COVID-19: AWEP urges women entrepreneurs to embrace collaboration, diversification for sustainability

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African Women Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP) Nigeria has urged women entrepreneurs to embrace collaboration and diversify their businesses to ensure sustainability.

Speaking at the annual general meeting and conference of the group yesterday (14th October 2021) at Abuja, the keynote speaker, Steve Ogidan, stated that women entrepreneurs should focus on collaboration. According to him, expansion of the market not competition for the share of the market is the best way for women entrepreneurs to move their businesses forward.

“It is no longer a question of gaining customers. It is now a question of exploring and exploiting uncontested markets with opportunities for growth.

“Collaboration is key and in this age and time, no one can do it alone. Women entrepreneurs should focus on what they know how to do best, instead of trying to be everything to everybody.

He also noted that the major challenge of enterprises in Africa is sustainability and ensuring businesses can run on their own in the absence of the owners or founders. He identified client retention, staff capacity building and effective customer service as as important for sustainability.

Also speaking, the National President, African Women Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP) Nigeria, Mrs. Angela Ajala said that diversification is vital for women entrepreneurs to scale their businesses.

“Women entrepreneurs need to diversify their businesses. You cannot rely on one source of income. It is not possible. Look at what you are doing now? How can you cascade? Look at the value chain and see what other things you can incorporate into your business,” she said.

Ajala highlighted the achievements of the group in the last few years despite the global disruption occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic. She revealed that through the group’s Mentoring hub and Business Advisory Clinic, positive impact has been made in terms of business growth of members.

“In the past few years, we organised over 25 trainings to build capacity in different areas, as we realised that knowledge is power, and you can’t give what you don’t have.

“We provided access for members to have their products in top supermarkets. We had The International Trademark Association hold a pro bono clinic so members could consult and be advised on trademarks, intellectual property, patents, etc.

“We provided opportunities for virtual and physical exhibitions so members’ products and services could go across global markets. There was a special program that gives women owned businesses access to Shoprite’s network of retail stores across Nigeria.”

In her remarks, the National Public Relations Officer, African Women Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP) Nigeria, Dr. Mrs. Grace Okaro, concurred that there are a lot of positives to take from the COVID-19 pandemic citing the adoption of virtual meetings, securing of grants and loans for members and successful export of products and capacity building initiatives as some of the milestones recorded.

Okaro added that: “We partnered with ACT Foundation to empower over 600 women through skill acquisition programs in 10 communities across Nasarawa and FCT.”

The event comprised of exhibitions, lectures, panel discussions, trainings presentation of awards and election of new officers.

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