A new International Trade Centre( ITC) report has identified the support women-owned and led businesses in Nigeria require to grow and engage in international markets.
Women’s participation in the labour force is low and hasn’t evolved much over the past 20 years. Last year, only 50 per cent of all women in Nigeria participated in the labour force – a mere three per cent increase since 1990. Yet, recent shifts to a services-based economy and the prestige associated with women’s entrepreneurship are opening up opportunities for women to play a more active role in business.
However, according to a new ITC report, women will only be able to seize these opportunities with the right support systems in place.
The publication, ‘SheTrades: Promoting SME Competitiveness in Nigeria’ is based on results from the ITC Small and Medium-sized Enterprise (SME) Competitiveness Survey of about 400 women-owned or led businesses in Nigeria. The report identifies the societal and economic challenges facing these enterprises and underscores the support Nigerian women need to grow their enterprises.
“The study helps policymakers understand not only how competitive Nigerian women entrepreneurs are today, but also how ready they are to compete in the future – a future that looks even brighter thanks to the opportunities created by the African Continental Free Trade Area,” said Executive Director of the International Trade Centre, Arancha González.
More flexible work environments
Most of the surveyed firms recognised that there is prestige associated with being a woman entrepreneur in Nigeria.Yet, women continue to have a low rate of participation in Nigeria’s labour force. This is attributed, in large part, to the pressures on women to marry and assume family responsibilities at a young age.
Flexible working practices can encourage more women to enter the workforce and stay employed once they are there. This ITC report recommends that policies are put in place to incentivize enterprises to offer more flexible working conditions. These policies would help Nigeria to widen its tax base and get more women into the labour force. Childcare facilities would also help women find more time to work outside the home.
Business registration and certification
More than half of the women-owned or led firms surveyed were not registered with a local or national authority, and about half of all surveyed firms reported poor access to information on domestic standards certification. Certification bodies received a poor rating by 42% of respondents. These are both impediments to growth, as registering a business and attaining certifications are often required to reach international markets.
To encourage women to register their businesses, the ITC report recommends that trade and investment support institutions (TISIs) build awareness among women entrepreneurs about Nigeria’s Corporate Affairs Commission, which is in charge of registering businesses. The report also highlights that sector associations, TISIs and Nigeria’s Standards Organisation are well placed to help firms of all sizes become compliant with international standards by building awareness of certification options and their benefits.
Establishing formal relationships with banks
Only about half of surveyed firms (52 per cent ) had a business bank account. Without a bank account, firms cannot access loans among many other financial services needed to grow their business. The ITC report recommends that women-owned and led enterprises be encouraged to set up bank accounts as soon as they are established so that they can begin building a relationship with a bank. Technical assistance trainings on financial management, applying for a loan, and business plan creation could also help firms meet their financial requirements for growth.
Hiring skilled employees
About 64 per cent of surveyed firms in ITC’s report employ staff whose skills match the needs of the company, yet, just under half of these firms have an established hiring process. The ITC report suggests that capacity-building activities on the importance of a systematic hiring process would enable more firms to hire the right candidates that meet the needs of the company.
Access to training
Almost 60% of surveyed firms said they are growth-driven, motivated by building a successful company rather than supplementing family income. The most popular export training topics among surveyed firms were international markets and trade flows, how to raise financing, international standards and building an export strategy. The ITC report suggests that special trainings targeted at women entrepreneurs could result in more women-owned and led firms engaging in international trade.
This SME Competitiveness Survey in Nigeria was carried out as part of ITC’s SheTrades Initiative to connect three million women to markets by 2021. SheTrades provides women entrepreneurs around the world with a unique network and platform to connect to markets. The initiative also helps corporations to include more women entrepreneurs in their supply chains.
Culled from International Trade forum
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