The Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have concluded the second phase of their economic empowerment programme for women-owned Cooperative Societies drawn from selected States of the Federation, with hopes on leveraging the Central Bank of Nigeria’s [CBN’s] N220billion Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises [MSME] Fund recently launched in Abuja by President Goodluck Jonathan.
Over 60 women representing various Cooperative Societies from the North and South of Nigeria benefitted from entrepreneurship training held in Minna and Enugu respectively in August 2014, preparatory to facilitation of access to working capital.
The Cooperative Societies were drawn from six States, each representing a geo-political zone in the country. The entrepreneurship training held in Minna drew participants from Gombe State [North-east], Katsina State [North-west], and Niger State [North-central] while the one held in Enugu catered for participants from Enugu State [South-east], Rivers State [South-south] and Ekiti State [South-west].
Speaking at the closing ceremony of the entrepreneurship training held in Enugu last week,- the Director-General of SMEDAN, Alhaji Bature Umar Masari, who was represented on the occasion by the Director of Enterprise Development and Promotion, Mrs Justina David, gave an indication that the Agency would explore the possibility of securing funding for the women-owned cooperative societies from the N220b CBN intervention fund.
Commending the women for their commitment throughout the training, he noted that the women are now in a better position to access the CBN’s MSME Fund, as well as other soft loans from the federal government-owned development finance institutions such as the Bank of Industry [BOI] and Bank of Agriculture [BOA].
The Director-General charged them to ensure that the knowledge acquired in the course of the training reflected in their daily business activities and called on the women to serve as examples and a ‘shining light’ to other women entrepreneurs in their various communities. Alh. Masari also commended the UNDP in Nigeria for making the training a reality and for their commitment towards enhancing the capacity and development of women in the country.
The UNDP’s Country Director in Nigeria, Dr Pa Lamin Beyai, in his address on the occasion charged the women to share their knowledge with other members of their respective cooperative societies and noted that most countries in Africa have similar demographic pattern where women form up to fifty or more per cent of the population.
This, according to him, means that women are critical and integral to the development of the region. He said that this realization explains why UNDP focuses more on women and the vulnerable groups in countries of operation.
The President of National Association of Women Entrepreneurs (NAWE), Mrs. Adaeze Ozongwu commended SMEDAN and UNDP for building the capacity and improving the lives of women entrepreneurs in the country.
Mrs Ozongwu noted that the design, content and delivery of the programme had not only helped to unlock the potentials of these women groups, but would also lead to a more effective management of business projects by these women.
Mrs Ozongwu led the women to confer on the UNDP Country Director, Dr. Pa Lamin Beyai, with a title and decorated as the ‘Kpakpando Umunwanyi [meaning, The Shining Star] of Nigerian Women in Business’.
The Four-Day Entrepreneurship Training Programme had thirty participants drawn from Enugu, Ekiti, Lagos and Rivers States. It is part of UNDP’s Livelihood and Youth Empowerment Project sponsored by the UNDP. It is also the second in a four component Entrepreneurship Capacity Building Project which includes, Entrepreneurship Sensitization Programme, Entrepreneurship Training, Vocational Re-training and Business Development Service (BDS) Delivery.