Loan Equality: Amina Oyagbola Supporting Nigeria’s Women Entrepreneurs from the Ground Up
Nigeria’s working women are being held back by poor legal protection and limited access to resources. For too long, women have been excluded, discriminated against, marginalized, and underrepresented in government policies and programs in Nigeria, and founder of “Women in Successful Careers” (WISCAR), Amina Oyagbola, is working to fight the long held systemic biases against women.
Amina took the time to discuss the history of discrimination against women in Nigeria, how it affects their ability to qualify for loans, and how organizations like hers are working to support Nigerian women from the ground up.
The patriarchal nature of Nigerian society continues to negatively impact the participation of women in both formal and information decision-making. There are several socio-cultural, economic and political factors involved in various dimensions in gender inequality and discrimination. This inequality poses serious threats to Nigeria’s quest for democratic consolidation and sustainable development. Finding gender equity in the workplace is only the first step towards allowing women equal opportunities in society. And for female entrepreneurs, the problems don’t end there.
The International Labour Organisation released a report on progress at the beginning of 2019 which reported on gender equality, explaining that many of these challenges still exist. However, the report expressed that a future where women no longer lagged behind men was achievable. The catch? It will take major leaps and bounds to get there, not just the small, incremental steps we have been taking.
At present, 42% of Nigerian women are business owners, but only 2% have access to business loans. This staggering statistic robs Nigerian women of their agency and disallows them from actively participating in society. A 2012 access survey by EFInA — Enhancing Financial Innovation and Access — explains that in Nigeria, only 38% of adult women have access to formal financial services compared to 47% of men — and yet, more than 40% of the women get their income from trading or running their own business. This is due in part to the fact that Nigerian women are less likely to be taken seriously by investors, which in turn limits their access to formal funding.
And now for the good news: In March of 2019, a Nigerian financial institution First City Monument Bank (FCMB) unveiled #SheVentures, a proposition to support the growth of business owned or managed by women. This proposition will provide mentorship, capacity building and training, and access to loans. Through a network of qualified mentors carefully selected by the bank, #SheVentures will offer Nigerian Business women access to guidance, motivation, emotional support, and role modelling. The best part? Access to loans at zero or competitive interest rates. FCMB will offer short-term loans to female customers who need quick access to funds, making progress towards leveling the playing field for female entrepreneurs.
In addition to these major changes being implemented by FCMB, there are other organizations also developing women to build a better nation. One such organization is WISCAR (Women in Successful Careers). During her long professional and corporate career, Amina Oyagbola, founder of WISCAR, constantly recognized a gaping need for an institutional framework that would provide professional women inspiration, motivation, guidance, and support to help them better navigate their different career pathways. Their goal is to initiate and promote the emergence of a highly motivated, and talented female workforce that are not only valuable role models, but also agents of positive cultural and policy change within their respective organizations and spheres of influence.
Amina Oyagbola’s Final Thoughts
Nigeria’s female entrepreneurs represent the highest participation rate in the world; however, despite their change agents and efforts, Nigerian women are not being supported to the fullest. As Amina Oyagbola has mentioned, the change needs to stem from within and address issues affecting the access to education, the lack of mentor and role model programs, and the lack of financial support from financial institutions. #SheVentures is a critical step in the right direction for Nigeria, with more financial opportunities Nigerian women will continue to develop their business skills and dominate the markets!