development Agency (BYMEDA)) represented by Seiyefa Akeboa. It was moderated by Taribo Walson Oweifawari.
The panel was able to establish that for women-led businesses to strive, deliberate steps and interventions have to be taken to support women-led business to access finance, technology, and digital skills, access to market and business development skills. The Government should endeavour to eliminate the constraint faced by women in the society such as inadequate access to finance because of some traditional or customary laws/structure; non-inclusion as shareholders, especially in family-owned businesses.
Many women-led businesses operate informally, so they are not able to access interventions and growth opportunities. The way forward is for the Government and Organised Private Sector (OPS) to build capacity of business through cluster development and business development initiative.
It further revealed that women-led businesses are usually concentrated in the services, hospitality, and retail trade industries. These are vulnerable industries and the first to feel the impact of economic crush or instability. The government, therefore, should provide specific business support to businesses within the space.
Key recommendations from the panel on women-led business were that banks and other financial institutions should develop tailor-made programmes to ensure accelerated access to finance by women-led businesses. The Government should support ownership of assets including land and building for women; promote and enact laws that give women right to family inheritance; this improves ability to access funds for business growth.
The Government in collaboration with the private sector and non-governmental agencies should increase grant provision through technical and direct financial assistance.
It was at this point that CEO of Wider Perspectives pledged to handhold 50 sound SMEs in Bayelsa State under WPL Business Acceleration Programme free of charge.
The Business Linkages Forum, Yenagoa, is one of WPL annual SME Conferences Series which holds in Abia, Akwa Ibom, Rivers and Bayelsa states. The Forum, which is private sector driven, provided avenue for SMEs and stakeholders in the SME landscape to engage, network, share information, promote their brand, exhibit, make sales and connect to large buyers. The core of the forum is to drive and promote SMEs; supporting them to scale.
The forum held at the D.S.P Alamieyeseigha Memorial Banquet Hall, Yenagoa attracted over 169 participants.
Speakers at the forum included a Warmate Jones Idikio (lawyer, founder, AfCFTA Roundtable) as the keynote speaker. Patience Abah (Permanent Secretary, MTII) gave the welcome remarks on behalf of Otokito Federal Oparminola (Commissioner, MTII).
The programme overview was presented by Hanson of WPL. Patience Abah shared with participants the ‘Bayelsa State MSME drive and opportunities for SMEs to leverage. The technical session followed immediately after the keynote presentation.
The first panel discussion focused on ‘Exploring Opportunities through AfCFTA with focus on Bayelsa State’. The major outcome from the panel was to leverage public and private partnerships to eliminate barriers to intra-African trade especially at the boarders.