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VOW conference: Setting the pace for women’s future

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Last week, Nigeria’s first women’s radio station, WFM 91.7 hosted industry and political leaders to its Voice of Women (VOW) conference, themed, “Facing Our Future Together- with focus on finance, Agriculture, technology and entertainment.”

In a welcome address delivered by the chairperson of the occasion and founder, Rose of Sharon foundation, Mrs. Folorunso Alakija, she said: “According to the United Nations, Nigeria has an approximate population of about 187 million people of which 49 per cent of them are women, reports also indicate that 53 per cent (of the 49 per cent) are women between ages 15 and 65, the working class women. This class gets involved in various enterprises and will move this country forward.

“Women are more active as economic agents in Africa than anywhere else in the world, it shows that we make up two-third of the agriculture workforce and produce the majority of Africa’s foods. Women are incredible; they juggle different roles successfully from the home front to their various business. The world economy is now such that the men cannot do it alone, so we need to stand up to our responsibilities to move the nation to where it ought to be.”

Chief Executive of Stanbic IBTC, Sola David-Borha, while speaking on finance in growing the Nigerian economy, said that there is no need for the nation to be in a recession since we do not lack anything. “The most important asset is the people of which a majority is women. Across the globe where women are gainfully employed, their GDP growth is higher.

“There are sectors where women can be actively involved in the economiy, the challenge will be to equip women with skills, information and capacity building that is required to monetize the work they are doing. When you look at the entire value chain, you find out that women are taking the short end of the stake.”

David-Borha advised that women should ensure they get the right kind of financing for the right need/project, as good financial management is critical to any business. The failure rate of startups is very high, so whether you are a man or woman, you must gather the right knowledge, support and take the right decisions very early in your business.

“One out of every three SMEs have a business plan, you must do the right research. Ensure you build the right record, that is what a financier is interested in. You should continue to train and scale up yourself, be current with the development in your space and add value in a way that people will continue to seek your services,” she added.

On the role of agriculture in the growth of the Nigerian economy, Managing Director, Bank of Industry Waheed Olagunju noted that agriculture is one area where the nation has the strongest competitive advantage. “We have competitive minerals and resource endowments. Agriculture provides food and raw materials for developmental impact.

“We need to feed ourselves, we are a huge population and so we need to grow food across the length and breadth of this nation. All the 774 local government areas have their comparative advantage; we are all endowed and it is for us to know what the opportunities are and harness them. For us to grow as a nation, we must be agric-led, the government can only provide an enabling environment for agric to strive.”

On technology, the General Manager Eko Distribution Company Dele Amoda represented by Sheri Adegbenro said that there are better days ahead in the power sector even though it looks bleak, “we can only more forward, there is no going back.”

Commending the role of technology to the growth of the power sector, she added that it has afforded the opportunity to serve Nigerians better by monitoring activities from systems instead of going to the homes of millions of Nigerians which will require a large workforce to achieve.

Veteran actor and former Commissioner for Culture and Tourism in Delta State Richard Mofe-Damijo, who spoke on the role of the entertainment industry, said that women are the most powerful in the sector, urging them to bring more of their folks into the industry. He, however, lamented the place the nation has kept entertainment even though it has earned respect for the nation across the world.

“The only reason why we have a lot of media houses today is because of entertainment. President Barack Obama said that entertainment is the engine upon which the economy of America operates. Nigeria maybe getting 70 per cent of its income from oil, but today, entertainment is the engine upon which this economy operates even modern technology.

“What defines us as a people is our culture (dress sense, the way we dance, shake hands, eat) and so the government as custodians should give policies that are not dependent on party in power but are channeled for growth,” Mofe- Damijo added.


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