As Nigeria looks beyond oil to diversify the economy into agriculture and solid minerals, wife of former Deputy Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Dr. Grace Christopher Ekpenyong, has made a case for more women participation in the key policies and programmes of government.
According to her, women as very strategic partners in the economy have major roles to play in the area of manufacturing and packaging of exportable agricultural goods for local consumption and export. Mrs. Ekpenyong, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Amazing Quality Limited, an agricultural and food processing firm, spoke in an interview in Abak, Akwa Ibom State, at the end of the just concluded Export Stakeholders Forum and Exhibition held in Abuja.
The fair oragnised for women entrepreneurs by the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) was graced by the wife of the President, Hajia Aisha Buhari; Ministers, Captains of industry and other functionaries of government.
It was tagged: ‘Achieving Zero Oil Growth Through Women Inclusiveness in Global Export Trade’.
Mrs. Ekpenyong, while showcasing her products before the President’s wife at the fair, explained that women have the entrepreneurial potentials to aid the economic diversification drive, but lamented that lack of resources and infrastructure combined to limit their efforts. She, therefore, asked the Federal Government to lend a helping hand for the women to develop their businesses through grants, adding “loans will only cripple the businesses”.
“Women are very prudent and resourceful in their businesses. If we are given grants, a lot could be achieved; our businesses will be improved”, she noted. “Nothing could be achieved with loan because you cannot use loan to create the enabling environment for your business to grow well. You cannot use loan to fix infrastructure including roads, power, water and other facilities”, she added. Mrs. Ekpenyong, whose firm processes wheat, cassava, beans, cocoyam, yam, plantain, maize, soya beans into flour for local and international markets, assured that the company which has created jobs for several unemployed Nigerians, would do more, if given the lifeline.
Other products of the company include moringa seeds and tea for food supplement, wheat bread, natural honey and liquid soaps for the household. She commended the NEPC, organizers of the forum, which, according her was the first such expo in Nigeria for women entrepreneurs and stressed the need for events like that to be held regularly so as to discover the hidden potentials in Nigerian women.