‘Weaker naira promoting exports, competitive challenges for start-ups’

AFP Pius Utomi Ekpei<br />

BoI loans to women enterprises hit N13billion

With the naira losing significant value due to the lingering economic recession, operators in the real sector have urged the Federal Government to address concerns relating to interest rates, as high bank charges are keeping start-ups out of business and reducing their competitiveness.
  
According to the operators, while a weaker Naira has encouraged many businesses to venture into the export market, the trend has also ensured that cheaper funds are invested into the real sector thus crowding out indigenous operators who have restricted access to funds at high interest rates.
 
Besides, the Bank of Industry (BoI) disclosed that its loan exposure to enterprises owned and promoted by women has hit N13 billion, noting that plans are underway to improve access of related businesses to developmental financing.

  
Speaking at this year’s edition of the International Women’s Day event tagged: ‘Be bold for change’, organised by BoI, the Acting Managing Director of the Bank, Waheed Olagunju, acknowledged the need for women-owned businesses  to take bold decisions in driving growth  as well as social and economic change.
  
Olagunju, who was represented by the Bank’s Executive Director, Micro-Enterprises, Mrs Toyin Adeniji, noted that although portfolio lending to women had doubled, as more women are doing a lot economically, there is yet so much to be done in improving women’s access to finance.
   
“Women are playing a vital and key role in the economy. Women should be involved in policies and decision making in a world where they struggle to be seen and respected. About 30 per cent of registered businesses are led by women, a reflection of the fact that women are economic forces and drivers of social and economic change,” she added.
  
Founder and Chief Executive Officer of SecureID Limited, Mrs Kofo Akinkungbe, while identifying the criteria for start-ups to attract good financing for sustainability, noted that the firm has started a backward integration agenda to increase sourcing of raw materials locally.
  
On her part, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of ReelFruit, Affiong Williams, explained that the depreciating value of the Naira has further promoted export among operators, while urging government to further address the ease of doing business in the country.
  
Similarly, the Chief Executive Officer of PathCare Laboratories, Dr. Pamela Ajayi, emphasised the need for government to make the health and educational sectors a priority for financing considering the impact of the sectors on the nation’s well-being. He added that the lingering recession has further made businesses renegotiate terms of trade and explore cheaper ways of doing business.
  
Divisional Head, BoI, Joseph Babatunde, however urged successful women entrepreneurs to promote mentorship as part of measures to improve growth of women-owned businesses, while emphasising the need to encourage value-addition by many enterprises. 

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