Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has canvassed for low-interest rates for Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in the country, stating that this would allow them to access financial support and thrive in their respective businesses.

Governor Sanwo-Olu made the call on Thursday while speaking at the celebration of International Women’s Day held at the Blue Roof Ikeja, themed: “Economic Inclusion of Women Entrepreneurs (NANOs/MSMEs) at the Grassroots/Community Level.” He argued that only loans with single-digit interest rates can help unlock the growth of small businesses.

According to the governor, Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) create the most jobs and should, therefore, be supported with low-interest funds to enable them to do more, assuring that Lagos State would ensure more women are brought into the net of the state’s empowerment programs to allow them to contribute to the growing economy.

Sanwo-Olu, who was represented by the Deputy Governor, Dr. Kadri Obafemi Hamzat, said that the state was paying attention to women’s empowerment and had, therefore, upscaled its efforts in that regard to ensure the provision of capital, training, and networks 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 and other gifts from Lotus Bank.

This was just as Governor Sanwo-Olu emphasized that Lagos State had initiated specific economic recovery programs that had supported women-owned businesses to thrive, with grants, extended loan moratoriums, and business advisory services which he said had helped them to navigate the current business climate.

“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 Six Thousand Kilometer Fiber Duct Infrastructure Project. The first phase, which is three thousand kilometers, is nearing completion.

“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 the 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,” the governor stated.

The State’s Commissioner for Commerce, Cooperatives, Trade and Investment, Mrs. Folashade Ambrose-Medebem, said the maiden event organized by the ministry in collaboration with Women Entrepreneurs and Professional Development Network (WEPDN), was aimed to recognize and discuss the indispensable role women played in shaping businesses, leading to economic prosperity.

The commissioner explained that 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 the Lagos State government had programs that would remove those barriers.

“We must prioritize policies and programs 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,” she said.

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

She enjoined entrepreneurs at the grassroots and community levels 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.

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President Women Entrepreneurs and Professional Development Network (WEPDN), Mrs. Affi Israel Ibanga, in her own remark, said the strategic conference was designed to development stride in the state, stating that it would help to facilitate women’s inclusion in the scheme of things, especially at the community level where many of the women reside.

“It is my ardent desire that this program will help our young ones, especially women, off the streets for productive ventures. It is aimed at giving 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), was to provide a platform to promote women’s businesses, access to markets, international exposure, and opportunities to exhibit their innovative ideas, products, and services.

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