Mrs. Obiano pushes for Pan-African Response to Women Empowerment and Financial Inclusion

The wife of the Governor of Anambra State Chief (Mrs.) Ebelechukwu Obiano has called for the adoption of a pan-African approach to women empowerment in order to boost financial inclusion.

Mrs. Obiano who is the founder of Caring Family Enhancement Initiative (CAFÉ) an NGO, made the call in a paper titled “From Exclusion to Inclusion: Country Level Initiatives Towards Financial Inclusion; A Nigerian Perspective,” presented at the 4th Gender Equality for Sustainable Development Conference held on September 27-29, 2016 at Nairobi Hilton, Kenya.

Represented by the Commissioner for Social Welfare, Children and Women Affairs, Hon. Dr. Victoria Chikwelu, and Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Media, Hon Emeka Ozumba who made a joint presentation in which the wife of the governor stated that though there might be minor differences, cultural barriers to financial inclusion are largely the same across Africa.

Said she: “There is no doubt from country statistics that women are the most financially excluded because they have to overcome the barriers of income inequality, distance to location of financial services, financial illiteracy, high cost of services and other cumbersome requirements; but from my experiences, interactions and interventions with the rural poor, in Anambra State, Nigeria, financial inclusion means something different, an opportunity to earn an income before banking it.”

To increase the frontiers of financial inclusion across Africa, Mrs Obiano advocated collaboration and exploitation of opportunities for the empowerment of indigent women; information sharing amongst NGO’s on capacity building for women; devising of transparent funding mechanism and support for NGO’s like CAFÉ which has a track record of outreach to rural women so as to achieve greater financial inclusion and lift more African women out of poverty.

Using practical examples she explained how the programmes of CAFÉ promote financial inclusion by engaging with, training and empowering over two thousand women who are mostly rural dwellers within two years. The women were equipped for the trade and given start-up capital through a direct transfer in collaboration with micro-finance banks thus giving them the freedom of ownership of new account as managers of their small-scale ventures.

Offering further insight, Mrs Obiano explained that CAFÉ initiatives gave Anambra women 60% stake in the N1bn micro-credit loan under the CBN funded Medium Scale and Micro Enterprises Development Fund (MSMEDF) which is managed by the Anambra State Small Business Agency (ASBA). The scheme, she noted, improved the financial capacity and petty trading by the women cooperatives. The new found status has also boosted the confidence of the new account owners and their ability to support in the upkeep of their families.

Some of the ventures embarked-on by the beneficiaries include; hair dressing, cosmetics and beauty therapy, soap making, bakery and confectionaries, telephone and computer repairs.

The wife of the governor also told the enthusiastic participants that CAFÉ initiative is in furtherance of Nigeria’s national Financial Inclusion Strategy definition which stated that “financial inclusion wold be achieved when adult Nigerians have easy access to a broad range of financial services that meet their needs at affordable costs,” but noted that a lot of work still needs to be done to meet the target of increasing access to the use of financial services like payments, savings, credit, insurance and pensions etc. by 80% of the population by year 2020.

She commended the effort of the Central Bank of Nigeria which she described as the champion of Financial Inclusion strategy in Nigeria where statistics show that 39.2 million adults (46.3% of the adult population) were financially excluded as at 2010. Of the total 54.4% were women with 73.8% younger than 45 years; 34.0% had no formal education while 80.4% are rural dwellers.

However, Mrs. Obiano commended the setting up of a Special intervention working group of the Technical Committee on women and urged for steadfast implementation of gender-focused financial inclusion policies to bridge the gap.

Highlighting the comparative strengths of Nigeria and Kenya in the promotion of financial inclusion, Mrs. Obiano identified the simple Know-Your-Customer and the planned launch of the Secured Transaction and National Collateral Registry that would facilitate the use of moveable assets as collateral as a smart policy; and Kenya’s progress in the adoption of mobile money as major boosts to financial inclusion in both countries which can be shared as best practices across the continent.

Organized by WE EFFECT, a Swedish NGO which operates in Kenya and twenty-four other countries, the conference which envisaged amongst other things a coalition of stakeholders committed to advancing financial inclusion for youth, women and Persons with Disabilities to enhance their resilience; spanned over four sessions and attracted participants from the East, Central and West Africa including Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe, and Nigeria.