* Three latest hard tackles to SMEs listed
* Women own 41 per cent of businesses in the region
By Paul Emeka Chimodo
Dr Mina Ogbangba, a versatile woman and activist in the oil region has stepped out, this time to push for deliberate policies that would boost businesses owned by women in the Niger Delta.
Dr Ogbangba was part of a radio panel that dissected the fate of women entrepreneurs in the region where she pointed out that 41 per cent of businesses is owned by women.
The panelists speaking in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, have identified three recent arrows attacking small businesses especially those owned by women, including harsh economic conditions, Covid-19, and EndSARs riotous damages. This is women entrepreneurs own at least 41 per cent of businesses in the Niger Delta.
The panelists spoke on “Women in Business in a Challenging Era” on the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC)-sponsored live radio programme, ‘Canvas-The Niger Delta Roundtable”, which was monitored in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
The panelists noted that the strong entrepreneurial spirit of Niger Delta women has been severely threatened by the listed triple effects.
The lead panelist, Mina Ogbanga (PhD), a Port Harcourt-based Ford Foundation Fellow and an award-winning 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 existed. Women are therefore more affected.”
The panel of female Niger Delta-based entrepreneurs called on the government of Niger Delta States to urgently implement innovative policies that would empower small and medium scale women entrepreneurs whose businesses have been severely impacted by the three factors especially the coronavirus pandemic.
The panel noted that female entrepreneurs have 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.
The entrepreneurs encouraged women in business to persevere in spite of the harsh business environment and urged for support from government and corporate bodies to women in business as they have very high potentials to contribute to economic development.
The panelists listed other challenges faced by women entrepreneurs in the Niger Delta to include difficult access to loans, patriarchy, double taxation, insecurity and cultural biases.
Yenagoa-based 2017 winner of Shell Nigeria LiveWire Business Leaders Award and Creative Consultant/Chief Responsibility Officer of Queen Esther Multi Biz Services Nigeria Limited, a lawyer, Esther Bolou-Ebi, noted that the inequalities include “Patriarchy which has 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 Limited, said, “Insecurity discourages people from doing business, while double taxation is another challenge businesses face”.
Winners of Shell Nigeria Livewire Entrepreneur Awards in 2016 and 2017 respectively, Port Harcourt-based Ibiere David and Warri-based Harriet Omoweh, said, “Though the pandemic affects all businesses, some of the challenges predominantly affect businesses run by female entrepreneurs who have to repeatedly defend her competence to command respect, whose marital status stereotypes her and is used to measure her ability to be entrusted with important businesses.”
Omoweh founded the “Enchanting Naturals”, an all-natural body-care cosmetics line which caters to African natural hair and skin, while Ibiere David is the CEO of Ibdav Resources, a social enterprise that makes and sells cost-effective, clean, and healthy alternative cooking energy source in the form of biofuel and clean cooking stoves, made readily available to households, catering services and food vendors in rural and urban communities of Nigeria.
The entrepreneurs encouraged women in business to persevere in spite of the harsh business environment. They urged women in business to seek opportunities like Shell Nigeria Livewire programmes that give credible opportunities to actualize their business visions and provide good quality mentors to better run their businesses.
The panelists said, “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 industrialization. And with about 23 million female entrepreneurs operating in this space, women form an integral part of this development in Nigeria.”
Telephone callers to the programme, Matthew Kalio and Kachi, advised successful women entrepreneurs to mentor other females who are struggling in business as this will ensure more successful women-led businesses.
Another caller, Chris, acknowledged the capacity of women to delve into spaces previously dominated by men and noted that “this generation is working towards moving from previously held traditional beliefs of gender image inadequacies where men remain as providers.”
The SPDC-sponsored Canvas-the Niger Delta Roundtable, is a weekly live radio programme that airs in the Niger Delta states to discuss the future of the oil-bearing region and reflect on topics relevant to the progressive development of the Niger Delta and its people. The programme has a vibrant call in section to ensure a proper roundtable discussion.
Dr Ogbangba is known to push hard for women emancipation and is now focusing on how women can liberate themselves through economic independence. The Canvas provides platform for all ideas that can change the economic and socio-cultural hindrances in the oil region.