Business

FirstGem: Women’s empowerment key to economic growth

According to a recent African Development Bank (AfDB) report, women entrepreneurs contribute significantly to economic development and financial integration on the continent through job creation. The report, however, notes that many continue to have difficulty in accessing loans, due to reasons such as their inability to provide immovable collateral and the challenges of existing land and property rights laws. Similarly, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, also known as UN Women, states on its website that “empowering women in the economy and closing gender gaps in the world of work are key to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”

Indeed, while the challenges faced by women may vary from continent to continent, the consensus among researches all over the world is that women still grapple with more hurdles than men in trying to attain their maximum potential in business and career.

Thus, as part of its contribution to addressing the situation, Nigeria’s leading lender, First Bank of Nigeria Limited, in 2016 launched FirstGem, its lifestyle product, primarily designed for the female gender to promote female independence and entrepreneurship.

In his speech at this year’s edition of the event held virtually and physically in Lagos, a fortnight ago, the Chief Executive Officer, FirstBank of Nigeria Ltd, Dr. Adesola Adeduntan, noted that in the last five years, the FirstGem initiative has helped to foster the empowerment of women across the socioeconomic strata with implementation across pillars such as, the FirstGem platform for women (access to leadership programs/ workshops/trainings on women empowerment, business skills on wealth management and investment plans); value proposition, including capacity building, affordable finance, access to infrastructure, market visibility for women micro small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), as well as a strong commitment to support women by leveraging its resources as leading financial institution in the country in developing unique and mutually rewarding solutions.

He disclosed that under the FirstGem initiative, the Tier 1 lender gave out loans of N58 billion to over 81,000 female entrepreneurs and professionals in 2020. Also citing the success of the lender’s agent banking proposition as one of the outcomes of the FirstGem initiative, he said: “Across our agent banking network – the largest verified bankled agent banking network in Nigeria – , we have about 24,500 female agents representing 28 per cent of the agents in our network. It gives us much joy to see that more women are embracing this proposition and getting empowered.

“The Art of Negotiation” was chosen as the theme of the event, which was part of FirstBank’s month-long celebration of the critical roles and successes of women in the society, because research has shown that it (how to negotiate) is an important skill women need to have. “The month of March is recognised globally as, “Women’s History Month” and provides an opportunity for us to discuss and proffer solutions to gender parity issues and women empowerment challenges.

“FirstBank, through the FirstGem initiative, is committed to supporting the contemporary woman’s financial services needs across the various stages of her life. Our FirstGem value proposition provides real solutions to challenges faced by female entrepreneurs and working professionals.”

He pointed out that the First- Gem initiative took an inclusive approach to empowering women to make confident and sound decisions with respect to their business, family, and future. Adeduntan told participants at the conference that “whether you are the primary financial decision maker, a partner or financially independent, the time is now to power your own financial success by being part of the FirstGem Initiative – Open a FirstGem account and join the FirstGem community.”

He urged the participants to join via the link https://firstgem. com.ng/community, where likeminded women, irrespective of where they are in Nigeria and abroad, gather to connect, grow and share knowledge on everything about lifestyle, motherhood, career development, entrepreneurship, health, work and family. In fact, New Telegraph’s findings show that in the last six years, 81,000 individual/ female MSME borrowers have accessed credit due to the product. In addition, the number of FirstGem customers has grown to 96, 266 and they are spread across the country’s 6 geo-political zones with the South South and South West zones leading with total number of 36,390 and 32,477 customers respectively.

 

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