By Rukayat Moisemhe
Lagos, Aug. 19, 2020 Organized Private Sector in Nigeria (OPSN) on Wednesday called for an improved women’s economic empowerment to help stimulate productivity, foster economic diversification and engender income equality.
Mrs Toki Mabogunje, President LCCI made the call at the Nigerian Association of Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) Business Women Group (NAWORG) webinar.
Media agency reports that the webinar had its theme as: “COVID-19 Impact Assessment on SMEs: Perspective and Strategic Options for support on Wednesday.
According to Mabogunje, recent finding by the Organization for Economic & Development Cooperation (OECD), affirmed that increasing female employment rates could potentially elevate economic output by $6 trillion in OECD nations.
She said that the participation of women in the Nigerian labour market had recorded a marginal improvement over the past decade.
Mabogunje, however, noted that the global economic landscape was challenged due to the coronavirus pandemic and associated containment measures.
She said that women entrepreneurs were reported to have suffered the impact of the pandemic emotionally, mentally and financially.
The LCCI President stated that these negative health outcomes were in some ways related to their “unpaid and invisible burden of the disproportionate emotional labour.”
Mabogunje recommended that provision should be made for bailout, stimulus packages and reliefs that reflect an understanding of women’s special circumstances in both the formal and informal economy.
She urged business organisations to be more gender responsive in their approach to remote working.
This, she said, should be done to promote balance of work expectations and the new and exacerbated family obligations created by the effects of the pandemic.
“This includes provisioning for adequate infrastructure that will facilitate the fulfilling of work and family obligations, while at the same time reducing the added physical and mental stress associated with the pandemic.
“As we all know, women play a critical role in the economy, and of course in the business community, particularly in micro, small & medium enterprises (MSMEs) sector.
“According to official statistics from the National Bureau of Statistics, 59.6 million jobs were created by MSMEs as of December 2017.
“Women created 26 million jobs or 43 per cent of total jobs created within this period.
“These numbers underscore the strategic importance of women in job creation, which is an important national socio-economic objective of government,” she said.
The LCCI President also said the current economic constraints due to the pandemic underscored the need for small and medium-sized business owners to strategically position themselves for continuity and brace up for the challenges ahead.
“As we speak, a sizeable number of SMEs are already in dire financial straits as revenue shocks, escalating costs, exchange rate depreciation, supply chain constraints and disruption to operating models pose a significant threat on the bottom-line.
“It is particularly important to stress that amid these challenges and uncertainties in the global and domestic economies lie unexploited opportunities,” she said.
She urged Nigerian businesses to identify, utilize and leverage the vast opportunities which require business owners to be visionary, farsighted and futuristic in their approach for sustainability.
As strategic options for SMEs, Mabogunje highlighted the new opportunities in digital economy and import substitution.
She advised SMEs to leverage technology, adopt flexible management, review supply chain, manage cash flow, prioritise competencies, capitalise on existing customers, and pursue information for survival during and post COVID-19.
“Adopting these strategies will make your business more resilient amid challenges in the macroeconomic and business environment,” she said.
On the stimulus intervention measures as contained in the Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP), Mabogunje expressed concerns as to whether the plan would have the desired impact on SMEs and the business community due to the nation’s economic size.
“We must acknowledge and take advantage of the various intervention efforts by the fiscal and monetary authorities in fostering business continuity and sustainability among SMEs.
“Noteworthy is the Nigerian Economic Sustainability Plan (NESP) aimed at stimulating the economy by preventing business collapse and ensuring liquidity.
“While it is understandable that N2.3 trillion is what the Federal Government is offering due to limited financial resources, however, there are concerns as to whether the plan will have the desired impact on SMEs and the business community in general, when comparing the size of the stimulus to the country’s economic size,” Mabogunje said.
She recommended deliberate policy measures aimed at supporting SMEs in the informal sector.
This, she noted, was particularly important considering the strategic contributions of the informal economy to economic activities and employment in Nigeria.
In her remarks, Hajiya Saratu Iya Aliyu, National President, NACCIMA advocated an increase in the provision of the stimulus package to adequately address the distress of the SMEs amid the ongoing pandemic.
According to her, it would also ensure the sustainability of women-owned small scale businesses.
“Many SMEs have experienced several challenges during this COVID-19 period and the stimulus package is too little and too slow in coming.
“Women-owned businesses have been more affected by the pandemic than any other group and this must be addressed,” she said.