Over five years, from 2017 to 2022, women-led companies in Nigeria raised $221m.
But an astonishing 97 percent of that was concentrated in the commercial capital Lagos or in the southern region of the country, while a mere 2.8 percent went to women running businesses in northern Nigeria.
When investors decide to take risks, they appear to bet more on the more commercially viable south of Africa’s largest economy, not the north, which is usually associated with low developmental indicators.
The lack of substantial funding for formal and informal startup ecosystems in the north has left many women there vulnerable to financial insecurity, even as more of them become entrepreneurs.
A survey on women involved in informal cross-border trade, published in 2019 by UN Women and the African Development Bank (AfDB), shows that the most common reason for business ownership among women in the north is need.
Most of the women surveyed opened small shops or became street vendors to earn whatever they can to provide some level of economic stability for their family.
UN Women recommended investing in capacity-building programmes, including training in marketing and sales, for women entrepreneurs to effectively compete in regional markets.
Here are firsthand accounts by women living in the north-central city of Minna, talking about what it is like to run small businesses without the financing, visibility, or credibility afforded to their peers living closer to the country’s industrial hub.