By Martin Ogumah and Opeyemi Adebiyi
Over the years business financing has been a recalcitrant opposional pillar and a trenchant impediment to the progress of Nigerian small scale businesses, especially among women. However, the outcome of a major investors finance summit organised by Impact Investors Foundation (IIF), Nigeria, points to a shift that shows that help is on the way.
Impact Investors Foundation (IIF), Nigeria’s leading platform for unlocking impact capital, and the Nigerian National Advisory Board for Impact Investors (NABII) successfully hosted the first Gender Impact Investment Summit on Thursday, November 16, 2023 in Lagos. The Impact Investors Foundation (IIF) is a non-profit organization founded by a partnership comprising the Ford Foundation, Bank of Industry (BOI), African Capital Alliance (ACA), BusinessDay Media Ltd. and Dalberg Advisors.
The summit brought together over 300 stakeholders in the impact investing space including policymakers, investors, fund managers, and entrepreneurs to address the gender gap in accessing finance. At the summit, vibrant panel discussions addressed barriers women face in impact investment and policies needed to unlock opportunities. Participants made commitments to reducing the gender financing gap in Nigeria while also proposing gender targets for investee companies, building pipelines of female fund managers, and actionable policies to streamline gender inclusion. They also committed to creating opportunities for women to access finance, enhance the awareness of gender-lens investing, and expand networking and partnerships.
The Special Guest of Honour and Keynote Speaker, Dr. Betta Edu, the Honourable Minister for Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation in the Federal Republic of Nigeria, emphasised the need for gender lens investing and called for concrete steps to increase women’s participation across the impact investing value chains from asset owners to fund managers. Edu, who was represented by Carol Nelson-Atuonwu, Special Adviser (Strategy) to the Honourable Minister, said, “closing the financial gap for women in Nigeria is achievable and will entail concerted efforts in policy making, capacity building on gender mainstreaming and continuous engagement with all actors and stakeholders with focus on tackling the root causes.”
The Chair of Impact Investors Foundation (IIF) and Vice Chair for the Nigerian National Advisory Board for Impact Investors (NABII), Engr Afolabi Oladele, in his welcome remarks, noted that there was a problem with widespread access to finance, especially for women in Northern Nigeria. He said, “Women still struggle with baseline needs, particularly in the North and this affects the balance. Women generally earn less than men even when they do the same job as the men.” Also, the Chairperson for Nigerian NABII, Mrs. Ibukun Awosika, called for gender inclusivity in boards of corporate organizations to drive profitability.
In his goodwill remarks, Mr Tunde Mabawonku, Executive Director, Retail and Digital Bank, Wema Bank Plc, encouraged women at the event to make the right investment choice and be deliberate in their plans to succeed in their career and their businesses. According to Ms Etemore Glover, CEO, IIF and NABII, “the summit marks an important milestone in collectively addressing the $320 billion financing gap facing African female fund managers and entrepreneurs and IIF remains committed to driving gender-inclusive practices in Nigeria’s impact investing ecosystem.”
The Chair, SME.NG/Member, Nigerian NABII, Ms Thelma Ekiyor Olu-Solanke, said financing women through the Wholesale Impact Investment Fund (WIIF) was designed to address specific issues around building the ecosystem for impact financing in Nigeria. According to her, the Nigerian NABII is intentional about incorporating women-led impact projects and will support women in new and underserved markets. She said “the Federal Government has committed 50% to the Fund. We are looking forward to reaching the $1 billion benchmark by the first quarter of 2024,” she added. Other speakers at the event include Managing Director and Co-Founder, Alithea Capital, Tokunboh Ishmael; Gwen Abiola-Oloke, CEO, DI Africa; and Toni Sanni, Head of Corporate Finance and Venture Capital, Emerging Africa Group, among others. IIF’s commitments to driving gender-inclusive practices in Nigeria’s impact investing ecosystem are important steps towards bridging this gap and creating a more equitable future for all.