Nigeria: Women Empowerment Critical to Access Bank – ED
Empowering women entrepreneurs is a critical aspect of Access Bank business philosophy says, Okey Nwuke, Executive Director, Institutional banking
He spoke during the CEO Roundtable session at the just concluded 2nd African Women’s Economic Summit (AWES) with the theme: “African Women Financing the Future”.
He said the bank in recognition of the importance of women in economic development deliberately enshrined gender sensitivity as one of the key drivers of its business.
The bank’s commitment to supporting women, he said led to the development of dedicated products and services such as its Gender Entrepreneurship Markets (GEM) Program, through which it has advanced N2 billion to about 5000 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) owned by women.
Since, its launch in 2006. The Bank under the GEM initiative has trained over 500 female entrepreneurs on how to grow their businesses successfully, assisted women- owned businesses to overcome the major challenges of growth and access to Finance.
Nwuke said that that as a Bank committed to partnership and entrepreneurial development, Access Bank has grown its loan portfolio of women-owned businesses from US$500,000 to over US$18 Million in less than 5 years.
Access Bank GEM made disbursements to microfinance institutions such Catholic Institute for Democracy, Justice and Peace (CIDJAP) in Enugu State to finance microenterprises via the women cooperatives with whom CIDJAP works.
He said, ” As a Pan-African financial inclusion strategic, Access Bank’s GEM has already been deployed to Gambia and Rwanda to contribute to the development of the existing dedicated women market. Based on the successes recorded in Nigeria, Gambia and Rwanda, efforts are in top gear provide GEM services to women entrepreneurs in Zambia, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Congo DRC.
Commenting on the challenges confronting women entrepreneurs, Nwuke revealed said, “some weaknesses observed in relation to female run enterprises includes; limited or non-existent financials on their businesses, lack of sufficient collateral for loans, weak business management and strategic planning, poor business plans a combinations of these factors made female run enterprises generally unattractive for financing.”