Give women loans, says Okonjo-Iweala

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Former Minister of Finance and co-chair, Women’s World Banking, Africa Advisory Council, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has said that giving the 70 per cent of women, who are financially excluded in sub-Saharan Africa, access to financial services could spur the next phase of economic growth within the continent and hasten recovery in most parts of Africa.

Ngozi-Okonjo-Iweala

Speaking at a Banking for Women programme hosted by Diamond Bank in partnership with Women World Banking, Africa Advisory Council in Lagos, Okonjo-Iweala said it was important for governments, central banks and finance ministries to formulate policies that are geared towards empowering women financially.

She noted that globally, two billion people are excluded from financial services and including 1.6 billion of them can raise local GDP by six per cent by 2025. She stated that part of the number to be included, more than half (808 million) are women.

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She said: “There is one common theme globally and that is the theme of uncertainty and I think that uncertainty is coming from an unprecedented area of low global growth, the fact that the recovery from the 2008/2009 financial and economic crisis has been slower than expected and that recovery is very fragile. So, you have a situation where global growth has been reversed downwards one more time by the International Monetary Fund, IMF, to 3.1 per cent.

“Demand seems to be low, inflation in the northern countries is low and Africa is not doing as well as it should because of the commodities import and derailment of good policies. World trade is also very slow and you have the political bottlenecks; people don’t know.

“But, I believe that where there is difficulty, there is also opportunity and therefore you have to look at that side and determine where the opportunities are. And that is where the issue of financial inclusion of women and girls and is very important because everyone is searching for what will help spark growth in different economies and even for us here in sub-Saharan Africa. So, it is vitally important for us to look at this issue of financial exclusion of women on the continent.

Seventy per cent of African women are excluded, according to the numbers of access to financial services and if we bring them in, it will present another growth opportunity.

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“So, they have done a study to show that including women and people financially can actually raise growth. The study also shows that countries with low women inclusion for example Ethopia, Nigeria etc can even add more to their GDP growth like10- 12 per cent higher than the global number.”

She added to drive the needed growth, government needs to get out the information that including women in businesses improves the bottom-line and that if you bring women into business and empower them, it increases growth of economy.

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In his welcome address, the Group Managing Director/CEO, Diamond Bank Plc, Uzoma Dozie, stated that the bank is very passionate about growing and driving financial inclusion.

He said, “We are here today because Diamond Bank is hosting African Advisory Council set up by Women World Banking to promote the financial inclusion of women globally.

“The Women World Banking objective is to by partnership with organisations, donor agencies, banks like Diamond Bank to develop products and services that will enable women to be financially included and add to economic development of countries like Nigeria.”

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