Rejoice Taddy

last updated Wed, Jul 5, 2023 9:20 PM

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2 mins read

Nigerian women proving that entrepreneurship is gender neutral

By Rejoice Taddy
| Updated 21:20 05/07/2023
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A woman selling pepper in northern Nigeria. Photo Credit: Abdul Muhammad/Al Jazeera

In 2015, Akanbi Fumilayo started selling clothes, bags, shoes, makeup items, and deodorants. By 2020, she had become very popular in Kwara state, where she is based.

The 33-year-old utilised the pandemic period to build a large following on Twitter, which she now uses to promote her business. "I studied at the University of Ilorin and sold clothes on campus. I realised that I had a talent for it and decided to expand my endeavours after graduating," she explained.

Becoming a businesswoman did not come without resistance; her father wanted her to become a medical doctor, and most of her friends didn't see the logic in her choice to pursue entrepreneurship.

"Unfortunately, I had other plans for myself, and this was not so pleasing to my father, and he did not even know I was already selling things in school,” she said. 

Fumilayo added that the first few months of business were tough for her, but she weathered the storm and is now proud of her accomplishments. 

Breaking forth

Like Fumilayo, Abdulrahman Fatima's road to entrepreneurship was not rose-tinted

Now known for her ability to deliver and cater to the culinary needs of a wide range of guests on short notice, the 40-year-old Fatima grew her business from her tiny kitchen in Kano to a business that now tends to different types of clients, primarily within Northern Nigeria. 

Fatima's parent's death forced the responsibility of being a guardian to her siblings on her. She dropped out of school and started selling food from the ones they had at home to earn money for their upkeep. 

"I sold almost all that we had at home and hawked at places I never thought I would,” Fatima said.

She saved some of the profits from her new business, saw the flyer for a cooking competition and decided to enter. 

"That changed my life," she said. "I emerged as the winner and got prizes."

Fatima's clientele and business expanded with the prize and the popularity of winning the competition.

These are only a few stories of women going against the wind and becoming successful entrepreneurs.

Women in entrpernureship

Nigeria has one of the world's highest numbers of women entrepreneurs, with over 41 million female-owned small and medium-scale enterprises. This high level of female entrepreneurship is largely necessity-driven, as many women start businesses to support their families.

However, female entrepreneurs in Nigeria face several challenges; a study by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor found that the top three challenges faced by female entrepreneurs in Nigeria are access to finance, as women are less likely to have access to formal loans and other forms of financing, which can make it challenging to start or grow their businesses.

In addition, Women entrepreneurs lack access to business training and development opportunities, which can hinder their ability to effectively manage and grow their businesses.

Also, in a deeply patriarchal society like Nigeria, women entrepreneurs often face cultural barriers, such as the expectation that they will focus on their families rather than their businesses.

Despite these challenges, women in Nigeria continue to start and run successful businesses, with some women like Mo Abudu and Folashade Alakija gaining global fame.  

Also, while government and organisations work towards softening the business for women, it is on the part of people to learn business is gender neutral. 


Akanbi Fumilayo women entrepreneurs

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