• Sunday, June 23, 2024
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Lagos State: Embracing the critical challenge of supporting female entrepreneurship

7 male dominated businesses where women are thriving in Nigeria

Globally, women occupy less than a third of senior and middle management positions, with female professionals in financial services making up about 30percent of the workforce at the senior management level in Africa, followed by healthcare and Telecoms, Media and Technology – according to a recent study from McKinsey. In addition, while just one in three businesses are owned by women, sub-Saharan Africa boasts the highest female entrepreneurship rate globally, even with most female-led enterprises afforded the minimal opportunity for growth.

In Nigeria, the spectrum of female entrepreneurship often ranges from Home-Based Businesses to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), which contribute more than 97percent of all enterprises, 60percent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 94percent of the total share of the employment. Recognising the indispensable role of women-owned enterprises in general economic development, both states, federal governments and Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) have supported the development of women-owned enterprises through access to finance, infrastructure and policy measures. Yet, despite these indicators, micro-entrepreneurship has not reached a satisfactory level for women.

Certain studies show that, typically, necessity-driven entrepreneurship is more dominant in emerging economies such as Nigeria. In the most recent Global Entrepreneurship Monitor survey, 74percent of female early-stage entrepreneurs reported that they were opportunity-driven entrepreneurs. With over 23 million female entrepreneurs in the country, there is still insufficient real economic empowerment and inclusion of women across the real sector of the economy. But if women were provided with the same education and financial opportunities as men, it suggests that they would be able to create higher-value entrepreneurship, which carries practical implications for policymakers and female entrepreneurs.

Women’s contribution to economic activities, especially job creation, is quite significant. For example, a survey report by the National Bureau of Statistics in collaboration with the Small & Medium Enterprise Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) revealed that out of 59.6 million jobs created by MSME operators in 2017, female entrepreneurs were responsible for 26 million jobs, equivalent to 43percent contribution when compared to 57percent contribution by their male counterparts. Similarly, a recent survey by the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF) to understand the drivers and dynamics of job creation within the MSME eco-system revealed that female entrepreneurs contribute as much as 35percent to employment generation in the MSME eco-system in Lagos State.

States such as Lagos, Abia, Edo, Gombe, Kwara, and Oyo have more female than male-led businesses. Lagos State is one of Nigeria’s most economically significant states and possesses a rich economic growth and transformation history. The megacity accounts for over 60percent of industrial and commercial activities in the nation, with 3,224,324 micro enterprises (of which women-owned 43.32percent), 15,044 small enterprises and 619 medium enterprises, of which women owned 22.7percent. In addition, Lagos is financially viable, generating over 75percent of its revenue independent of federal grants derived from oil revenues.

Read also: Nigeria ties Angola, Ghana in top women’s Entrepreneurial activity globally

But the pandemic has also affected many businesses in the state, especially women-owned enterprises. Before COVID-19, 63percent of businesses reported their profits increased compared to the year before, but the pandemic halted that progress. As a result, 80percent of businesses reported their profits fell, while half of all businesses said they could not cover their operating expenses. The pandemic also amplified the gendered inequalities in society by making women more vulnerable to its residual effects. Even before COVID-19, owning an SME was challenging, and women already faced an estimated $1.5 trillion credit gap expected to widen.

During this year’s International Women’s Day, the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu said, “Available statistics and indices of development have shown that societies where women are active partners and participants in development are more likely to attain a higher level of prosperity, growth and progress. Such societies have shown that, like a bird, which requires the two wings to fly and soar, the desired levels of growth and development can only be achieved when the potentials of the two genders are optimally harnessed”.

“In Lagos State, our commitment to this yearly celebration reflects our belief in the critical role our women must play and are playing side-by-side with the men. Today, the state has one of the highest number of women in any state cabinet in the country. That was and remains a deliberate decision”, he confirmed.Therefore, any government focused on achieving sustainable economic development must intentionally support female-owned businesses.

For women in Lagos State, the CARES Programme by the government offered a safety net and provided economic relief. Since the pandemic, the programme has directly supported vulnerable households and indirectly supported 145,058 individuals and over 2,512 MSMEs.”The CARES project is an integral part of the national approach, adopted to alleviate the burden of the COVID-19 pandemic and enhance the wellbeing of our people,” said the governor during the announcement.

In two previous reports released by PricewaterhouseCoopers, women’s participation and representation in the private and public sectors were highlighted as a major factor that affected the impact of women on Nigeria’s economic development; the second being the challenges women face in the formal services sector with an emphasis on ICT, financial services and Higher Education. Additional underlying factors include inherent discrimination, unequal access of women and girls to education, inadequate access to economic resources, unequal access to political participation, various forms of violence explicitly experienced by women and girls(SGBV), amongst others.

Recognising that greater participation for women in business is vital for economic recovery and societal advancement for all, the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF) is consistently focused on bridging the finance gap for women entrepreneurs in Lagos through its Women Entrepreneur Fund (W-initiative) loan scheme in partnership with Access Bank Plc.The intervention also aims to provide financial support to female business owners and is open to female business owners in Lagos State across three components.

Other initiatives instituted by the state for women include the Entrepreneurship Skill Acquisition/Development Programmes, the introduction of Virtual Market for Artisans, ANDELA training for youths and collaboration with Betti-O School of Fashion, powered by Ruff N Tumble, among several others. The state has also become a national pioneer in introducing six-month fully-paid maternity leave and paternity leave to allow fathers to work-free time to support their partners after childbirth.

Empowering female entrepreneurs is a critical challenge that calls for constant review of policy priorities, the commitment of adequate financial resources and the design and effective implementation of women-specific intervention programs. The advocacy for women’s economic empowerment has grown over the last decade, with many companies, governments and experts significantly promoting it. But there remains enough disparity among stakeholders, which calls for governments, NGOs, brands and businesses involved to have policies, initiatives, strategies and products in place that willencourage women to have access to education,property rights, access to leadership roles, access to business loans, access to mobile banking and gender equality.

In many ways, the Sanwo-Olu-led administration has demonstrated a broader understanding of how best to support female entrepreneurs. But it is also essentialto redress the deeply entrenched inequalities of opportunity and build an economy that works better for all citizens.

Oluwafisayo is a social activist, community organizer and advocate for female empowerment in Lagos State.