By BENEDICT TEMBO
ABSA Bank Zambia managing director Mizinga Melu has said whilst milestones have been achieved towards the drive for women’s equality, questions should be asked whether enough has been and if not, what else must be done to increase their participation at economic level.
During the Women in Business Breakfast meeting Absa Bank hosted partnership with The Alliance for Inclusive and Nutritious Food Processing (AINFP) in Lusaka on Monday whose theme was Digitisation in Agricultural Value Chains, Ms Melu said during this month of March, there have been a number of activities across the country and globally, that are showcasing the drive on equality as we continue to seek our seats at the table.
“Whilst milestones have been achieved, we must still ask ourselves the question whether we have done enough and if not, what else must we do to increase our participation at economic level?,” she asked.
Being to be part of a distinguished audience of women who are making strides to change the narrative of what women are able to achieve as a collective, Ms Melu said it delights her because it is a clear demonstration that if they have to be at the fore, then they cannot escape the need for innovation and technology as enablers for the growth of their businesses.
She said sustainable food security remains critical for any productive country.
“However, there is a dire need for us to explore sustainable ways of increasing nutritious food production whilst addressing challenges such as limited agricultural land accessibility, depletion of natural resources as well as the effects of climate change which we continue to witness right across the globe,” Ms Melu said.
She said digitisation plays a crucial role in transforming food production through cost effective and efficient ways that allow more throughput of commodities in the market.
“Within the banking sector, digitisation has significantly helped to bridge the access to finance gap as we are able to offer our clients across the country digital platforms that allow them to conveniently transact through platforms such as mobile and online banking. At Absa Zambia we understand that running a business requires dedicated time and that is why we deliberately make business banking less time consuming, safer and more convenient through our digital channels,” she said.
Ms Melu said Absa has been availed K300 million available for lending to SME including women-led business under United States Development Finance Corporation (DFC) through the USAID EDGE programme and USAID Alternative to Charcoal Project.
“As part of our efforts to provide affordable financing to SMEs, we have put in place partnerships such as the Develop Financing Corporation (DFC) agreement through the USAID, which helps us to extend cost effective pricing. You will agree with me that the issue of affordable pricing has remained a topical matter and at Absa, we remain committed to finding ways to help unlock the potential of every woman led business,” she said.
Ms Melu said through the bank’s four pillars – access to finance, access to trade markets, access to business development skills and access to business information, they strongly believe that they are able to play a meaningful role in bridging the financial divide and support Government’s efforts to extend innovative and affordable financial solutions to SMEs across the country.
“The SME sector remains a big driver of our economy and providing adequate support towards the growth of this sector cannot be overemphasised. This is why collaborative efforts such as the one we see this morning are important towards driving productivity and sustainable economic growth,” she said
Ms Melu paid tribute to Absa partners, TechnoServe and the Women’s Entrepreneurship Access Centre (WEAC) for joining hands with the bank in supporting the growth of women enterprises focused on nutritious food processing.
“Our combined role is to ensure that we support government’s efforts in building the capacity of businesses, help them unleash their true potential and ultimately, elevate their great,” she said.