•Calls on FG to assign 20% of public procurement to women in business
FIRST Lady Aisha Buhari has announced her commitment towards harnessing the potentials of 200,000 Nigerian women entrepreneurs for participation in global marketplace.
She gave this commitment, while speaking as the Special Guest of Honour at the Nigeria Women in Export Stakeholders Forum and Exhibition, which was organised by Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) with support from International Trade Centre (ITC), at international Trade Centre, Abuja, on Wednesday.
Mrs Buhari, who said her decision was in support of the organisers’ initiative at connecting one million women entrepreneurs to global marketplace by 2020, also called on the Federal Government to assign 20 per cent of public procurement to women in business.
In declaring her support for this initiative in Nigeria, Mrs Buhari said “I hereby announce my full support to the call to action of the NEPC towards galvanising stakeholders in the public and private sectors, to harness the potentials of 200,000 Nigerian women entrepreneurs to scale up access to domestic, regional and international markets.
“Achieving this action will enhance jobs creation and enrich the national economic positive initiatives of this present administration.”
In the same vein, she said “I will like to lead a call to the FG to assign 20 per cent of public procurement to women on business. Because we believe that when a woman gets it right, consider everything done.”
This, she said would help in creating jobs and unleash economic growth in an increasing digital and interconnected global economy, as according to her “we believe that when a woman gets it right, consider everything done.”
The First Lady, who described Nigerian women as “extremely hardworking women,” but who only needed a little push, said women would succeed as entrepreneurs if given a chance in the competitive global economy.
Mrs Buhari lauded the NEPC/ITC initiative, saying it supported the country’s drive at achieving zero oil growth, and women inclusiveness in global trade, which she said was linked closely to the fulfilment of the Millennium Development Growth in the area of gender equality and women empower.
“This is why I’m not surprised that the organisers of this forum have chosen the theme “Achieving Zero Oil Growth through Women Inclusiveness in Global Trade,” Mrs Buhari said.
She asserted that “indeed, women inclusiveness in global trade will definitely lead to sustainable economic growth and enable a nation achieve its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), employment and decent work for all.”
According to her, the development tallies with the choice of the present administration, which she said “emphasises on economic diversification and all inclusive socio-economic growth.
Therefore, the First Lady said “understanding the interlinkages required for achieving the national economic growth is to welcome development.”
She congratulated the ITC’s initiative on women entrepreneurship simply called #SheTrade Initiative for its campaign on the social media, especially “for creating a rallying point for stakeholders all over the world to come together in areas set out in call for action to address trade barriers and create greater opportunities for women entrepreneurs.”
Mrs Buhari said “traditionally, women in Nigeria have always participated in export trade; this varies from individuals production and marketing through participation in good production for produce development and supply through cooperative, women associations and individual enterprises.
“I’m pleased that NEPC’s effort in export development programmes and galvanising stakeholders on the relevance of women in trade and activating the gender components of the nation’s action plan for accelerated implementation of for women export strategy.
“The initiative has identified enormous economic potentials with which Nigeria can implement its cooperative advantage.
“If Nigerian women are supported, they will contribute to the nation and better all in the economic development of the nation,” Mrs Buhari said.
Wife of the Vice President, Mrs Dolapo Osinbajo, who accompanied Mrs Buhari to the programme, in her keynote address, also established the need to give women a chance in the scheme of things, as she said they labour in the areas of child raising and home keeping, and much more suffer humiliation from harsh conditions they are, in some cases subjected to.
“Let’s give our women a chance,” Mrs Osinbajo said, while also speaking rhetorically, on the agonies women go through in fulfilling their roles in the society.
Earlier in his address, Mr Olusegun Awolowo, Executive Director/CEO, Nigeria Export Promotion Council (NEPC), said the ITC #SheTrade initiative was an opportunity to accelerate the country’s economic growth through increased participation of Nigerian women in global trade.
The opportunity, he said was long overdue for “our women who dominate our non-oil export sectors such as cocoa, cashew, hides, palm and sugar.”
Awolowo said the time has come for Nigeria to move away from dependence on one single commodity, as though the crude oil accounts for over 90 per cent of Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings and about 70 per cent of government income, but as a country, he said “this is not sustainable.”
Hence, Awolowo said: “NEPC in our role as the premier federal agency responsible for the development and promotion of all non-oil exports, do not only want to see Nigeria thrive in a world of ‘zero-oil,’ we want this done holistically and inclusively to diversify our productive capabilities.
To achieve its goal, Awolowo said there is need to call to action pillar one, which is data collection, data analysis and dissemination, adding that “we have already amended our Export License Application form in order to identify women owned businesses.
He said NEPC, in fulfilling its first commitment commissioned a diagnostic field research on export survival strategies for women.
With this, he said NEPC has found from respondents covering prospective, current and previously exporting women that: “85 per cent find export difficult; 46 per cent have difficulty accessing buyers and 42 per cent complain about lacking access to relevant market information.”
From the findings, he said the improvements these women are looking for: “73 per cent are in need of common facility centres; 77 per cent are looking for easier access to finance; 53 per cent stopped exporting all together because of the cost of freighting at our ports.”
Awolowo, however, said the NEPC’s future intervention with women-owned business should framed around the issues raised.
Ms Arancha Gonzalez, Executive Director, International Trade Centre (ITC), in her keynote address, stressed ITC’s interests in developing women’s businesses globally, since women-owned businesses represent between one quarter and one third of enterprises globally.
However, she said they are “prevalent in less productive sectors, and are largely invincible in global value chains and in corporate and government supply chains.”
Therefore, she said “it is essential that policy makers, institutions, business and thought leaders identify and implement strategies fit for 21st century that leverage technology, foster conducive business environments, establish supportive institutional frameworks and increase the competitiveness of women-owned businesses.”
Also, in his goodwill message, Mr Tony Elumelu, Founder, Tony Elumelu Foundation, lauded the #SheTrades Initiative, which seeks to connect one million women to global market place by 2020.
He said “this is very important step towards women’s empowerment,” as according to him, “it is in our enlightened self-interest because advancing women’s equality could add $28 trillion to global GDP by 2015.”
Elumelu said: “While women make up more than 50 per cent of the world’s population and do the bulk of farming, fail my care and a lot of the work it takes to keep families and communities running, yet their labours are hardly counted, much less valued in currency.”