Nigeria Women GEMS4 Event 20140401034037 Resized WEB

A new financial product is enabling poor and vulnerable women retailers in Nigeria to gain access to working capital to enable them to grow their businesses. It is intended for members of ‘women’s wholesale buying groups.’

The product, called Fortis Micro Distribution Savings Account, or Fortis-MiDiSA, is the fruit of the collaboration between the Fortis Microfinance Bank PLC and GEMS4, a project funded by the UK Government.

Taking out the middlemen for women’s empowerment

Fortis-MiDiSA is specifically aimed at owners of micro-businesses who are forming ‘women’s wholesale buying groups.’ Wholesale buying groups enable their members to purchase merchandise at wholesale prices by buying directly from wholesalers, instead of from intermediaries, thus lowering costs and increasing profit margins. The merchandise is then sold by the members through their individual businesses.

Using Fortis-MiDiSA, members of the wholesale buying groups are able to borrow money as a group, but save individually. They can then use their savings to either pay off the group loan, or reinvest in their individual businesses. GEMS4 has worked with partners in northern Nigeria to train some 400 women on running micro-businesses by utilising this practice.

The first of these groups have received their first shipment of merchandise purchased as a group – solar lamps procured from the wholesale distributor PRIMLAKS, a social venture firm that provides lighting to the poor in developing markets.

The lamps come in three styles, ranging from a low-cost version to a more expensive lamp that can illuminate an entire room. They offer a number of benefits to Nigeria’s poor communities. The lamps can be a source of light that may otherwise come from kerosene lamps, which are costly and harmful to health. More hours allow students to study in the evenings and traders to continue working after the sun goes down.

The ‘women’s wholesale buying groups’ were conceived of by GEMS4 as a response to the exclusion of poor and vulnerable women from the wholesale and retail market. GEMS4 is a market development project that aims to create jobs and increase incomes for people working in the wholesale and retail market system.

The project is working to tackle constraints to women’s economic advancement. These constraints include the non-availability of financial resources for women, women’s lack of business and negotiations skills, and women’s lack of sense of belonging to business networks and associations.

GEMS 4 is funded by the UK Government and managed by Coffey.

Fortis-MIDISA launch event

Fortis-MiDiSA was launched at the FORTIS Women Fair 2013 in December in Abuja, Nigeria. The keynote address was given by Simon Kenny of DFID-Nigeria, who stressed that if Nigeria is to address poverty and inequality it must empower women economically.