The Nigerian economy is powered by the strength and resilience of several million entrepreneurs. From the founding executive at a top manufacturer to the regular roadside retail vendor, there’s no shortage of people willing to build businesses that meet the world’s needs.
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The vast majority of entrepreneurs in Nigeria are small business owners. Taken as a single group, they run more than 99% of commercial concerns in the country. And their modest ventures contribute 49% of our nation’s wealth.
About 40% of small business owners in Nigeria are women, according to the PwC MSME Survey 2020. That’s a significant fact, given the much lower representation of women in entrepreneurship elsewhere in the world.
In its study of 40 countries, the Global Entrepreneurship Association found that there were far more male entrepreneurs than female entrepreneurs in most developed countries. The difference between the numbers of male and female business owners tended to be within the 50% to 100% range.
The developed country with the most females engaged in entrepreneurship was Chile, with about 32.4% of women being entrepreneurs. In Italy, only 2.1% of women were entrepreneurs.
However, while a relatively large proportion of entrepreneurs in Nigeria are women, just 23% of adult females in the country are represented in the formal SME space.
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A staggering 23 million females operate in the micro-business segment. But they own only 20% of enterprises in the formal sector. There are even fewer women further up the business scale ladder; they make up just 12% of directors on corporate boards.
This trend is reflected throughout much of the economy. Of all the major sectors, only two have an equal or marginally higher number of women compared to men. They are Education (with 53% of employees being women) and Health and Social Work (56%).
Tellingly, Nigeria ranks quite low on the World Bank’s Global Gender Gap Index, placing 128th out of 153 countries for which records exist.
There are economic disadvantages accruing from this status-quo. Experts estimate that gender gaps may cost economies up to 15% of GDP.
Most analysts agree that there’s a need for a greater representation of women in the formal sector of Nigeria’s economy. But there’s no real consensus on how this should be achieved.
It’s however widely agreed that women-owned businesses should receive more financial and regulatory support. There’s some action being taken in this direction, especially from financial institutions that have initiated funding and mentorship programs for female entrepreneurs.
Several organizations have also sprung up to support businesswomen and the enterprises they run. Some of these include Women in Management, Business and Public Service (WIMBIZ), Organization of Women in International Trade (OWIT) Nigeria, and the Association of Women Business Network (AWBN), among others.
In the end, the progress of women in the world of entrepreneurship will depend on their realizing what they can achieve through sheer determination, and on the availability of more opportunities for them to thrive.
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