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Empowering Women Entrepreneurs: FAO-ITC (SheTrades) EWAT Investment-readiness Bootcamp

In an exciting step towards empowering women agripreneurs in Nigeria, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Trade Centre (ITC) collaborated with The Orbra Company to organize an intensive 2-day investment readiness bootcamp. Held in Lagos on August 10-11, 2023, the bootcamp aimed to strengthen the skills, mindsets, knowledge and networks of women-led micro and small enterprises in the agribusiness sector.

By equipping participants with practical capabilities to enhance their access to finance, the bootcamp enabled women entrepreneurs to formalize their operations, seize growth opportunities and prepare to scale under the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) framework.

The Premier Hub, located in the heart of an innovation cluster in Lagos, provided the ideal venue for the immersive training program. A total of 34 women entrepreneurs running inspiring agribusinesses participated in the bootcamp. Their enterprises spanned various agricultural segments including crop production, food processing, logistics, distribution, retail, restaurants and agro-inputs.

Kicking off with insightful opening remarks from the organizers, the participants were visibly enthusiastic to soak up knowledge from the sessions facilitated by industry experts over two days. An interactive icebreaker activity led by the CEO (The Orbra Company) Mr. Ololade Otayemi emphasized team building, setting the stage for collaborative peer learning.

Day 1 featured an intensive session delivered by Adaeze Sokan on grant and investor readiness for agrifood MSMEs. She outlined crucial tips on developing persuasive business plans including: demonstrating market potential, articulating competitive advantages, showcasing strong financial management systems, defining social impact goals and team capabilities. Her subsequent presentation deconstructed the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) framework, exploring opportunities for agribusinesses like reduced trade barriers, expanded markets and infrastructure development across Africa.

Other immersive sessions addressed topics like strategic planning, financial modeling, storytelling for pitching, governance, leadership, technology adoption and global exports. Real-world case studies, tailored exercises and hands-on activities made the sessions highly relatable for participants. For instance, an engaging activity had participants craft and present short pitches for their own businesses to get comfortable with storytelling techniques.

A major highlight was the small group collaborations for women entrepreneurs to co-create draft business plans applying the knowledge gained. The groups presented their business plans on Day 2, receiving constructive feedback from facilitators to refine their strategies.

In addition to skills-building, a game-changing opportunity provided was access to leading capital providers and government agencies like NIRSAL, Sterling Bank, Access Bank and Global Affairs Canada. Participants gained first-hand insights directly from funders on products, criteria, processes and requirements to access financing tailored to their needs and growth stages. Being able to ask questions, discuss deals and understand how to successfully approach funders gave participants renewed confidence and clarity to access capital after the bootcamp.

While participants rated the bootcamp highly for its practical approach and knowledgeable facilitators, recommendations to enrich future editions included: extending the training duration to 3-4 days, follow-up implementation support through monthly check-ins, advanced sessions on e-commerce and digital strategies, more direct pitching practice, product exhibition opportunities and partnerships with incubators.

Overall, the investment readiness bootcamp served as a powerful launching pad for women agripreneurs in Nigeria to gain practical knowledge and networks to unlock their potential. Participants left inspired to implement their learning with formalized operations, enhanced business management capacities, financial acumen, persuasive pitching abilities and connections to access capital. This promising initiative reflects the remarkable impact that can be created by equipping women entrepreneurs with the right skills, mindsets and partnerships to succeed as changemakers uplifting their communities and driving wider economic growth.

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