With the growing call for gender inclusiveness and the global cry for women to be mainstreamed into the activities in the corporate world, Nigeria’s Bank of Industry has been a leading light in championing this cause. The bank has piloted and scaled up some of its programs to suit this front-burning issue.
Mrs Adebisi Ajayi is the Head of Gender Resources at the Bank of Industry and very influential personnel in driving this agenda as the focus of this department in Nigeria’s oldest and largest Development Finance Institution which is currently operating in conjunction with the nation’s ministry of finance.
In her capacity in the BOI, the bank has seen a year-on-year increased lending rate to women and skill-based female entrepreneurs. This initiative aimed at increasing liquidity and accessibility of business finance for those classified as high-risk borrowers. Matter-of-factly, the bank’s had increased its capital base from N90 million to N160 million, to increase its risk asset to women and maintain a single-digit interest rate so as to maintain a robust distribution and stimulate
In 2007, gender financing commenced with N90 million. It generated 51 businesses in seven sectors and created 600 jobs. Cumulatively, that seed money is now about N160 million. These were to microcredit businesses. The BoI realized we cannot stay with micro-credits because there are women who have the capacity to do big business. In 2015, a gender enhancement desk was set up to focus on only women big businesses. This has led to the bank’s risk assets increase in women. The N13billion supported 232 women business.”
In 2017, the Nigerian government as a part of its Social Investment Program in conjunction with the Bank of Industry (BoI) launched an interest-free loan for women artisans, market women and smallholder farmers under the National Women Empowerment Fund (NAWEF) intervention scheme by the Federal Government. NAWEF, as designed by the Federal Government’s Social Intervention Programme (SIP), was exclusively for women and administered by BoI to issue interest-free loans to successful applicants.
According to Mrs Ajayi, businesses done by women have created over 57,850 jobs nationwide, adding that the bank has set up a desk which focuses only on women entrepreneurs. In her words, “Women have played a vital role in the development of Nigerian economy and BoI has increased women and youth entrepreneurship capacity by encouraging the use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) to boost businesses”.
Mrs Adebisi Ajayi was inducted into the Centre for Economic and leadership Development global Hall of Fame at the South America-Africa-Middle East-Asia Women Summit (SAMEAWS) 2014; she was also a panelist both at the Nigerian Power Women Conference in Nigeria 2015, and the U.S-Africa Women Forum, New York, 2019.