Non-oil export drive: NEPC pushes women exporters in S-South on post Covid-19 business opportunities

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Women exporters in the South-South Zone have been repositioned to overcome the post Corona virus challenges facing the export business by harnessing the current opportunities in the sector to boost their business. This is said to be as over 87 per cent of businesses owned or controlled by women have been hit by the pandemic.

At a sensitization programme held at Aldgate Hotel, Port Harcourt, on Thursday, the women, drawn from different states in the South-South, were acquainted with the new trends and dynamics in the export business and the need to synergize with other stakeholders to access export opportunities.

Tagged National Survey and Sensitization on the Impact of Covid-19 Pandemic on Women in Export in Nigeria, the programme featured lectures plus a deep interactive session where many questions were treated.

In her lecture entitled ‘Impact of Covid-19 on Women-Owned Businesses in Nigeria’, a resource person, Onu Leticia, pointed out that businesses owned by women suffered

disruptions due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

She described women-owned or managed businesses (WOMBs) as the backbone of Nigeria’s economy being the sector of business that accounts for the largest employers of labour and largest employees in the country.

She thus advised the women exporters to take advantage of the mentorship and other services provided by the National Export Promotion Council (NEPC) to keep their businesses afloat. Such services, according to her, include certification trainings, facilitating market linkages, partnership with financial institutions and commercial banks, provision of skills and entrepreneurship development training, and creation of linkages with successful women-owned businesses.

In the second paper entitled ‘Venturing into the Export Market; NEPC Intervention’, the presenter, Sherifat Omokide, took the participants through the processes of starting an export business in Nigeria and the essence of seeking the right knowledge to avoid losses. She asked them to always update themselves with current trends in the export sector while identifying with international online trade platforms.

Earlier in his opening remarks, the Executive Director/CEO of NEPC, Olusegun Awolowo, said the Council identifies the fact that women-owned and managed businesses (WOMBs) are facing a lot of challenges compounded by gender inequalities in the society.

The CEO, who represented by the regional coordinator, South-South regional office, Joe Etah, said; “The lockdown revealed the vulnerabilities of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) which account for approximately 80 percent of employment in the country and this has direct adverse  implications for women-owned businesses which operate predominantly in the MSME sector.

He went on: “According to survey, almost 600 women-owned and managed businesses (WOMBs) worldwide reported how the pandemic has affected their businesses. In Nigeria particularly, 87 per cent of businesses managed and controlled by one or more women have been impacted negatively by the covid-19 pandemic.”

He noted the women-in-export department initiated the national survey on the impact of the covid-19 pandemic on Women-Owned businesses using Rivers State as a pilot centre. This he said is in order to ascertain the level of the impact and also chart ways on how WOMBs could survive amidst the challenges.

Speaking with journalists shortly after the programme, the regional coordinator, Itah, said the sensitization exercise was necessitated by the need to access the impact of Covid-19 pandemic on WOMBs and how the could be assisted with the necessary information that would enable them overcome the challenges.

He said; “Women have a lot of roles to play, and 87 per cent of women are into businesses.”.

One of the participants, Ekpu Victoria, who said she came from Bayelsa State for the programme, commended NEPC for the initiative which she said has further opened her eyes on existing opportunities in the post-pandemic era.

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