SPEECH PRESENTED BY THE NATIONAL COORDINATOR OF THE ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIAN WOMEN BUSINESS NETWORK (ANWBN) – BARR. NKIRU JOY OKPALA – DURING AN ADVOCACY VISIT TO THE GOVERNOR OF THE CENTRAL BANK OF NIGERIA ON TUESDAY, 25TH DAY OF APRIL, 2017 AT 10:00AM, AT THE CBN HEADQUARTERS, ABUJA
We express our profound gratitude to the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, for deeming it important, granting us this audience. We are most grateful for this reception, and pray that the outcome will be far-reaching and beneficial to not just Women in Business, but the generality of the Nigerian People.
The Association of Nigerian Women Business Network is a coalition of 18 Women Business and Professional Associations in Nigeria with a membership of over 920, 000 Women Entrepreneurs who had come together with the common aim of encouraging and improving sustainable entrepreneurial development among women through research, advocacy and policy reform initiatives. The Association was born in Lagos, in the month of February, 2013, with the support of the Centre for International Private Enterprise, (CIPE) a core Institute of the USA National Endowment for Democracy, specifically dedicated to building the civic institutions vital to democratic society, particularly on business advocacy, and enterprise ecosystems.
ANWBN was established to serve as a unifying voice to address effectively, issues affecting business and professional women across the entire nation. Since its birth, CIPE has been doing a lot, including capacity development of key officers of all the 18 Member Organizations of ANWBN to ensure its growth and sustainability. It has also supported ANWBN in carrying out relevant research works that enabled ANWBN come up with Policy Documents and Business Agenda, which had been given great recognition by relevant Government Agencies in Nigeria. We here, today, present to CBN, the National Women Business Agenda, and the Compiled Reports that led to the formation of the Agenda. To a large extent, these are aiding in addressing some of the anomalies within the business environment wherein women operate in the nation. However, a huge lot still needs to be done, and that is why we are here today to see how we can work together for enhanced productivity and growth of the nation’s economy and its sustainability.
The Founding Member Organizations of ANWBN are:
- Association of Nigerian Women in Business – ANWIB
- Association of Women Farmers of Nigeria – AWFN
- Country Women Association of Nigeria – COWAN
- ECOWA Federation of Business Women
Entrepreneurs – FEBWE
- International Federation of Business and
Professional Women – BPW-Nigeria
- International Women Society of Lagos – IWS
- Market Women Association
- NACCIMA Women Wing – NAWORG
- NASME Women Wing – NASME Women
- NECA’s Network of Entrepreneurial Women – NNEW
- Nigerian Association of Women Entrepreneurs – NAWE
- Nigerian Network of Women Exporters of Services – NNWES
- Women Entrepreneurship Program – AWEP Nigeria
- Women in Business and Management – WIMBIZ
- Women in Successful Careers – WISCAR
- Women’s Consortium of Nigeria – WOCON
- Women’s International Shipping and
Trading Association of Nigeria – WISTA
- Women’s Rights Advancement and
Protection Alternative – WRAPA
ANWBN is still open for Membership.
There is no doubt that a conducive business environment is a pathway to personal enhancement, prosperity, economic growth and indeed, national development. It is a major driver for positive competitiveness, job creation and citizens’ participation in sustainable development of any nation. Moreover, a nation like ours where women constitute over 50% of the entire population, and where it has also been proven that majority of these women are entrepreneurial, but lack adequate support for business survival, taking a deep look into what constitute challenges and impediments to their growth and sustainability as well as mapping out credible and viable means of addressing these challenges are paramount steps towards the growth of the nation’s economy.
One major mistake we sometimes make in this nation is that we regard ‘Women and Girls’ as mere special interest group, forgetting their numeric strength, we sometimes forget they are even the major players when we consider the field of Small and Medium Enterprise. Yet, the truth remains that Females’ economic power enhances the wealth and well-being of nations. Indeed, we cannot have true democratic governance without the inclusion of women who compose about half the entire population. It will amount to leaving half the entire population behind. Women, therefore, must be accorded their rightful and equitable positions in all spheres and hemisphere of life – politically, economically, and socially.
There is no doubt that the economic situation in Nigeria today is quite worrisome. Poverty still remains a real problem and unemployment is ravaging the talents of our youths. The fact that Nigeria is not a magnet for international investment despite the abundance of natural resources in it remains a thing of immense concern. The Global Economic Forum found in its study that Africa leads the world in the number of women starting businesses, and over 40.7% of adult women in Nigeria are the owners and managers of their own businesses. The number keeps increasing. Among the Committee of Nations, Nigeria undoubtedly has abundant human and natural resources with a lot of Potentials, which are under-utilized or untapped. It is unfortunate that despite its huge population, even with women constituting over 50%, the situation is still unfortunate.
World studies have shown that if gender gaps can be closed in different area like health, education and economic enterprise, poverty eradication can be accelerated. UNDP had further stressed in its 2016, Study on Human Development, that “Achieving Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment is the right thing to do and it is a development imperative”.
The Nigerian Government has severally expressed its commitment to gender parity and women empowerment. It has also theoretically proven to address women’s rights and economic empowerment by means of ratifying some relevant Conventions and Protocols, subscribing to Policies Promoting Women’s Rights, and Economic Empowerment. There is no doubt that one of the impediments to the economic growth of women is Poor Access to Finance. A lot of policies had been made on this Issue, and several huge amounts of money, set out to particularly address Women’s Access to Finance. However, most of these policies on reducing the bottle-necks to Accessing Finance are still at the level of the books, the effects are still myopic when it comes to results on implementations and general evaluation.
We have, therefore, come to reason together on this issue, and to also see how we can harness our different potentials for economic growth and national development.
- A lot has been said about the N220B MSMED FUND, 60% of which should be for Women MSMEs. We are concerned about this, and so, we shall be glad to have first-hand information as to the level of Success in the project execution; how these funds are so far, being disbursed; what percentage of Women had been able to access these Funds; and what are the success stories like? ANWBN wants to be involved. One of the Major Issues on our National Women Business Agenda is addressing Poor Access to Credits for Women-Owned Businesses. We would be glad to have data on that to enhance our works.
- We are aware that the CBN runs series of Trainings/Capacity Buildings Programmes for Non-Financial Institutions. ANWBN is in need of such, and thus, she is appealing to be fully engaged in such programmes by the CBN and its Agencies or Subordinates.
- We have Cooperatives within the different Member Organizations of ANWBN, but we need Capacity Development on Cooperatives handling so that our Women who are in all States of the Federation can properly harness the benefits in engaging in Cooperatives.
- Another issue we are advocating for is Adequate Consultation and Inclusion of Women Business and Professional Associations in Economic, and Socio-Cultural and Political Matters at all Tiers of Government. We ask that CBN gets ANWBN and other Women Business and Professional Associations involved whenever issues bothering on women are being tabled. That is a perfect way of Inclusiveness, leaving no one behind, as demanded by the Sustainable Development Agenda, which Nigeria has acceded to.
- We are organizing a National Women Business Summit in Abuja on 18th and 19th of July, 2017. We want CBN to Partner with us on this Summit. The Theme of the program is “Empowering the Women in Business, Pivotal to Ending Recession; and Paramount to Achieving Sustainable Development Goals”.
With your wealth of experience and intellectual abilities at CBN, we are certain that we have an icon to collaborate with. We, therefore, urge you, to please, keep your doors open for ANWBN. Place us in a special part of your heart, because we shall always be knocking at your doors for the sake of the Nigerian Women in Business.
We commit again to our common goal, that is, to have a great nation Nigeria, where the Agencies of Governance deliver to the needs of its people through properly focused actions. We must build better political, social and economic environment that benefits the society as a whole. We admit that it is not the duty of government alone to create enabling environment for businesses to thrive, it is also the responsibility of the business operators, as well as that of groups like ours, to ensure proficiency and best practices for national development. So for us to achieve a lot in reviving our economy, all hands must be on deck. We are ready to do our bits, but we seek your unalloyed support to ensure our bits go far.
The journey to Sustainable Development no doubt, demands a collective-moving spirit which will benefit the nation, and speedily draw us out of the current economic turmoil. It demands a pragmatic approach to appropriate policy formulation, robust programme designs, focused implementation and effective monitoring and evaluation mechanisms in a genial climate of political will, genuine commitment and national re-orientation. ANWBN is open for Service. We are committed to work together with all Government Agencies, so that we can walk far with laudable results. Our future greatly depends on us. We must, therefore, take the right steps. We must all be united in this cause.
Once again, we express our profound gratitude to you, for this great opportunity to address our issues. It is our optimism that you will handle our requests positively with kids gloves, and aptly. We ask that all through your tenure in office, the Almighty shall equip you with all the tools you need for outstanding success, with very robust and iconic innovative ideas for economic growth. May He continually direct your paths.
In general, ANWBN continues to advocate for a market economy which would provide efficient and sustainable systems. We are clamoring for continued partnership between CBN and ANWBN for us to move positively towards the actualization of profound economic growth and sustainability. We look forward to our Nigeria becoming one of the first nations in the actualization of the Agenda 2030 – Sustainable Development Goals. With united zeal, we are certain God will help us in this cause.
THANK YOU VERY MUCH, SIR!
Barr. Nkiru Joy Okpala.
National Coordinator, ANWBN