Mr. Olufunwa Akinmade, Divisional Head, Retail, SME Banking and E-Business, Unity Bank Plc, speaks with Nairametrics about the bank’s Yanga Retail Product and how it will help underbanked women entrepreneurs grow their businesses.
How would you assess women entrepreneurship in Nigeria?
Recent research has shown that Nigeria has the highest number of women entrepreneurs in the world, with an estimated 40 million SMEs, of whom women constitute approximately 42%.
These women have proved beyond reasonable doubt that they have the capacity to create wealth and contribute productively to the economy. However, a lot more needs to be done and it starts with empowering them with the right tools to harness this entrepreneurship potential.
Currently, they face many institutional and cultural hurdles while starting or running their businesses. For instance, a recent report shows that only 22% of female entrepreneurs have access to finance against 34% of males.
This is part of why we have introduced Yanga to bridge this gap while also narrowing the population of underbanked women entrepreneurs.
Several local and International NGOs have introduced different schemes to boost financial inclusion among women. It appears the efforts are not enough. How do you think the gap can be closed?
There has been a concerted effort over the years, ranging from funding to business development support. While these efforts are no doubt commendable, a little more is required, most especially in getting to the Last Mile. This is where the Unity Yanga product comes in, with a unique product proposition that includes an easy to operate and free to open savings account, with no identification required:
- Customized debit card
- Dedicated sales officers
- Special banking agents in each market location
- Quarterly Seminars at main market locations anchored by Unity Bank and its alliance partners.
By rolling out this scheme across all geopolitical regions, Unity Bank’s objective is to work assiduously towards reducing the huge numbers of underbanked women in the country.
What informed the Unity Bank Yanga Retail Product initiative?
According to EFInA 2020 report, there are 51 million Nigerian women above 18 years of age, with over 41% of them, unbanked. In addition, it is estimated that there are 14-18 million female entrepreneurs – mainly in the micro SME category. The raison d’etre for Yanga is therefore to create a unique product proposition aimed at solving this problem in a win-win approach.
Non-performing loan is part of the cankerworm that has eaten deep into the fabrics of the Nigerian banking industry. How do you intend to ensure this product will not add to it?
A key part of the Yanga Product experience are (1) micro-loans and (2) HMO-offering
The micro-loan would be availed with time-tested Credit Policies, backed with technology-based credit scoring. These would help detect frivolous applications as well as reduce NPLs.
How and when was the Yanga product launched?
The product was launched in December 2021, and in line with Unity bank’s strategic vision of being “Nigeria’s retail bank of choice,” the Yanga product was launched in four geographical locations: Mararaba/Nassarawa state, Ibadan/Oyo state, Uyo/Akwa Ibom state and Gombe/Gombe state
As part of our bank’s plans to reach the target market, Unity Bank partnered with Sola Sobowale, the award-winning Nollywood actress, who has a very strong appeal to the target market.
Are there plans to extend the product to other regions?
Yanga is available to all women entrepreneurs nationwide. What we are currently doing is activating in strategic locations across the country and that has been ongoing since its launch in December last year. We have been to Nasarawa, Gombe, Akwa Ibom, and Ibadan. And activations are currently ongoing in Lagos and Port Harcourt.
What are the feedback you are getting from the women in the region?
The Yanga product was actually launched after an extensive 5-month research period – working in partnership with Lagos Business school SIDFS team. Focus group sessions were conducted across peri-urban areas in Lagos, Benin, Enugu, Kaduna, Gombe, Bayelsa, Rivers, Oyo, Kwara and Kano states.
The most pertinent findings were that Women wanted 5 major services:
- Dedicated contact person
- Access to start-up finance
- Business Advisory services
The feedback has been very good; the product is off to a flying-start, with the uptake being better than expected.
What is the duration of the product and are there requests for extension of the promo?
The Unity Yanga product is not actually a promo. It is a full-fledged CBN-approved retail product that is targeted specifically at unbanked women in Nigeria. The product is available at any of our over 8,300 SANEF agent locations, our 210 branches and can be opened online via our website www.unitybank.com.