The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun has challenged Nigerian women to avail themselves of the immense opportunities created by the current economic challenges in the country.
The Minister, who was the keynote speaker at the launch of First Gem, the first female-focused product from First Bank Nigeria Limited, on Friday, in Lagos, said the sheer population of Nigerian women should be an asset to the country in getting out of its economic difficulties.
As the Federal Government actualises its shift of emphasis from oil to other sectors of the economy, the Minister said given the potentials of the Medium, Small and Micro Enterprises to trigger economic rebound, Nigerian women would be expected to use their population strength to take the lead in driving the new agenda.
She stated, “Women count in this economy. Fifty percent of our economy is MSMEs. The majority of them are being driven by women. Seventy per cent of MSMEs are women-owned. So it is obvious that if you want to get the economy going, you have to target the MSMEs”.
According to the Minister, the activities of small players, especially at the micro level appear quite sustainable.
“The majority of the people who work in Nigeria work for companies or employers who employ eight persons or less”.
She stressed that entrepreneurs are incredibly important to Nigeria’s growth because they generate the jobs needed to stimulate the economy.
The Minister expressed the happiness that women have already swung into action by producing locally made goods, which used to be imported.
Speaking on the First Bank’s product offer, the Minister admonished women to see First Gem as an opportunity for wealth creation. According to her, ”there is a huge opportunity for import substitution. This product is therefore pushing women out of their comfort zone and must be supported. Any programme that is going to assist women access all the available resource is important,” she said.
The Minister pointed out that the Bank of Industry (BOI) also has some facilities to assist women entrepreneurs, saying there is no barrier stopping women from accessing such facilities.
She enjoined Nigerian women to key into the N220billion Central Bank’s MSMEs fund, regretting that despite the fact that 62 per cent of the facility is for women, less than 20 per cent of it has been drawn down, as at the last count.
She also challenged women to bid for contracts in order to show their skills and to contribute to nation building. Given the sincerity of the womenfolk, the Minister stated that Nigeria would not be experiencing the problem of abandoned projects if women were given the chance because, “they take their businesses seriously.
“Women don’t steal; women have integrity; women have names to protect. So, I want to see women coming for contracts,” the Minister said.