It was a glamorous last weekend, as thousands of women entrepreneurs, shoppers and visitors besieged Ecobank Ellevate maiden Exhibition and Workshop held simultaneously in Lagos, Ibadan, Port Harcourt, and Abuja. The Fair is a special free exhibition and networking workshop organized by Ecobank Nigeria for female entrepreneurs as part of activities to commemorate this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD). 

Executive Director, Commercial Banking, Ecobank Nigeria, Carol Oyedeji in her remark expressed satisfaction with the turnout of exhibitors with various innovative goods and services in the different locations as well as patronage from various segments of the society, submitting that with the right support, female entrepreneurs would grow their businesses and contribute more meaningfully to the nation’s economic growth.

At the Lagos venue, Mrs Oyedeji toured the various exhibition booths and exchanged pleasantries with shoppers, exhibitors as well as visitors. She also participated in the various masterclasses and network activities, assuring them of continuous support of the Bank to create more wealth and value in the economy.

She further explained that Ellevate is not a product but a proposition. “When I say proposition, it actually transcends several products. Once you are a female-focused business owner; make products for women or your employees are women, you are qualified for the benefits of Ellevate. It was created to support women’s proposition. The supports are through financing their businesses through concession on the interest rate; we train their staff as much as possible to understand their business and create access for them in the international market. We have our sister entities in our 33 countries in Africa as far as access is concern. We have been able to provide experts that will train them.”

On the major challenges facing women-owned small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Africa, she said “Number one is access to finance and the reason is that most times, they do not know the structure of their business. Number two is access to the market as they do not know how to package their goods. The third one is capacity building by understanding their business very well and ensuring they sell them. Ecobank the pan African bank is out to help businesses with all of these.”

At the trade event, the exhibitors displayed products ranging from fashion, beauty, makeup, hair/skin care, accessories, food, drinks, and arts among others. The female entrepreneurs also had the opportunity to attend several masterclasses where they were exposed to techniques on prioritizing health as a business owner, scaling business by leveraging social media and networking as a business owner. She is optimistic that the coaching would impact positively on their businesses.

Ellevate is designed to reduce gender inequality in entrepreneurship and aid equal representation for women in the formal business sector. It is aimed at empowering women-owned and women-managed businesses in Nigeria and indeed across all Ecobank’s Africa footprints, leveraging various unique financial and non-financial benefits. It promises an end-to-end partnership in which they could gain access to financial services specially tailored for them with loans at special terms and discounts. They could also get fixed deposit investments at special premium rates, zero account maintenance fee, continuous financial education, and capacity building under the Ecobank/ AUDA-NEPAD academy and other special arrangements. Also, they would have access to networking and recognition under its business clubs as well as access to markets and leveraging its various e-commerce solutions. All this in addition to giving them access to Ecobank’s unique digital payments and collections platforms like Omnilite for payments, EcobankpayNQR for contactless local and cross-border collections and modern POS channels, various lifestyle benefits including campaigns and promotions to drive Ellevate customers’ business growth and personal well-being.

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