Herbert Wigwe
Herbert Wigwe

…covers Africa with Womenpreneur Pitch-a-ton

BY EMEKA EJERE

In line with its growing pan African spirit, leading Nigerian retail lender, Access Bank Plc is extending the second edition of its Womenpreneur Pitch-a-ton programme to other African countries where it has significant presence.

Studies by organizations such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and Africa Development Bank have over time shown that empowering women by granting them access to vast opportunities and information will not only lead to personal development for women but also the development of the communities and societies where they operate.

According to Access Bank, the Womenpreneur Pitch-a-ton Africa 2020 Campaign is designed to provide female owned businesses across Africa an opportunity to access finance and world-class business trainings as well as mentoring opportunities. In other words, the programme has been designed to create an enabling environment for female entrepreneurs to grow their businesses.

Access Bank has been at the forefront of women empowerment by leveraging on the ‘W’ initiative as a channel. The bank pioneered women banking in Nigeria with the establishment of the Gender Empowerment Movement (GEM) in 2006 which later evolved into the ‘W’ Initiative, officially created in 2014. Available records show that such dedication to women empowerment has led to over 35% of its customer that are women.

No doubt, the bank has been committed to championing female empowerment, with a focus on information sharing, capacity building, and increased access to finance to grow and expand their businesses.

Specifically, the ‘W’ Academy, a programme under the ‘W’ initiative focuses on capacity building sessions, In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) opportunities, networking programmes among others. This platform is anchored on addressing gaps in gender financing and technological skills among women while bridging business and managerial skills gap among thousands of female entrepreneurs through workshops and events.

To a young woman focused on personal development, or as a business owner looking to contribute positively to the economy or one whose primary concern is providing comfort to her family, the ‘W’ community provides timely updates on developments that affect her personal and family lives, careers, and businesses.

It is a known fact that one major challenge women in Africa have faced over the years is access to loans and variety of financial assistance to help expand and improve their businesses. To address this, Access Bank created the ‘W’ Power loan – a scheme designed to bridge the financing gaps for women in business and provides business support services and visibility for these businesses.

According to the bank, since the launch of the loan scheme in July 2018, over 60 loans valued at over N1 billion has been approved for financing expansion of operations, acquisition of fixed/capital assets, and working capital requirement.

Speaking at the launch of the second edition of the Pitch-a-ton initiative last week, Ayona Trimnell, Group Head, W Initiative, said, “Access Bank has been a leading advocate for women’s economic empowerment in Nigeria and this is the key motivation for the ‘W’ Initiative which caters to the women economy particularly in the areas of capacity building and creating networking opportunities for women”.

She further stated that the Pitch-a-ton is an expansion of the Womenpreneur Business Workshop, under the bank’s women proposition, the W Initiative.

“We launched the Pitch-a-ton initiative last year in line with our value proposition as the number 1 bank of choice for women in Nigeria, and we got a tremendous amount of applications with innovative business ideas. This year we want to do more and we want to reach out to more female entrepreneurs not just in Nigeria but across Africa.

“As a responsible financial institution with huge presence in other African countries, we want to give the same opportunity to other female entrepreneurs in Ghana, Rwanda and Zambia as well as Sierra Leone, Gambia, and Congo to apply and participate in this year’s edition of the programme.

According to the organizing unit, the Womenpreneur Pitch-a-ton Africa 2020 will provide up to N9 million grant and a unique capacity building programme aimed at empowering women entrepreneurs. The programme, the first women-in-business support initiative of its kind in the industry, is designed as a 3-month period incorporating pitching sessions and 8 weeks of mini-MBA training in collaboration with the International Financial Corporation (IFC).

Interested persons from Nigeria and other African countries who meet the criteria are required to fill an online application form. The 500 candidates selected from the pool will then send in a sixty seconds video pitch which will be screened by a credible panel of business experts to select 50 finalists.

As part of the graduation requirements, the 50 finalists will pitch their businesses, infusing knowledge from the mini-MBA and will stand an opportunity to win financial grants up to N5 million.

Access Bank has made significant investments aimed at enhancing growth in the Small and Medium-size Enterprise (SME) sector. The bank is also a major advocate for women in business through innovative offerings like the W Power Loan, a discounted financing at 15% interest per annum for women to grow their businesses as well as other business support services.