The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, has felicitated Nigerian women and called for more engaging conversations on how women can leverage technology and innovation to bridge the digital gender gap. Mr. Emefiele, in his keynote address at the CBN IWD webinar to commemorate the International Women’s Day Celebration on March 23, 2023, noted that digital financial services had become a critical dependency in the economy, providing vast opportunities to bridge the digital gender gap, drive financial inclusion and increase employment and economic opportunities for women. He reiterated the CBN’s commitment to promoting gender equality and financial inclusion among women through such policies as the Micro Small and Medium Enterprises Development Fund (MSMEDF), which dedicates 60 per cent of the funding under the scheme to women-owned enterprises, the Framework for Advancing Women’s Financial Inclusion in Nigeria, which seeks to address gender gaps in access to finance, targeted onboarding of women on its central bank digital currency, the e-Naira, amongst others.
Speaking on the theme of the celebration, “Digitise Her: bridging the digital gender gap for financial inclusion and sustainable growth”, Mr. Emefiele attributed the successes recorded by the Bank to the hard work, resilience, and commitment of the female staff. Mrs. Aishah N. Ahmad, the Deputy Governor, Financial System Stability (FSS), who hosted the Coffee Table Chat with Dr. Omobola Johnson, called for broad private and public sector commitment to gender parity and ensuring that women, youth and rural dwellers have access to digital financial services. Mrs. Ahmad noted that despite increased digital mainstreaming, women were less likely than men to have access to technology, creating a digital gender gap which perpetuates women’s economic exclusion. She reasoned that digital innovation could be the missing link and a winning strategy for fixing the parity problem and deepening access to financial services. In her interventions, the Special Guest Speaker, Dr. Omobola Johnson, a Senior Partner with TLcom Capital and Nigeria’s pioneer Minister of Communications Technology, emphasised that inclusive innovation that is gender sensitive was critical to reducing the gender exclusion gap. Dr. Johnson also advocated for a catch-them-young strategy to encourage females to pursue careers in technology and the establishment of special funds for female led tech businesses to achieve greater participation in the digital economy.
She particularly underscored the importance of making Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education attractive for girls by showcasing role models in the sector. She highlighted the potential for digital financial services to enable not just financial services but important interventions in health, agriculture and SMEs. She, therefore, urged men to be deliberate in mentoring high-achieving women and their daughters in their pursuit of male-dominated careers like STEM.
Also speaking, the Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Mariam Katagum, equally stressed the need for women to learn digital skills to participate effectively alongside their male counterparts in digital financial services. Whilst commending the CBN for its efforts at enhancing financial inclusion, she disclosed that CBN and some agencies of government, such as the Bank of Industry (BOI), Industrial Training Fund (ITF), and the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN), have special funds that women can access for support.
Discussions during the panel session at the webinar focused on the strategic role of digital technology and targeted-out-of-the-box approaches to closing the digital gender gap, guaranteeing women’s access to the digital economy and improving digital financial inclusion and broad-based economic participation of women. Speakers at the session, which was moderated by Mr. Chibuzo Efobi, Director of Financial Policy and Regulation CBN, included Mr. Roosvelt Ogbonna, Managing Director Access Bank Ltd; Wendy Teleki, Head Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi) Secretariat World Bank Group; Dr (Mrs.) Markie Idowu, MD/CEO of Xpress Payment Solutions Limited; Mrs. Farida Yahya, Vice President, Partnerships Shecluded; and Mrs Hawwau Gambo, Assistant Director and Head of Media Relations, Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation. The webinar had in attendance more than 1,000 participants across diverse sectors of the Nigerian economy, including other Deputy Governors and departmental Directors of the Bank.