By Nathan Nwakamma
Yenagoa, Nov. 13, 2020 A group of female Niger Delta-based entrepreneurs have urged the governments of Niger Delta states to implement innovative policies that would empower women’s small and medium scale businesses impacted by COVID-19 pandemic.
They said that female entrepreneurs had emerged as breadwinners of their families following the downturn for businesses as a result of the necessary restrictions placed to contain the spread of COVID-19 in their states.
They spoke on “Women in Business in a Challenging Era” on a live radio programme “Canvass – The Niger Delta Roundtable”, monitored on Friday by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Yenagoa.
The weekly one hour programme which examines issues in the oil-rich Niger Delta region is sponsored by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC).
The entrepreneurs urged women in business to persevere in spite of the harsh business environment and appealed for support from government and corporate bodies for women in business as they have very high potential to contribute to national economic development.
They noted that the strong entrepreneurial spirit of the Niger Delta woman, who accounts for 41 per cent ownership of micro-businesses in the region, had been severely threatened by the triple effects.
According to them, the obstacles are “harsh economic policies, the COVID-19 pandemic and the more recent protests prevalent in several parts of the country.”
The women listed other challenges faced by women entrepreneurs in the Niger Delta to include difficult access to loans, patriarchy, double taxation, insecurity and cultural biases.
Dr Mina Ogbanga, a Ford Foundation Fellow and Social Work, Development and Impact Analyst, said: “It is important to discuss women in business now because women make up 51 per cent of the country’s population.
“And a pandemic heightens all inequalities that already exist. Women are therefore more affected.”
Esther Bolou-Ebi, a Yenagoa-based entrepreneur noted that the inequalities include “Patriarchy” which had caused women to face severe challenges while doing business, double taxation, insecurity, poor access to loans and cultural biases.
Bolou-Ebi, who is the Founder of Farmtojuice and Foods Nigeria Ltd, said, “Insecurity discourages people from doing business, while double taxation is another challenge businesses face.”
Also, Mrs Ibiere David and Ms Harriet Omoweh, agreed that the pandemic affected all businesses, and some of the challenges predominantly affect businesses run by female entrepreneurs.
According to them, they have to repeatedly defend their competence to command respect, in the face of marital status which stereotypes them and is used to measure their ability to be entrusted with important businesses.
Omoweh runs the “Enchanting Naturals”, an all-natural body-care cosmetics line which caters to African natural hair and skin, while David is the Chief Executive Officer of Ibdav Resources, a social enterprise that makes cost effective, clean and alternative cooking energy sources.
They urged women in business to seek opportunities like Shell Nigeria Livewire programmes that give credible opportunities to actualise their business visions and provide good quality mentors to better run their businesses.
“Enterprise is crucial to the development of an economy, especially of a country like Nigeria. Entrepreneurship, is therefore, essential for national development, poverty eradication and employment generation.
“It is the bedrock of any nation’s industrialisation. And with about 23 million female entrepreneurs operating in this space, women form an integral part of this development in Nigeria,” they said.