The Federal Government on Thursday unveiled a new women empowerment programme to provide women in business with the opportunity to have access to market for their products, access to finance and capacity building.

The Women In Investment and Enterprise Project, which was launched by the Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Aisha Abubakar, will be implemented in partnership with the Growth and Empowerment in States programme.

It is aimed at boosting the development of the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises as the engine of growth by specifically providing the needed support for women in business to thrive and contribute to economic development.

Speaking at the formal inauguration of the programme in Abuja, Abubakar said the strategy of the government was to use the initiative to empower women and reduce the level of household poverty.

While recalling a saying that ‘poverty has the face of a woman,’ the minister said that any increase in the economic activities of women would trigger an increase in productivity and per capita income.

She said based on statistics, women owned about 30 per cent of registered SMEs in Nigeria, adding that the average growth rate of these businesses was far lower than those being run by men.

According to her, female entrepreneurs account for about 43.22 per cent in the ownership structure of micro-enterprises as against 22.76 per cent in SMEs, with only 10 per cent of them having access to finance needed to successfully launch new ventures or grow existing businesses.

Abubakar said, “If you empower a woman, you empower a nation, because you are not empowering her alone but triggering reduction in household poverty, increase in economic growth and productivity, and overall increase in per capital income.

“It is imperative for women to reach their potential and be critical elements for the attainment of inclusive growth and sustainable development, and ultimately providing a platform for the aspirations of next generation of women and girls.

“The project is a workable solution that will address some identified challenges facing micro businesses predominantly owned by women.”

The minister added that the programme was being implemented in seven states with enterprises that were commercially viable.

The states are Niger, Abia, Bauchi, Ebonyi, Akwa Ibom, Ogun and Kaduna.

In his comment at the event, the Acting Managing Director, Bank of Industry, Mr. Waheed Olagunju said that the bank would provide the needed funding to women in order to make the initiative succeed.

He assured the minister that any potentially viable business under the scheme would be fully funded by the bank without any limit.

A representative of the World Bank, Andrea Gaya, said the institution was in full support of the initiative as it fell within its developmental objective.



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