Women entrepreneurs worldwide face significant barriers to accessing financial services. Research shows that women-owned entities represent more than 30 percent of registered businesses globally, but only 10 percent of women entrepreneurs have access to the capital needed to grow their businesses(1). In Nigeria, there is a persistent gender gap in financial inclusion, with only 34 percent of women having access to a bank account versus 54 percent of men(2).
The Road to Women’s Business Growth initiative aims to address this gap by building the business management and financial literacy skills of women entrepreneurs, empowering them with the knowledge and tools they need to grow profitable and sustainable businesses. The project is implemented in collaboration with the Enterprise Development Centre of Pan-Atlantic University, Diamond Bank and Emerging360.
The initiative kicked off at the end of 2015 in Lagos, Abuja and Uyo. To date, 500 women small business owners have received training in business management and financial literacy. The custom-built curriculum, which combines in-class instruction and online learning, is specifically designed to meet the needs of women owners of small businesses in Nigeria. Over the next six months, the women entrepreneurs will continue to receive support to build their businesses, with 100 of them receiving more intensive business support, including workshops, mentoring, and linkages to financial services, investment, and markets.
The Road to Women’s Business Growth initiative was celebrated today at a special event to mark International Women’s Day at the Enterprise Development Centre of Pan-Atlantic University in Lagos. Cherie Blair, founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and wife of the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, said, “Women entrepreneurs play a powerful role in their societies and economies, often succeeding against huge odds. My Foundation is committed to supporting women in developing and emerging markets to access the skills, networks, technology and financial services they need to establish and grow successful businesses.” She continued, “Our Road to Women’s Business Growth initiative will empower Nigerian women entrepreneurs to unlock the skills and tools they need to drive growth in their businesses and communities.”
Government officials, community leaders and women entrepreneurs attended the special event. Approximately 250 women business owners participating in the program were also present, and celebrated completing the first phase of training in an afternoon graduation ceremony with their families.
Nolan O’Neal, chairman and managing director of ExxonMobil Upstream Nigeria, was also present for the celebration and spoke about the company’s commitment to help women fulfill their economic potential. “Research shows that expanding economic opportunities for women is integral to global development and broader economic progress,” he said. “Today less than 35 percent of women in Nigeria have access to a bank account and many lack the capital needed to grow their businesses. This initiative takes an important step toward increasing financial literacy and access for women business owners.”