20 March 2019

Nigeria: Emefiele Pledges More Support for Women Entrepreneurs

Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Godwin Emefiele has reiterated his commitment to help women entrepreneurs in Nigeria overcome the enormous challenges on their way to financing, owning, and growing businesses, in order to advance women economic empowerment and gender equality.

The CBN Governor said already, the apex bank has developed various gender-responsive interventions that prioritize investments for women thereby improving access to diverse sources of finances including the MSME Fund (60 per cent of which is earmarked for women owned businesses) and its Anchor Borrowers' Programme, an agric support scheme.

Mr. Emefiele says deliberate efforts have been made recently to close gender gap in CBN. "Women represent 29.0 percent of CBN staff and 29.0 percent of Directors are women, (8 Departmental Directors and 1 Director General of WAMZ) as against 26.0 percent of staff and 25 percent of Directors in 2014. Similarly 3 out of 11 board members are women (27 percent)," he said at the CBN's commemoration of 2019 International Women's Day in Abuja.

Emefiele said progress in gender parity has been slow despite the fact that gender equality has been identified as a driver for economic growth and a prerequisite for achieving the 2030 global development agenda of SDGs.

2018 World Economic Forum Gender Gap Report puts global gender gap on an average of 32 percent, which needs to be closed. IMF's Christian Lagarde claims that adding one more woman in a firm's senior management or corporate board - while keeping the size of the board unchanged - is associated with an 8-13 basis point higher return on assets.

Emefiele said if banks and financial supervisors increased the share of women in senior positions, the banking sector would be more stable too.

Meanwhile, the minister of finance, Zainab Ahmed has called on government authorities to take a long term and strategic approach to establishing gender parity, and ensuring that women are economically empowered, a move she is optimistic would result in stronger economy overall.

While calling for implementation of gender-sensitive policies, regulatory frameworks, and programmes, the Finance Minister asks governments to remove the socio-economic and cultural barriers that prevent women from participating fully in society and from reaping the economic benefits of their participation.

"Women must have a 'seat at the table,' and be co-creators of any strategic interventions aimed at ensuring gender parity in the long run. This means that women need to lead, drive and shape the gender parity agenda (alongside men). It is not enough to simply have women in leadership positions - they must be given the support and tools with which to advance gender equity. Part of this process will include dialogue and partnership with women-focused groups, both in the private sector and in civil society organizations," Ahmed said in her keynote address during the CBN event with the theme: "Investing for Equality". It would be recalled that this year's International Women's Day was themed Balance for Better.

The minister noted that gender equality is critical to ensuring inclusive and sustainable development, and achieving our goals under the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) and the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development."

While appreciating the efforts of the CBN governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele in improving the place of women in the bank, where 29% staff are women, 29% are in top management and 27% women are in the board as it stands currently, she task the governor and his deputies to scale it up to 50%.

She said, "Let me also purse to congratulate the Central Bank of Nigeria for its leading role in gender parity. As the governor has said, you have today, 29% of your staff as women, 29% in top management and still about 27% in the board. We want to charge the bank, especially the governor and the deputy governors, to move this progress so that you continue to lead to 50% in each of these levels."

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