– Article written by Yetunde Oladeinde
It’s been 20 months since COVID-19 struck with a lot of anxiety, frustration and depression as many saw their ideas which they nurtured over the years into small businesses crumbling.
Others simply did not give up and struggled against the odds to sustain their businesses by diversifying, being innovative as well as making use of the digital platforms to upscale their businesses.
Talk of expanding possibilities! That certainly is the way to go now. Interestingly, that was the theme for the Association of Nigerian Women Business Network’s 2021 National Summit. It was very apt coming from the challenges encountered in the past one year.
Scroll back to the Coalition’s 2020 National Summit. It took place when the pandemic was just about finding its way into our lives! Naturally, there were lots of anxieties about post-COVID-19 pandemic impact and luckily ANWBN sprang into action with a series of webinars that helped members to understand what to do and their expectations, post-COVID.
Undeterred, members of the Coalition were determined to forge ahead taking solace in the opportunities provided by E-Commerce, Diversification, Innovation and Collaborations. One year later, the Coalition led by Mrs. Modupe Oyekunle (National Coordinator) pressed on by pushing the Women’s National Business Agenda (WNBA), the Coalition’s Advocacy tool and the five priority issues to the front burner of public discourse. To do this effectively, there have been a number of strategic meetings, advocacy visits, training, sensitisation on the Ease of Doing Business as well as examining the opportunities available for Women in AfCFTA to achieve the goals set out by the Coalition.
The National Summit was therefore a great inspiration to many; it was a time to assess the new opportunities, potentials of the Network consisting of about 6 million Women across the country. The 2021 Summit kicked off with remarks from Summit Committee Chairperson, Otunba Gbemisola Oduntanand a message by the National Coordinator, Mrs Modupe Oyekunle. Iyalode Alaba Lawson MFR gave a goodwill message looking at the opportunities, potentials and challenges posed by the new normal. The second goodwill message was given by the Immediate Past National Coordinator (IPNC) Chief (Mrs) Anita Nana Okuribido. She also stressed the need for women to be informed about their choices as well as the need to follow the fastest pace.
The keynote speaker, Mr Aderinwale Ayodele, CEO Just Rite Group, took participants through a series of action plans needed to build their businesses and move from the ordinary level and expand to unimaginable heights, noting that competence and not just connections was critical for expansion at all levels.
To buttress his point, he shared some personal experiences stressing that hard work, discipline, not staying in your comfort zone as well as avoiding family sentiments would help to build a great business empire.
Janine. T. Lewis, Representative of the U.S Ambassador to Nigeria gave a presentation looking at Individualism versus Collectivism vis-à-vis the strength of a coalition. She stressed the fact that, when women succeed as Business leaders they naturally help to develop the next generation of leaders. Five panelists, out of which three were physically present and two contributing virtually shared different perspectives on the theme of the talk shop thereby offering suggested solutions aimed at helping the womenfolk to break barriers and expand progressively.
The roll call of the panelists includes:
- Mrs Babara Langley, the Executive Director, Centre for Women Economic Empowerment (CWEE).
- Hon. Engr. Mrs Janet Febisola Adeyemi
- Mr Sunday Alao
- Mrs Elizabeth Poage and
- Mrs Roselyn Musa
The panel session was moderated by Mrs Angela Ajala (ANWBN’s Deputy National Coordinator (2).
Barbara Langley introduced two partners and they shared experiences looking at the problems, opportunities and some of the initiatives taken by other women groups in other countries.
The NDIand IRI teams also talked about the things they have done to achieve inclusiveness and to increase women participation in mainstream politics. Gaps and the things that hinder the women were also discussed and the women were advised not to give but to strengthen their capacities in order to gain access.
They all emphasised the need for women to join politics as part of the Women’s Strategy for Legislative Engagement.Exhibitions and networking went on simultaneously as member organisations displayed and marketed their proudly Made-In-Nigeria products and services.
The second day of the Summit was also very interesting and it was another opportunity to share experiences as well as chart a way forward for the coalition, its members and stakeholders.
Mrs Patricia Agbakwu, Member ANWBN Advisory Board and the Coalition’s Pioneer National Secretary joined online.
She acknowledged the achievements and progress made since inception and encouraged everyone to keep the Coalition’s flag flying. While stressing the fact that women’s development was critical, Mrs Agbakwu suggested that every Association in the coalition should mentor at least two women every year to build a critical mass that would galvanise the desired change.
Mrs. Ngone Diop, Director United Nations Economic Commission for Africa who delivered the keynote address for the second day went down memory lane to talk about where we were, breaking the barriers and now it is obvious that Female Entrepreneurs are already making significant contributions to poverty reduction but there are gaps to be filled. She talked extensively about the potentials especially in the agricultural value chain, transformation and the importance of investment in equipment. Women, she opined, cannot expand the possibilities if they do not know what to do. Unfortunately, she lamented that lots of the efforts made by women are invisible contributions with invisible possibilities for expansion.
A panel Session with the topic, ‘Advocating for Women’s Economic Power through Access to Finance’ was a learning curve for many. Here, the panelists took turns to identify the problems hindering women Entrepreneurs from expanding just as they proffered solutions as well shared practical experiences to buttress their points.
One of the highlights from the two bank Representatives on the panel, WEMA and ZENITH Bank, informed that they would create special products for ANWBN women.
Ana Vinambres who participated online did an overview of the challenges encountered by the groups she works with funded by the European Union and German Government. “They were set up to improve competitiveness across value chains in the agricultural and light manufacturing sector. We work with artisans, MSMES and empower them to receive credit and funding.
“They also provide financial literacy, coaching to select the products needed, insurance, agricultural and management services, product funding, off takers arrangements and monitoring the repayment of loans. Recognition and motivation usually gives birth to more achievements. Certainly! Our 2021 Summit had three award Sub Committees. They set out the criteria and members sent in Nominations.
At the Summit the winners were presented with awards in the different categories.
- Female Icon: This went to IyalodeAlaba Lawson and it was received by Princess Tola Omole on her behalf.
- ANWBN Grants to two startups: The overall winner was Ndidiamaka Oluwaseyi of NASSI and Rukayat Fayomi, NNEW emerged as the Runner up.
- AWEP won the best BMO with Best Practice category while NASME came 2nd and Commonwealth Business Women Network came 3rd.
Exhibitions of proudly Made-In-Nigeria products and services, Networking for expansion as well as lots of dancing to unwind made the 2021 Summit exciting and memorable.