By Desmond Ogudu
Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on Wednesday, launched ‘LSETF W-INITIATIVE’ to provide funding for women entrepreneurs in the State to achieve their growth objectives and create jobs for the youths.
The LSETF W-INITIATIVE, is a special intervention fund contributed between the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund and Access Bank Plc, to provide access to affordable finance for female-owned businesses in Lagos State.
The scheme, which targets between 5,000 and 10,000 women, was launched by Governor Sanwo-Olu at LTV Blue Roof, as part of activities marking his 100 days in office.
The event was attended by various women groups and entrepreneurs led by the president (Iyaloja-General) of Market Women Association, Chief Folashade Tinubu-Ojo.
The Governor said that the initiative was a measure to drive up financial inclusion among women and create financial access for SMEs in the State, emphasising that it will also provide support to businesses to stimulate growth and consequently, create employment for the teeming young population in the State.
The Governor further expressed the commitment of his administration to tackle unemployment in Lagos, adding, creating opportunities for small businesses and ensuring that women are also in alignment with the THEMES objectives of the administration.
He said: “There is no argument that climes, where young people and women are at the centre of economic planning, have emerged prosperous, progressive and remain the model of development. In Lagos State, the Government’s strategy is to optimise and sustainably grow our local economy, projected to be the fifth-largest economy in Africa, by creating access to funds for our women entrepreneurs. We are confident that it is an intervention that would create wealth for small businesses and consequently, put our young and productive youth to work”.
In his remarks, the CEO and Group Managing Director of Access Bank Plc, Herbert Wigwe said, “Access Bank is fully committed to bridging the existing gap and provide women with the support they need to successfully implement their business ideas”.
“Looking at the number of women present here today, I don’t think the initial N4 billion we set aside to help women will be sufficient, and based on that, the initiative fund will be increased to N10 billion. Through partnerships with organisations such as LSETF, Access Bank will continue to help women break boundaries, reinvent the status-quo, and take advantage of opportunities provided by technology and quality financial systems, to make significant impact on the economy of Lagos State and Nigeria as a whole”, Wigwe added.
Wigwe said that Access Bank has a long history of supporting female empowerment, offering over 8,000 personal loans valued at over N10.6b since 2018, with over 330 loans given to women in business, valued at over N16.6billion.
Also commenting, the LSETF Board of Trustees Chairman, Mrs. Ifueko Omoigui-Okauru, said, “The LSETF W Initiative aligns with the Fund’s strategic efforts to actualise the commitment of the State Government, of ensuring that at least 50% of the beneficiaries of LSETF programmes are women”.
The BoT Chairman revealed that the Fund is incrementally achieving this objective through its three core programmes. Women represent a total of 5,263 or 50% of the total number of loan beneficiaries, and account for 43.54% of the Fund’s total loan portfolio, with (approximately N3.07b) so far.
Also, over 74% of the beneficiaries in our Micro-Enterprise Start-Up Programme are women. Furthermore, 49% of the total 4,909 people trained through our Employability Programme, are women.
“That is not all. We have supported 16 female-led start-ups with workspace vouchers as part of the Fund’s Lagos Innovates programme, which seeks to make Lagos State the tech-hub of Africa”, she added.
In addition to the unveiling of the LSETF W Initiative at the event, 600 beneficiaries of the LSETF’s flagship Loan Programme, were presented with cheques in a symbolic ceremony led by the Lagos State Governor. The new beneficiaries join 10,753 other entrepreneurs who have successfully been credited with N7.5 billion in the last 4 years.