Press Release | 10 Oct. 2019

What women need in Nigerian business


Women’s participation in Nigeria’s labour force is low and hasn’t evolved much over the past 20 years. In 2018, only 50% of all women in Nigeria participated in the labour force – a mere 3% increase since 1990. Yet, recent shifts to a services-based economy and the prestige associated with women’s entrepreneurship are opening up opportunities for Nigerian women to play a more active role in business.

However, according to a new ITC report, Nigerian women will only be able to seize these opportunities with the right support systems in place.

The publication, ‘SheTrades: Promoting SME Competitiveness in Nigeria’ is based on results from the ITC Small and Medium-sized Enterprise (SME) Competitiveness Survey of about 400 women-owned or led businesses in Nigeria. The report identifies the societal and economic challenges facing these enterprises and underscores the support Nigerian women need to grow their enterprises.

“The study helps policymakers understand not only how competitive Nigerian women entrepreneurs are today, but also how ready they are to compete in the future – a future that looks even brighter thanks to the opportunities created by the African Continental Free Trade Area,” said Arancha González, Executive Director of the International Trade Centre.

More flexible work environments

Most of the surveyed firms recognized that there is prestige associated with being a woman entrepreneur in Nigeria. Yet, women continue to have a low rate of participation in Nigeria’s labour force. This is attributed, in large part, to the pressures on women to marry and assume family responsibilities at a young age.

Flexible working practices can encourage more women to enter the workforce and stay employed once they are there. This ITC report recommends that policies are put in place to incentivize enterprises to offer more flexible working conditions. These policies would help Nigeria to widen its tax base and get more women into the labour force. Childcare facilities would also help women find more time to work outside the home.

Business registration and certification

More than half of the women-owned or led firms surveyed were not registered with a local or national authority, and about half of all surveyed firms reported poor access to information on domestic standards certification. Certification bodies received a poor rating by 42% of respondents. These are both impediments to growth, as registering a business and attaining certifications are often required to reach international markets.

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