The keynote speech was delivered by Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka.
Nigerian women entrepreneurs should take advantage of packages offered by banks for their use in order to bridge the gender gap in the business world, the Managing Director, Standard Chartered Bank Plc, has said.
The bank chief, Bola Adesola, urged women to get their banks involved in their businesses.
She said banks are ready to assist women in their business so as to bridge the gender gap with strategic product offers if women will open up to them and keep their banks in the picture.
“We need to engage our banks to see how they can partner with us in taking our businesses to the next level and ensure that our businesses thrive,” Ms. Adesola said at a two day annual conference organised by a Nigerian non-governmental organisation focused on women.
She said women lament the existence of a partiality in access to finance, in comparison with their male counterparts. They are also confined to petty or medium-sized trade because they are not aware of existing agreements, laws and policies concerning cross border trade. Hence, due to inadequate information, they cannot grow or export their businesses beyond their local environment.
Ms. Adesola said that a step towards accessing finance is for businesses to be properly managed and well documented. She explained that there are banks in Nigeria that offer special packages for women to aid their businesses.
“Moving a business to the next level in terms of exporting, for example or having strategic business partners in other countries is different, it means stepping up our game. We need to see our banks as our partners in business,” she said.
The bank chief said that there are policy initiatives that exist, that facilitates cross border trade for businesses: government and the private sector. She stated that in the finance sector, strategic policies such as the national single window initiative, to encourage one stop shopping, the free trade zones, the lifting of the tariffs on certain products, and various other reforms and policies exist.
“As an international bank, our focus is on Asia, Africa and the Middle East. The economic power globally is shifting from the West to these areas,” she said.
She encouraged the women to go to the bank’s website and check out its women resource centre.
“It gives a walk through on how to put your businesses together to get financing.
“We also have an international trade account. This means that you can make payment through counter parties in other countries where Standard Chartered bank exists for no fee, and even where they don’t exist, it cost a minimal fee. I know other banks offer such products as well.”
“We also facilitate account opening in the UAE. Some people use Dubai as their hub so that is another way in which we can help in making payment because whatever it is we do across borders involves payment” she said.
The Chairperson, Women in Management, Business and Public Service, WimBiz, Adeola Azeez, said the success of women would lead to a more prosperous nation.
“Women rarely get to experience this overall success. We spread ourselves thin trying to juggle work and family duties. We are systematically underpaid.
We are often frustrated by people who believe that there is no room for us on the corporate ladder: investors will not take us seriously and many of us lack a support system to help us overcome these challenges,” she said.
The Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, who was also the Keynote Speaker at the event, said women have been struggling for a long time.
“Make use of the law, including the criminal law. Men are different from women, but we are talking about rights, opportunities and treatment; equal wages for equal labour, social privileges and the likes. Refuse to accept the unacceptable,” he said.
He urged women to strengthen their structures and make use of women organisations locally and internationally.