The empowerment of women in business lies at the heart of a new mobile phone service in Nigeria that was launched today by a partnership between Nokia, the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and the leading mobile operator, MTN Nigeria.
The new Nokia Life service, called Business Women, will offer essential tips and practical advice on starting and running a successful business to female entrepreneurs in Nigeria on their mobile phones.
With micro & small businesses accounting for over 90% of Nigeria’s employment, helping more women in Nigeria run successful businesses is seen as a great way of empowering women and enabling personal improvement that benefits not just the individual, but their children, family and society as a whole.
Strikingly, women already own a significant percentage of the small enterprises in the Nigerian economy. That statistic can only increase as the Business Women service will help to build confidence and get even more women to run, or think about running their own businesses.
The service will help by providing them with information and guidance on skills that every entrepreneur needs:
- Lead their business and personnel better
- Market their products & services and manage customer relationships better
- Manage their cash flow, inventory, book keeping and accounts better
- Get access to loans and credit from banks by maintaining good credit history
- Safeguard the business and staff with insurance and deal with taxes, legal and registration aspects of the business
Reaching more women
Set up in September 2008, the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women works to support and empower women in Africa, Asia and the Middle East so that they can play a larger role in their national economies and societies.
After investigating around 200 different platforms to see how they could use mobile phone technology to empower more women entrepreneurs, Nokia Life was chosen as a partner for this project in Nigeria.
Research by the Foundation found that:
- 93% of women entrepreneurs in Nigeria were willing to use a mobile service like Business Women to address the business challenges they face
- 75% believe that such a service will add significant value to their businesses
Cherie Blair, founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, was present at the Business Women launch event in Nigeria today, along with female entrepreneurs, women’s associations and local students.
Mrs Blair said working with Nokia was a ‘welcome development’.
“Giving women the chance to become financially independent and make the most of their talents is the key to higher living standards and stronger economies,’’ she said.
“With the extensive reach of Business Women through Nokia Life and content tailored especially for Nigerian women entrepreneurs, this new service has the potential to empower thousands of women business owners.”
Life improvement services
The partnership between the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and Nokia Life services is a natural fit.
When Nokia Life was launched about two and half years ago, it set out with an aim to connect the next billion to information and Internet. Now, 70m people have experienced and benefitted from Nokia Life services in India, China, Indonesia and Nigeria.
Designed so that the most basic of mobile phones can benefit, and with no need for any data consumption, Nokia Life provides a lifeline for people at a grassroots level when they might otherwise find it difficult to access the Internet, or find other sources of education and information.
“Right from the very beginning, we knew that information was a great leveller,” says Jawahar Kanjilal, Nokia’s Vice-President of Emerging Market Services and Global Head of Nokia Life.
“If you were you to bring in knowledge and awareness in society then you put people on the path towards empowerment. That is a key enabler that can be delivered by a mobile phone and that is where Nokia Life comes in.”
Alignment of goals
The Nokia Life portfolio of life-improving services is based on education, health, agriculture and entertainment. A large proportion of the people opting into Nokia Life services are students, young adults, farmers and, yes, many of them are women.
“When we were discussing the opportunities with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and with Mrs Blair herself, there was very big alignment of goals,” says Jawahar.
“They were looking for services that could lead to a better quality of life for women in developing countries and here we had the ability to reach out to individuals on an on-going basis.”
“It is about driving confidence and giving information which can be actioned by the individual.”
SMS but not as you know it
While the Nokia Life service is based on SMS technology, it would be wrong to assume that it is just sending a whole bunch of texts to people.
When the message arrives on a handset it opens up and renders with a colourful format, icons, and the pretty user interface of the Nokia Life application.
As Jawahar says, it is using ‘existing SMS technology but differently’. Importantly, it is very simple to use and Nokia Life works wherever the phone works.
All this is achieved even on relatively simple handsets with low memory and little processing power.
However, the power of the technology cannot be denied. With the launch of the Business Women service in Nigeria, Nokia Life continues to play a very big part in creating a better future for millions of people.
The Nokia Life Business Women service will be available for free, for the first six months, to Nokia Life users who are also currently subscribed to MTN Nigeria. The service does not require 3G or GPRS.
Image credit: satanoid