A group of professional and business women has advised the Federal Government to address issues affecting women-owned businesses in Nigeria.
The Association of Nigerian Women Business Network gave the advice through its National Business Agenda launched in Abuja last week.
The launch, which was witnessed by dignitaries from government, public agencies, the private sector, diplomatic circle and civil society, was held at Barcelona Hotel in Wuse II district of the federal capital city.
Developed with the support of the Center for International Private Enterprise, an affiliate of the American Chamber of Commerce, the agenda offers a guide to addressing challenges business and professional women face in Nigeria.
Based on a research into priority issues affecting women-owned businesses in the country, it made policy recommendations for addressing four key challenges and for generally fostering Nigeria’s economic growth.
The challenges include lack of government patronage for made in Nigeria goods, and poor access to finance for women-owned businesses.
The others are inadequate consultation and inclusion of women business and professional associations in politics, economic and socio-cultural matters at all tiers of government, as well as illegal, arbitrary and double taxation of businesses by government institutions in the country.
“The agenda is basically a device employed by Nigerian professional and business women who are entrepreneurs to identify policies, regulations and legal provisions that hamper business activities at different areas in the nation”, national coordinator of the group, Nkiru Okpala, said at the launch.
“This is a tool that educates the private sectors on public policies that affect them, identifies the regulations or bureaucratic measures that hinder business activities in the nation, and proffers positive solutions for reforms”, Mrs. Okpala said.
In a goodwill message, Dikko Radda, Director-General of Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria, SMEDAN, commended the association for coming up with the agenda.
He said the document was timely, considering that it offers concise and concrete recommendations and reformative actions that will improve the economic situations of women doing business in Nigeria.
Mr. Radda said the timing was also auspicious considering that the Federal Government was exploiting the huge but untapped potentials of Nigerian women by aligning them into the mainstream of political and economic activities.
“Women make up 49.6% of Nigeria’s population. This figure becomes even more significant in rural Nigeria where women contribute more than 65% of labour resources to agricultural production, storage, processing and marketing of food crops.
“Women ownership of business enterprises in Nigeria accounted for 43.22% as against 56.68% for micro enterprises, while female accounts for 22.76% as against 77.24% for male in the small and medium enterprises. This is a clear indication that women need to do more to mainstream their micro enterprises into small and then medium”, he said.
Mr. Radda said the agenda would redefine the ownership structure of businesses and realign them to the advantage of Nigerian women.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, said the agenda will place in focus, key actions needed to mitigate the challenges faced by women in business in order to improve their performance.
“The current economic recession the country is confronted with demands such as focused actions to motivate and mobilise a critical mass of female private sector operators to participate actively and grow the economy through wealth creation, employment generation, export promotion, import reduction or substitution with high quality made in Nigeria goods and services for economic diversification”, the minister said at the event.
“The time is ripe to call for total elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, especially women in business, if they are to participate meaningfully in the much needed economic recovery and growth processes at this critical period,” Mr. Ngige added.
The Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, lauded the group for the efforts it took to put the agenda together. He said the outcome would improve the chances of success in their future endeavours.
“These endeavours will in no small measure contribute to the fast growth of the Nigerian economy through diversification which is the target of this administration”, he said.
“I am particularly appreciative of the fact that the private sector is playing a critical role to complement government’s effort to enhance the economic and social development of the country by improving sustainable entrepreneurial development among women in all the states and local government areas of the nation through research, advocacy, and policy reform initiatives.
“I would like to assure you that government in return, is willing to collaborate with the private sector by ensuring that conducive environment exists for businesses to thrive in the country”. Mr Amaechi said.
The ANWBN was formed by 18 women business organisations in February 2013 to aid government and policy makers in Nigeria to map out practical means of actualising sustainable results and thereby enhance the environment for business to operate.
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