Nigeria: Empowering Female Entrepreneurs Across Borders

5 August 2021

Although small and medium enterprises account for nearly 80 per cent of jobs globally, women own nearly 10 million of the SMEs. However, despite the high participation rate, they continuously face the challenge of accessing information, funds, and financing. To address these, the Women Empowered Leave Legacies through Trade and Investment Initiative was launched by the US government for women in Middle East and Africa.

U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS) of Commerce for Middle East and Africa Camille Richardson launched the Women Empowered Leave Legacies through Trade and Investment (WELTI) Initiative.

American Business Council in Nigeria CEO and Executive Secretary Margaret Olele participated in virtual session entitled: "Women Empowered Leave Legacies through Trade and Investment (WELLTI)." The event was organised by the U.S. Commercial Service Office, the diplomatic arm of the U.S. Department of Commerce's International Trade Administration and part of the U.S. Foreign Service.

The session was attended by over 400 attendees from around the world, and featured women leaders from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce affiliates in the MENA region including Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Abu Dhabi, Nigeria, and South Africa.

The session's discussion revolved around opportunities, challenges, and solutions for women doing business in the Middle East and Africa. The conversation gave attendees insights and advice from experienced women chamber leaders in the region.

The U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS) of Commerce for Middle East and Africa Camille Richardson launched the event and briefed attendees about the WELTI initiative, which aims to bring together leading businesswomen from the United States and the MENA region to discuss strategies. These techniques can provide them with the data, knowledge, contacts, and financing to increase international trade.

DAS Richardson shared insightful statistics stating that "more than 90 per cent of enterprises around the world are considered as SMEs, which account for nearly 80 per cent of jobs globally."

She also mentioned that "women own nearly 10 million of the world's SMEs." DAS Richardson concluded with the fact that "sustainable economic growth and achievement of the [United Nations] Development Goals are possible only through the active participation of women."

AmCham Nigeria representative Margaret Olele stated that "[a] lot of women, especially during COVID, started to see opportunities" in entrepreneurship, specifically citing healthcare and e-commerce. These recent entrants constitute just a fraction of Nigeria's female entrepreneurs, many of which are engaged in entrepreneurship of necessity to support themselves or families.

"Despite the high participation rate, Margaret acknowledged the "challenges that women face remains the same around access to information, funds, and financing." These are several of the shortcomings that the WELLTI initiative wishes to address.

The American Business Council is a steadfast supporter of the U.S. private sector doing business in Nigeria. Through events, advocacy, and their newsletter, they connect and promote U.S. business interests in the market.

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