In what is aimed at cushioning the harsh effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on small-scale businesses, a group, Zisk Global Advisory Ltd (ZISK) has is flagging off an initiative tagged POST COVID-19 MARKET WOMEN EMPOWERMENT (PMWE).
The programme is an economic responsibility initiative conceived to empower petty traders with a zero interest soft loan and with a friendly repayment plan spread across 12 weeks.
Speaking during a virtual press conference, chief executive officer of Zisk Global Advisory Ltd, Lanre Oni, said the initiative has been made possible due to its partnership with several organisations, including the African Union ECOSOCC Nigeria chapter, and by extension, TAITA Communications.
Oni, who is an advisor to African Union Ecosocc Nigeria on economic development and partnerships, said since the pandemic, they have received requests from various top civil society organisations including Tomatoes and Orchard breeders Association of Nigeria (TOPAN), Tike Food Sellers Association (TESA) , JRASMOS, Gender Alive Foundation (GAF), Zinovi Educational Foundation and HWYAN.
Explaining some of the modalities for the loan, he said beneficiaries will be able to access fund between N30,000 to N200,000, adding that it will not be limited to any tribe or religion, however adding that it will be strictly for petty traders.
“Our aim is to complement the efforts of the government on economic recovery from the impact of COVID-19 by reviving petty trader businesses in Nigeria, promoting financial inclusion, reduce Unemployment and alleviate poverty.
“Our target audience are the daily petty traders and artisans within the market or around the street, selling pepper, cassava flakes (gari), tofu, food, sachet or bottle water, vegetables, onions, fruits, friend yam and beans cake (akara), cloths, groceries etc.
“This empowerment is a soft loan, which we expect that the beneficiaries will return either on a weekly or monthly basis within a period of 4 to 12 weeks,” Oni said.
He said beneficiaries will only be able to access the soft loan if they are members of any of the partnering organisations, while Zenith Bank is the official financial institution for the initiative expected to disburse the loans and train the market women on financial literacy.
According to him, the long term plan is to reach out to one million market women in Nigeria with at least budgeted N800 million expected to be disbursed in the first batch.
“This is a country of over 200 million people. The best we can do is to start from somewhere. 1 million market women in Nigeria. The loan will be coming in batches. We cannot give everyone at once. First batch is 800 million for this first batch. As time goes on, our target of 1million market women will be attained. If we can achieve that we know it will go a long way.
“We have a structure; it is a structure of civil societies that are well known. They have members and for you to be qualified, you have to be a member of this organisation.
We have been able to structure out the plan to ensure we have monitoring units because we foresee the challenge of repayment, nevertheless we want to sustain the programme. We want to achieve a 99 percent recovery of the loan. We believe that only members of the association will be allowed to be beneficiaries. People will be decided by their leaders and they have supervisors who will monitor them” he said.
Speaking at the meeting, Nigerian Representative, 3rd permanent General Assembly of the African Union ECOSOCC, Oba-Olasunkanmi John Adebusuyi said they were fully backing the PMWE as it was in line with its agenda for the next decade.
“One of the major programmes we are working to implement is the Agenda 2063 of the AU. It talks about an Africa where citizens are given the right to develop.
“This project falls under this decade plan. We are involved and we are mobilizing other organisations to help ensure the last rung of the ladder is supported. We are in total support and we are giving our backings to some of our organisations that are already participating. Let us see this as it is, it is an empowerment programme, so that we can move one million women out of poverty,” he said.
Also speaking, the ambassador of Ooni of Ife in Brazil, Ajoyemi Osunleye, said over 1000 new agent banking service providers have been empowered via the Z-Money platform of Zenith Bank Plc and other agency banking platforms
This, he said is to make it easy for every market women and artisans in the rural and even urban communities have easy access to banking services.
Many youths, he said have profiled, trained and POS terminals have been handed over to them in the North, East, West and South of Nigeria.
Speakers from the various civil society organisations lauded the initiative and expressed optimism that it will go a long way to improve the economic well-being of beneficiaries.