Stakeholders in the global impact investing space have listed gender less investing, inclusivity in corporate boards, taking concrete steps to increase women’s participation in impact investing, effective policy formulation as well as addressing the baseline needs of the Nigerian women as the panacea for bridging the gender financing gap in the country.

The suggestions were made at the inaugural Gender Impact Investment Summit organised by the Impact Investors Foundation (IIF) in Lagos last week. The well-attended event had as speakers Dr. Betta Edu, the Honourable Minister for Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; Engr. Afolabi Oladele, the chair of Impact Investors Foundation (IIF) and vice chair for the Nigerian National Advisory Board for Impact Investing (NABII); Ibukun Awosika, the chairperson for Nigerian NABII, and Thelma Ekiyor Olu-Solanke, the chair SME.NG/member, Nigerian NABII.

Others were Tokunboh Ishmael, managing director and co-founder, Alithea Capital; Gwen Abiola-Oloke, CEO, DI Africa, and Toni Sanni, head of corporate finance and venture capital, Emerging Africa Group, among others.

The maiden summit was attended by over 300 stakeholders in the impact investing space such as those involved in policy making, investors, fund managers, and entrepreneurs with a view to addressing the gender gap in accessing finance across the country.

“At the summit, vibrant panel discussions addressed barriers women face in impact investment and policies needed to unlock opportunities. Participants made commitments to reducing the gender financing gap in Nigeria while also proposing gender targets for investee companies, building pipelines of female fund managers, and actionable policies to streamline gender inclusion.

“They also committed to creating opportunities for women to access finance, enhance the awareness of gender-lens investing, and expand networking and partnerships,” IIF said.

Dr. Betta Edu, the Special Guest of Honour and Keynote Speaker, who was represented by Carol Nelson-Atuonwo, Special Adviser (Strategy) to the Honourable Minister, said there was need for gender lens investing and called for concrete steps to increase women’s participation across the impact investing value chains from asset owners to fund managers.

She said: “Closing the financial gap for women in Nigeria is achievable and will entail concerted efforts in policy making, capacity building on gender mainstreaming and continuous engagement with all actors and stakeholders with focus on tackling the root causes.”

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In his welcome address, Engr. Afolabi Oladele said that there was a problem with widespread access to finance, especially for women in Northern Nigeria.

“Women still struggle with baseline needs, particularly in the North and this affects the balance. Women generally earn less than men even when they do the same job as the men,” Engr. Oladele said.

Ibunkun Awosika wanted inclusivity in boards of corporate organisations in Nigeria in order to drive profitability.

Etemore Glover, CEO IIF and NABII said, “The summit marks an important milestone in collectively addressing the $320 billion financing gap facing African female fund managers and entrepreneurs. IIF remains committed to driving gender-inclusive practices in Nigeria’s impact investing ecosystem.”

Tunde Mabawonku, executive director, retail and digital bank, Wema Bank, suggested that women should endeavour to make the right investment choice and be deliberate in their plans to succeed in their career and their businesses.

Thelma Ekiyor Olu-Solanke, while delivering a microtalk titled “The Nigerian NABII Agenda on Gender and Financing Women through the Wholesale Impact Investment Fund (WIIF)” said NABII is intentional about supporting women-led impact projects, assuring that the body will support women in new and underserved markets.

“The Federal Government has committed 50% to the Fund. We are looking forward to reaching the $1 billion benchmark by the first quarter of 2024,” she assured.

IIF’s commitment to driving gender-inclusive practices in Nigeria’s impact investing ecosystem are an important step towards bridging this gap and creating a more equitable future for all.