Adolescent girls in Northern Nigeria: financial inclusion and entrepreneurship opportunities profile

Adolescent girls in Northern Nigeria: financial inclusion and entrepreneurship opportunities profile

Globally, adolescent girls are often marginalised and disengaged from both local and national decision-making, leaving them isolated and powerless to affect change. Without opportunities, girls are more vulnerable to becoming disillusioned, which can lead to risky behaviour and exploitation. Yet, information on adolescent girls in Northern Nigeria is minimal.

Through this assessment, Mercy Corps profiled 1,800 adolescent girls (ages 15 to 19) across the North Western States of Kano, Katsina, and Jigawa to identify key barriers and opportunities for financial inclusion and entrepreneurship. This included mapping school enrolment and marriage rates, examining access and demand for formal and informal products and support, determining potential sectors for growth for entrepreneurship, assessing the relevance and applicability of mobile banking (m-banking), and determining a means of increasing the financial capability of girls.

Among the findings from the study are that one-third of respondents either currently run their own business or have small economic activities in the informal sector and in female-dominated industries. Girls who run their own enterprise expressed a higher rate of control over their income than the overall assessment respondents, with more than 94% reporting either full (52%) or at least partial control (42%) over how their income is spent. Three-fourths of respondents want to grow their businesses or start a business, while 73% of these same girls would want or need their business to be located in or around their home.

While Nigerian law requires the presentation of a birth certificate or passport to open a savings account or apply for credit, only slightly more than half of the respondents have a birth certificate with 30% having no formal identification. To plug this gap, 40% of girls participate in savings and credit groups. The majority of groups are small, with 10 or fewer members, with the majority of girls participating to raise money to start their own business or small economic activity (69%).

With regard to the opportunities to engage with adolescent girls, the study recommends integrating financial education and entrepreneurial skills into school curriculum for in-school girls and savings groups and ‘Safe Space’ groups for out-of-school girls. One key opportunity to increase financial inclusion for adolescent girls is the strengthening and expansion of savings habits, and the increase of formal savings opportunities. Another opportunity is through micro-franchising, which bridges the gap between entrepreneurship and employment through established companies offering a ‘business-in-a-box’ and training on how to operate a business.

[adapted from author]

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