It is no news that a lot of women in Nigeria suffer pervasive barriers that prevent them from reaching their full potentials at work and in other spheres of life as they face deeply rooted obstacles that prevent them from achieving their dreams.
For instance, studies have revealed that although women are already quite involved in the economy, their contributions are not necessarily valued, rewarded, or encouraged, as the lack of female empowerment has been identified as a serious threat to socioeconomic development.
According to statistical reports, women constitute over 50 per cent of the Nigerian population and out of this, only about 35 per cent of them are involved in Entrepreneurship in form of micro, small, medium, and large enterprises. In 2020, only 47 per cent of women of working age participated in the labour market, compared to 74 per cent of men, a gender gap that has remained relatively constant since 1995. (According to United Nations 2020 report).
As a result, policymakers from all over the world have prioritized the development of entrepreneurship skills for self-employment as one of the key drivers of economic growth and development.
In Nigeria, critical stakeholders are thinking in that direction, even as they agreed that the resources, opportunities, safeguards, and skills that women need to realize their full potential should therefore be made available to them through investments in their development.
“This is the reason we have come up with MTN Y’ellopreneur, an initiative designed to provide capacity-building through entrepreneurship training and funding opportunities to qualified Nigerian female entrepreneurs, in collaboration with the Bank of Industry,” the executive secretary, MTN Foundation, Odunayo Sanya averred.
To bridge the gender gap, Sanya, at a media parley, in Lagos, said MTN Foundation has partnered with Mastercard Foundation and Enterprise Development Centre (EDC) of Pan-Atlantic University, to have 20,000 female entrepreneurs trained around entrepreneurship skills over a 4-week period.
As a pilot phase, the ES said MTN is interested in advancing women development in the area of ‘Entrepreneurship’ through the Y’ellopreneur Initiative that focuses on capacity building to enhance their entrepreneurial abilities, provision of micro business loans/grants and advisory/business support services for sustainability, adding that the plan is to transform ‘Entrepreneurship’ into a stable, sustainable livelihood for women. It will take much more than a job for Women to be empowered, she posited.
Sanya revealed that in 2022, the Call for Application stage was completed and a total of 42,370 applications was recorded comprising of different trade areas like Manufacturing/Processing, Agriculture, ICT/Digital services, Financial services, Construction, Logistics/Transportation, Energy & Power generation, Fashion, Media & Entertainment and Waste management.
“A total of 500 female entrepreneurs were selected for the capacity building session and these are female entrepreneurs that their businesses focus on sourcing most of their raw materials locally. The 500 female entrepreneurs participated in an online entrepreneurship skills training which spanned over a period of five weeks and was facilitated by the EDC.
Four courses were delivered during the training sessions which are customer experience and people management; MTN Enterprise Business Solutions; introduction to MoMo PSB and tax compliance. All the participants were supported with Data throughout the course of the training to mitigate non-participation. The women were also trained on how to develop a Business Plan and they were evaluated on this and it led to the selection of 200 viable businesses.
The Pitch session to select top 150 from the 200 viable growth plans to receive equipment loan/grant as well as the equipment loan award ceremony will be executed in August 2023, Sanya said.
The second part to this initiative, is the Y’ellopreneur capacity building initiative, Sanya said, adding that, “Following the deployment of the ‘Call for Application’ and review of entries, the campaign recorded a total of 35,000 valid applications. Post application of the selection criteria, 500 female entrepreneurs were selected and trained by EDC. The EDC requested for partnership with the MTN Foundation to train 20,000 out of the 34,500 Y’ellopreneur applicants which provides the opportunity to address the issue of ‘inadequate training’ facing female entrepreneurs.
“The Capacity Building Programme would be deployed in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation and EDC and the plan is to have 20,000 female entrepreneurs trained around Entrepreneurship Skills over a 4-week period. Post training, the EDC will be providing advisory and business support services for a period of three months and conduct marketplace event for the trained female entrepreneurs, while Mastercard Foundation will be providing funding support for those who are interested.”
After their training, the ES said trainees will have access to loan with two per cent interest rate. “If they can pay the loan at the stipulated time, they will be getting 25 per cent of the loan, as grants. We are doing this because we want to keep the door open for other women to participate,” she said.
In the same vein, the programme director, Mastercard Foundation Transforming Nigerian Youth Initiative, Nneka Okekearu said Africa is the youngest and fastest-growing continent in the world, adding that by 2030, there will be 375 million young people in the job market in Africa. She disclosed that Mastercard Foundation, through its Young Africa Works Strategy, sets out an ambitious goal for the next decade to enable 30 million young people in Africa, especially young women, to secure employment they see as dignified and fulfilling.
“In Nigeria, we plan to have between eight to 10 million young Nigerians that will benefit from that initiative. We know we cannot do it alone, hence the reason we are partnering with MTN Foundation and EDC to achieve our target,” she said.
A consultant at EDC, Fayo Williams, said the Y’ellopreneur Initiative has opened a huge opportunity for women in Nigeria, while revealing that the 20,000 female entrepreneurs will be trained on how to prepare a business/growth plan, register their businesses, create website for their businesses and be visible online, among others. “All these will help their businesses to be more sustainable. There is going to be networking and opportunity to access finance,” Williams further revealed.