Pat Agbakwu-Ajegwu in front of her store.
“As a business owner, you either choose to survive or die. And surviving in this state of economic crisis in Nigeria requires creative thinking.”
On my recent trip to Lagos, Nigeria, I spoke with Patricia (Pat) Agbakwu -Ajegwu, the owner of Xklusive Patsie and the former president of the Fashion Designers Association of Nigeria. She shared with me some challenges that women entrepreneurs in Nigeria are facing in midst of economic turmoil.
Since the peak in 2014, the global price of oil has decreased by over 70 percent. As a result, petrostates like Nigeria, which relies on oil sales for 75 percent of government revenue and 95 percent of its export earnings, are hurting. This is especially felt by small business owners in Nigeria.
Participants at the ITCILO training in Turin. (Photo: ITCILO)
As many previous CIPE blog pieces have pointed out, empowering women entrepreneurs leads to inclusive economic growth around the world. This point was further explored in a recent McKinsey report, The power of parity: How advancing women’s equality can add $12 trillion to global growth:
“We consider a “full-potential” scenario in which women participate in the economy identically to men, and find that it would add up to $28 trillion, or 26 percent, to annual global GDP in 2025 compared with a business-as-usual scenario.”
One way to increase the number of women entrepreneurs is by addressing the bottlenecks that prevent women from becoming business owners or circumstances that prevent them from expanding their businesses. And this can be done through policy reforms via business associations and chambers. To this end, CIPE and the International Training Centre of the International Labour Organization (ITC-ILO) held a joint week-long training-of-trainers session “Women Empowerment through Business Member Organizations (BMOs)” at the ITC-ILO campus in Turin.
Source: Freedom House
Out of the three billion internet users today around the world, most live in countries where the internet is not free. According to Freedom House’s latest report, Freedom on the Net 2015, which examined internet freedom in 65 countries, global internet freedom has declined for the fifth year in a row. The freest country is Iceland, and the least free is China. The report was compiled by analyzing laws and practices relevant to the internet, testing the accessibility of select websites, and interviewing various sources.
Overall, governments around the world censored information of public interest, while expanding surveillance and limiting privacy tools. Some key figures include:
Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of presenting at the 2015 Global Youth Economic Summit in Washington, DC, where over 450 leaders and practitioners from 50 countries came together. The theme of the overall summit was “Scale in Practice,” and it examined how best to design youth economic empowerment projects that maximize impact, scale, and sustainability.
My session was “The Voice of Youth in Economic Policymaking: How to Advocate for the Right Reforms” and I presented with Simon Van Melick from SPARK (a Dutch-NGO specializing in youth entrepreneurship in conflict affected societies) and Hania Bitar from Palestinian Youth Association for Leadership and Rights Activation (PYALRA). Unlike the other presenters at the Summit, who focused on the initiatives like vocational programs, microfinance, and innovations in mobile-based educational games, my panel focused on how to engage and empower youth to be involved in political and economic reform of their local communities.
CIPE’s strategy for youth programming is to prepare young people to become self-dependent and take initiative. To empower and engage youth as leaders of tomorrow, CIPE takes four approaches: teach civic education, equip youth with leadership skills, empower civil society to be inclusive and engage youth in the policymaking process, and provide platforms for youth to share ideas on reform.
“If a company’s goal is to stay in business for a long time, why take the shortcut and pay bribes, which can damage the company in the long term?” asked Sammy Hamzah, president of Indonesian Petroleum Association, at the launch event of CIPE and International Business Links (IBL)’s new Anti-Corruption Compliance guidebook for mid-sized companies in Indonesia’s oil and gas industry.
“When a company commits a corrupt behavior, it takes on average 20 to 30 years to bring back the company’s credibility.”
Corruption is a major problem in Indonesia. According to a Gallup poll, more than 8 in 10 Indonesians say that corruption is widespread throughout the nation’s government and businesses. The oil and gas sector is particularly susceptible to corruption because of the multiple steps in the procurement and licensing processes, as well as the sheer amount of the money involved.
That’s why CIPE and IBL produced the guide. It’s intended to help mid-sized companies looking to become suppliers of local or international oil and gas companies to understand the business case for anti-corruption compliance and instruct them on how to create an internal compliance system.
CIPE firmly believes in this year’s International Youth Day theme: youth civic engagement. Without young people’s political, economic, and social participation, no community is truly democratic. And many youth around the world have great ideas that can transform societies for better, but simply lack the platform to speak up. That’s why CIPE youth programs have helped empower youth to be heard.
This month’s Feature Service article highlights the work of four reformers from the recent CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS program – Bahaa Eddin Al-Dahoudi, Hiba Safi, Huma Sattar, and Lawrence Yealue. Their articulate stance on their country’s political, economic, and social issues highlight how youth are helping strengthen democracies around the world.
Read their articles here.
“When women come together in Nicaragua, we usually talk about families and communities. We never discuss about our businesses. That’s why a community like Red de Empresarias de Nicaragua (REN) is important, where women are encouraged to talk about their businesses without offending someone or thinking it’s a taboo.”
Marla Reyes Rojas, the owner of Techno Commerce Group, told me this over a cup of coffee during my recent trip to Managua. I was glad to hear first-hand how a CIPE partner is fostering a community where businesswomen, like Marla, can openly talk and build networks with other women in business.
Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprise (MSME) growth has been touted as a key for Nicaragua’s economic growth, but the country remains one of the most difficult places to start a business in Central America (for example, the licensing process takes more than 200 days to complete). This is even more pronounced for women entrepreneurs who confront myriad of challenges, and as a result only represent around 25 percent of the MSME sector in the country. Additionally, women face the rooted machismo culture that prevents them from achieving gender equality in the economy.
In such an environment, it’s crucial for women in business to come together and motivate one another. That’s why for the past year, REN led a mentorship program to develop leadership and entrepreneurship skills among women in Nicaragua. The program linked successful women entrepreneurs to female university students with business degrees (who served as interns) and emerging women micro-entrepreneurs (who were the mentees). REN matched ten teams — a team consisted of a mentee, mentor, and an intern — and each group worked to improve the mentee’s business.