By Lukman Olabiyi

Lagos governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu has canvassed for low interest rates for Micro Small and Medium Enterprise (MSMEs) in the country to allow them access financial support and thrive in their respective businesses.

Governor Sanwo-Olu spoke at the celebration of International Women’s Day held at the Blue Roof Ikeja, with the theme “Economic Inclusion of Women Entrepreneurs (NANOs/MSMEs) at the Grassroots/Community Level”.

The governor said only loans with single-digit interest rates can help unlock the growth of small businesses, saying MSMEs create the most jobs and therefore should be supported with low-interest funds to enable them to do more.

According to him, Lagos will ensure more women are brought into the net of the state’s empowerment programmes that will allow them contribute to the growing economy.

The governor who was represented by his Deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, said that the state is paying attention to women empowerment and has upscaled its efforts in that regard to ensure provision of capital, training and network necessary to grow their businesses.

He said that the event was designed to offer a financing platform, training on digital marketing and skills financial inclusion as well as presenting free Point of Sales Machines (POS) to enhance their businesses.

“Today, as we look to the future, we are committed to building on these foundations with even greater enthusiasm. Our focus is on leveraging technology to create more accessible platforms for women entrepreneurs, especially at the grassroots level. This is one of the reasons why we embarked on the 6000 kilometer fiber duct infrastructure project. The first phase, which is 3000 kilometers, is nearing completion,” he said.

“My charge to the Ministry and our technical partners; Banks is to lower the interest rate on this category of women, so that it is not this twenty-five percent that will be killing. We must look at how to ensure that the loans are not as prohibitive as for normal commercial enterprises, because these are like Mini and Micro businesses.

“With this project, we envision a Lagos where every woman entrepreneur, regardless of her location or the size of her business, has access to internet and data resources needed to grow and succeed. The project will complement the digital literacy programs and e-commerce platforms tailored for women-owned enterprises, ensuring that the digital economy becomes a vast field of opportunities for all.”

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He emphasised that Lagos State has initiated specific economic recovery programs that have supported women-owned businesses to thrive, with grants, extended loan moratoriums, and business advisory services which has helped them to navigate the current business climate.

The maiden event organised  by the Ministry of Commerce, Cooperatives, Trade and Investment in collaboration with Women Entrepreneurs and Professional Development Network (WEPDN), according to the, Commissioner for Commerce, Cooperatives, Trade and Investment, Mrs. Folashade Ambrose-Medebem is initiated to recognise and discuss the indispensable role women play in shaping businesses, leading to economic prosperity.

Ambrose-Medebem explained despite the enormous contributions of women to the growth and development of the nation, they were still facing numerous challenges that impede their economic empowerment and inclusion, stressing that Lagos State government has programmes that will remove those barriers.

“We must prioritise policies and programmes that promote women’s access to education, training and entrepreneurship opportunities. We must invest in initiatives that provide women with access to finance, markets, and technology, enabling them to start and grow their businesses sustainably.

“Furthermore, we must actively challenge and dismantle discriminatory laws, customs, and attitudes that perpetuate gender inequality and limit women’s economic participation. Empowering women economically requires a comprehensive approach that addresses the intersecting factors of gender, poverty, education, health, and social protection.”

The Commissioner noted that the state has made significant strides in advancing gender equality and women empowerment, but much remains to be done, especially at the grassroots and community level, stressing for concerted effort to further enhance Governor Sanwo-Olu’s strides in social inclusion and youth development.

She enjoined entrepreneurs at the Grassroots and Community level, to recommit themselves to the growth and development of women-owned businesses and harness the opportunity to access all necessary support to thrive and fulfill their potential.

In her remarks, the President Women Entrepreneurs and professional development Network (WEPDN) Mrs. Affi Israel Ibanga said the strategic conference was designed to development stride in the state, saying it will help to facilitate women inclusion in the scheme of things, especially at the community level where many of the women reside.

‘’It is my ardent desire that this programme will help our young ones, especially women off the streets for productive ventures. It is aimed at given the women an opportunity to negotiate their livelihood on their very own terms,’’ she said

Ibanga said the collaboration between Lagos State Ministry of Commerce , Cooperative , Trade  and Investment and Women Entrepreneur and Professionals Development Network (WEPON) is to provide a platform to promote women businesses , access to market , international exposure and opportunity to exhibit their innovative  ideas, product and services.