Tomi Somefun still remembers how she was in shock in 2015, when she was called to meet with the board of directors. Unity Bank, when she was offered the position of CEO.
With the promotion, she became the sole CEO of a financial institution based in Nigeria At that time – the second to fill the position. But Somefun is no longer an exception. Women now make up nearly a third of the chief executives of commercial banks in Nigeria, far ahead of African countries and Western financial centers such as the United Kingdom, France and Germany.
“My appointment conflicted a bit, creating a new dimension in the ‘mix,’” Somefun said via email about his first day on the job. “I wasn’t expecting this change.”
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For an economy that has just emerged from its second recession in four years, the potential catalyst for growth in the coming years is at stake. Achieving full gender equality in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, could increase the country’s gross domestic product by $229 billion, or 23 percent, by 2025, according to a 2019 report by the McKinsey Global Institute and Council on Relationships. external.
Even with the promotion of women as bank CEOs, Nigeria continues to highlight the need to expand the client base of financial institutions. The sector has failed to meet the central bank’s goals of bringing more people – especially women – into the financial system.
Women had significantly lower access to finance compared to men at the end of 2020. According to EFInA, a UK-backed development organization that seeks to encourage inclusive finance in Nigeria, 40% of women are excluded, compared to 32% of men.
But when it comes to the top of the hierarchy, the change is already evident.
This year, three women have been promoted to the position of CEO or Managing Director: Nika Onyali-Ekbe at Fidelity Bank, Yemisi Idun at First City Monument Bank, and Myriam Olsanya at Guaranty Trust Bank, the banking unit of the country’s largest financial institution.
“There is a perception that women will always pay their debts, so I think that helped a little bit in developing products for women,” Onyeali-Ikpe, the first woman CEO of Fidelity Bank, said in January.
As a former CEO responsible for the bank’s operations in Lagos and the southwest region, she reversed the unit’s loss to generate approximately 28% of the bank’s losses.
He said this helped their selection process. Now, it plans to expand the 33-year-old institution to become one of the top five depository banks by 2025.
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