All-Women’s Bank Berths In Nigeria

A great idea without funds to implement it is as good as useless. Sadly, this aptly describes a number of women-owned enterprises which starts as a great idea but suffers an eclipse.
A number of strategies like group of tens and cooperative societies came to the rescue but the effect here can be comparable to a drop in the ocean.
This situation is also calibrated by strong cultural barriers and norms which undervalue women’s economic efforts and contribution.
Accessing bank loans have been a nightmare thanks to the demands for collaterals, which are often not available.
To break the jinx of poverty for women, women have been going in and out of the drawing board to find concrete opportunities to better their lot.
One of such initiatives berthed recently with the opening of the NNEW Women’s Microfinance bank located in Ojodu, Lagos.
You could feel the excitement as the women talked with enthusiasm, laughed and shared tales of exploits to be made.
Lola Olakunrin who sits atop as the CEO of the NNEW (Network of Entrepreneurial Women) Women’s MFB, the first of its kind in Nigeria and the West Africa sub-region. Happily, she paints the picture of how the idea was borne even as she recounted the support given by Segun Oshinowo, Director General of the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA).
“Our Bank was granted an operational license by the Central Bank of Nigeria to provide Microfinance Banking Services to Small and Medium Scale Operators. Our objective is to satisfy our women clients without compromising our standards. Our expansion will take us to other states as an MFB with national spread in four years and as a public quoted company.”
NNEW, the brain behind the bank is a network of women entrepreneurs established 10 years ago to provide opportunity for women to share information and create linkages that will enhance the growth of her members businesses.
Going down memory lane, Olakunrin said: “Five years ago, NNEW realised the challenges her members were facing in getting finance for their businesses, hence the beginning of the self help NNEW Cooperative Multipurpose Society Ltd for members only to have a pool of funds through monthly individual savings of between N5,000 to N50,000 and then lend to members to empower their businesses .”
Gradually, she said the women began to discover their potential and the many opportunities available.
“We had a number of intensive trainings using ILO training modules to improve their businesses, many realised that the major challenges were not only access to finance but other issues such as simple book keeping, marketing and putting proper structure in place.”
Determined to carve a niche for themselves, these women began to structure their dream in order to make it a reality. After several years of contributing to the pool, the CMSL now had idle funds as fixed deposit in commercial banks. Subsequently, NNEW’s Strategic Team gave a report leading to a unanimous decision for the network to establish an MFB open to non member women and youth.
“Our take is for the MFB to use a combination of savings, loans, investment opportunity and other financial services combined with group solidarity methodology. It is a powerful instrument of change especially for women with both micro and medium scale enterprises. Realizing that, if you change one woman she is going to change 10more and the ripple effect will easily be observed and fast tracked.”
Olakunrin continues: In January 2014, Nigeria had 820MFBs spread all over the country while a total of 224 were closed down by Central Bank of Nigeria, a staggering 27% were terminally distressed and technically insolvent. That was daunting and at the same time it endeared the women to do a research on what led to the failed MFBs. In our existence since final license was issued on the 8th of March, 2015, we have disbursed loans to almost 200 women while 125 are waiting for verification. I must mention that we have not had any case of default. We are very optimistic that we have started well .we shall do well.”
At the back of the mind of this Amazon and her colleagues is the fact that banking is not a bed of roses. “We are very alert to the challenges facing MF Banks- poor corporate governance, poor management structure, poor credit administration, lack of adequate capital base, high level of non-performing insider related credits, all leading to insufficient loan-able funds and a whole lot more.
For Otunba Debola Oshibogun, president Chartered Institute of Bankers: It is noteworthy that the establishment of this bank has positioned Nigeria in the likes of India and Pakistan that also have dedicated banks which caters for the financing needs of women entrepreneurs. This initiative also serves as a direct response to the 3rd and 8th Goals under the Millennium development Goal which are ‘To promote gender equality and empower women and to develop a global partnership for development.”
Osibogun opines that: “The introduction of microfinance banking in the financial landscape opened a vista of opportunities for micro, small and medium scale business. It offered them a lifeline to boost production, and also support job creation and empowerment. There is hope now, for teaming entrepreneurs who have been laden with difficulties in accessing finance from the deposit money banks to boost their business venture and for rural and urban low income earners, thus providing them with the opportunity to contribute to economic and national development.”
She adds that: “According to the International Center for Research on women (ICRW) women have the potential to change their own economic status as well as the communities in which they live when given the economic empowerment.”
The world’s first and only financial institution was established in Pakistan to be the solution to all the financial needs of a woman. The bank was based on the operating philosophy of treating women First class and giving them true empowerment through access to credit.
For over two decades this bank opened its doors to millions of women and they have been rushing to the bank for assistance. “We have provided her credit against the collateral of her dreams because we believe a woman is bankable. At the 20th year celebrations, our resolve is to keep the stove burning in every house of the country, to educate all the children and create employment because now every woman will have her chance to get her dreams financed by us. Never again will a woman be denied the opportunity to live life on her terms.”
About two years ago, India’s first women-only bank has launched in Mumbai and six other Indian cities, offering a service aimed at increasing financial inclusion for women in one of the world’s most populous countries.
Powered by technology from US vendor FIS, Bharatiya Mahila Bank is staffed by 115 employees, most of them female. The board of directors will also be entirely staffed by eight women. The idea behind the business is to help improve economic conditions and social equality in India by making it easier for women to get access to a bank. The country already has 41% overall unbanked population, but the situation is even harder for women, especially in rural areas.

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