Financial products that are designed for women’s business goals can strengthen women led businesses and benefit the larger community. Yet, for a long time, rural women have been skeptical about dealing with financial institutions due to their gaps in education, such as literacy and numerical skills. The lack of financial inclusion has also not promoted access for women particularly for people living in poverty, who can be crucial stakeholders to achieving inclusive growth. Hence, most women would rather save at home or borrow from family and friends than be controlled by unexplained high interest rates from banks.
Amidst this background, the Nigeria WAY project in partnership with Agrikeys conducted a two day Micro Finance Institution (MFI) Fair to directly link women and youth small business owners to financial institutions. The fair was an opportunity to create awareness on their account opening processes and the products and services they offer – (especially those that are gender sensitive) and how the clients can establish business relationships with them and access the facilities available to improve their businesses. Some of the available products include quick loans with a 10% service charge, business loans with a 17.5% service charge and agriculture loans with a 30% service charge. Others are green technology assets purchases, such as an eco stove for 6000 NGN ($18.38 CAD/$14.51 USD), a grinding machine Gx200 for 50,000 NGN (153.16 CAD/$120.94 USD), rice parboiler machines for 450,000 NGN (1378.45CAD/$1,088.42 USD) and rural financing packages.
Nigeria WAY small business clients were given the space and time they needed to gain a thorough understanding of the gender responsive products that are available to them and align with their business objectives within the value chains of rice, groundnut and soybeans. This provided a direct line of communication for clients to reach out to the MFIs and express their concerns or reservations.
Speaking about the impact of the exercise, one client named Talatu mentioned that she never knew that she would gain the opportunity to be mentored on loan taking. “I never knew there were different types of loans but from this program, I have realised that there is a right kind of loan to access for any business needs,” Tatalu said.
Elizabeth, another Nigeria WAY client, also spoke about her experience during the training sessions. “The training did not just link me to getting loans from banks but has also taught me how to separate myself from my business. Before now, I was just sharing my profit to everyone. I just stayed and spent every money that came but now instead I have put myself on a salary since the training which allows me to now pay myself from my business,” Elizabeth stated.
The fair also informed clients about the different steps needed to access funding. Khadijah, one Enterprising Entrepreneur (EEN), who processes rice, described her experience interacting with banks. – “I have always been afraid of borrowing money from the bank, you see I cannot speak English and the forms are always in English. What if I tell someone to interpret and the person interprets wrongly or tries to mislead me? You see this is going to be a big problem for me. But with this style MEDA has used for us, it is going to assist many women like me to access loans for our businesses to grow,” Khadijah reflected.