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Path to Progress: How PPPs Can Unleash Nigeria’s Economic Powerhouse with Women at the Forefront

By: Idara Ben-Edet 

 The World Bank estimates Africa’s giant has a $6 trillion opportunity to unleash the untapped potential of its female-led entrepreneurial space. Women business owners dominate Nigeria’s entrepreneurial space but need more financial, societal, and policy backing to build and scale their enterprises at the same rate men do. As Africa’s largest economy, Nigeria’s ability to leverage public-private partnerships (PPPs) for gender-inclusive policies drives its progress towards achieving UN Sustainable Development Goals 5 and 8 for gender equality and economic growth. With the support of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), leveraging PPPs for gender-inclusive policies is essential for promoting economic development in Nigeria and attaining SDGs 5 and 8.  

 Gender equality is vital to Nigeria’s social development of women and girls, mainly due to women’s economic contributions in business. According to a publication by PwC Nigeria, women entrepreneurs account for 41% of Nigeria’s population, with active participation from 23 million women in this space. In conjunction with the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap timeline of 121.7 years for Sub-Saharan Africa to close the gender gap as of 2021, PPPs can be instrumental in effectively mitigating gender inequality and driving Nigeria’s progress toward SDGs 5 and 8. PPP frameworks like a proposed UNECA-designed partnership for Gender-Inclusive Economic Development, EmpowerHER UN-GIED, advocates for empowering women entrepreneurs and adopting gender-inclusive policies. Through gender-inclusive investment fund PPPs, this program will target Nigerian women entrepreneurs facing challenges with access to capital and resources to sustain their businesses. Other African countries like Rwanda have successfully implemented initiatives that offer financial solutions to women business owners’ challenges. A report from Rwanda’s Gender Monitoring Office details how the Women’s Guarantee Fund (WGF) helps women entrepreneurs obtain necessary funds, without collateral, such as loans, grants, and up to 75% of credit guarantees from micro-finance institutions or commercial banks. 

Collaboration between Africa’s public and private sectors is essential for addressing the region’s economic diversification needs. The International Finance Corporation’s  (IFC’s) Gender Entrepreneurship Markets (GEM) program is a viable PPP framework for expanding women’s market participation through technical and financial assistance. A World Bank publication showed a negative GDP growth rate of 1.85 in 2020 from the drop in oil prices and the pandemic exposing the detrimental impact of continued reliance on oil revenues. Due to their profit-driven business models, PPPs benefit from a shared interest in monetary gain through social impact. Therefore, they are vital in driving economic diversification away from oil dependence and attaining SDG 8’s  demand for inclusive economic growth.   

Women and girls face amplified gender-based violence in forced displacement, which hinders their access to healthcare, education, and employment opportunities. Advocating for women’s rights worldwide and in Nigeria is not simply a feminist demand for equality but a fundamental awakening to women’s contributions to the human ecosystem. By advocating for gender equality and women’s empowerment, UN SDG 5 emphasizes this concept by calling for and end to all forms of gender-based discrimination and violence. This call to action is essential to address the vulnerability of Nigeria’s displaced women and girls, who comprise 79% of the 2.5 million people forcibly displaced by the conflict between Boko Haram and the Nigerian government, according to a press release from ReliefWeb. Leveraging PPPs for gender-inclusive policies that address the vulnerability of women and girls in conflict-affected regions can be supported by the fundamental work of the UNECA Gender, Poverty, and Social Policy (GPSP) Division and the Division for Gender and Social Development (DGSD) divisions through technical assistance, advocacy, and policy guidance. Therefore, Nigeria can make more substantive progress toward gender equality and women’s empowerment.  

As the deadline for achieving the SDGs draws near, Nigeria’s implementation of gender-inclusive policies that leverage PPPs will increase its progress toward achieving SDGs 5 and 8. While PPPs are not a be-all and end-all solution and can potentially exacerbate inequality under the current lackluster unequal economic system, their practical and transparent implementations can challenge the existing power dynamics and help Nigeria foster more gender-inclusive environments that harness the economic power of women entrepreneurs. Technical repercussions encounter the reality of conflicting objectives and interests from PPP stakeholders. Political instability, like corruption and terrorist attacks, could harm public-private partnerships. Still, such partnerships also harness the economic and social influence of diverse resources and expertise. By implementing gender-inclusive policies, Nigeria improves its global reputation and affirms its commitment to achieving SDGs 5 and 8.  

In leveraging PPP frameworks, with the support of UNECA’s GPSP and DGSD divisions that advocate for gender-inclusive policies, Africa’s giant can be the shining example of unleashing the economic powerhouse that is its women entrepreneurs. In doing so, Nigeria benefits from a $6 trillion economic opportunity that empowers women and drives progress to achieve SDG 5’s gender equality commitment. 


About the Author 

Idara Ben-Edet is a highly accomplished professional with a diverse Diplomacy, International Relations, and Marketing background. With a recent graduation from Seton Hall University, where she obtained a Master’s degree in Diplomacy and International Relations, Idara specialized in African economic development, showcasing her dedication to fostering positive change in the region. Born in Nigeria and now residing in America, Idara brings a unique perspective and deep understanding of both cultures to her work. Her expertise in marketing further enhances her ability to communicate effectively and promote initiatives aimed at driving economic growth. Idara Ben-Edet’s exceptional academic achievements and professional experience make her a credible and influential voice in the field of international relations. 

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