As part of efforts to cushion the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic among the less privileged, a group known as Zisk Global Advisory Ltd in collaboration with Africa Union Economic Social and Cultural Council, AU-ECOSOCC Nigeria has concluded plans to disburse N800million interest-free loans to market women in the country.
According to the Chief Executive Officer of Zisk Global, Lanre Oni, the long term plan is to reach out to one million market women in Nigeria with the budgeted amount to be disbursed in the first batch.
Oni, who is also an Advisor to African Union ECOSOCC Nigeria on Economic Development and Partnerships, told journalists at a meeting in Abuja that the programme is an economic responsibility initiative meant to empower petty traders with a zero interest soft loan and with a friendly repayment plan spread within a period of 12 weeks.
He added that the initiative, tagged: “Post COVID-19 market women empowerment, PMWE”, is also aimed at “complementing 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.”
According to him, beneficiaries of the loan, which will be strictly for petty traders without religion and tribe limitations, would be able to access between N30, 000 and N200, 000.
“Our target audience is 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,” he stressed.
He, however, added that 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.
“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 one million 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.
Also speaking at the meeting, the Nigerian Representative, 3rd Permanent General Assembly of the African Union ECOSOCC, Hon. Oba-Olasunkanmi John Adebusuyi said they are 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 the African Women Decade of Economy and Financial Inclusion that was launched in Nigeria recently with the support of President Muhammadu Buhari. We are mobilizing other organisations to help ensure that women on the last rung of the ladder are supported.
“We are in total support and we are giving our backing 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.
Similarly, the Ambassador of Ooni of Ife in Brazil, Mr. 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 to have easy access to banking services.
Many youths, he said have profiled, trained and Point of Service/Sales, POS terminals have been handed over to them in the North, East, West and South of Nigeria.
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