By Chinyere Joel-Nwokeoma/Lagos
First Bank of Nigeria said that it disbursed loans worth N58 billion to over 81,000 female entrepreneurs and professionals in 2020.
The Bank’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr Adesola Adeduntan, disclosed this at the FirstGem annual conference 4.0 on Wednesday in Lagos with the theme,” The Art of Negotiation”.
Adeduntan said that the bank through its FirstGem product in 2020 gave out the loans to empower the Nigerian woman.
He said that empowering women via agent banking proposition was one of the outcomes of the FirstGem initiative.
Adeduntan added that about 24,500 female agents represented 28 per cent of the agents in the bank network.
“It gives us much joy to see that more women are embracing this proposition and getting empowered.
“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.
“Additionally, at First Bank, we are leveraging the agent banking proposition to close the gender gap and tap into the rich and overlooked base of the pyramid customer segment (that is predominantly women) with the realisation that failure to fully harness women’s productive potential represents a missed opportunity to drive accelerated global economic growth,” he said.
Adeduntan noted that the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was significant and affected women the hardest.
“A recent World Bank report shows that 2021 will bring an increase in extreme poverty with a minimum of 71 million people expected to fall below extreme poverty lines.
“Women are losing their livelihoods as they are more exposed to hard-hit economic sectors.
“The United Nations also estimates that at least 47 million more women and girls will fall below poverty lines this year with a minimum of 247 million women in extreme poverty because of COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
Adeduntan explained that it had become imperative to match the scale and urgency of the challenge with financial products that would address the lifecycle financial needs of women.
He said that the products should holistically address the needs of women by providing them with integrated access to savings as well as short and long-term credit, capacity building, and wealth management advisory.
“This suite of products will improve the earning capacity and reduce poverty levels amongst the women folk in the medium to long term. Success will be dependent on everyone playing a part,” he said.
Adeduntan said that the FirstGem initiative, in the last five years, had served to foster the empowerment of women across the socio-economic strata with implementation across three pillars.
He noted that the FirstGem platform for women provide them access to leadership programmes on women empowerment, business skills on wealth management and investment plans.
The product, FirstGem, is an account designed specifically to meet the needs of women, aged 18 years and above.
It is targeted at a broad spectrum of women, working professionals, entrepreneurs or market women to promote their business through an array of benefits.
Also speaking, Prof. Pedro Videla, Professor of Economics at IESE Business School, said that the world Gross Domestic Product dropped by six per cent in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Videla said that 90 per cent of countries went into recession due to the pandemic occasioned by long lockdown.
He, however, said that there would be a recovery in 2021 with most countries coming out of recession.