The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women (CBFW), in partnership with Nokia West Africa and MTN, has strengthened the capacity of women entrepreneurs through the introduction of a new information service that would provide essential business tips and practical advice on how to start and run a successful business to female entrepreneurs in Nigeria via their mobile phones.

The service dubbed “Business Women” will be the latest addition to the Nokia Life service portfolio.

With Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) accounting for over 90 percent of Nigeria’s employment, industry watchers told Business World at the launch of the service, that assisting more women in the country run successful and profitable businesses is a great way of empowering and enabling personal improvement that benefits not just the individual, but their children, family and society in general. Cherie Blair, founder of CBFW told journalists on Thursday that women entrepreneurs are faced with significant barriers to scaling up their businesses, including access to affordable resources, marketing channels and training inputs.

According to Blair, the new information service aims to address this imbalance by providing essential entrepreneurship tips, delivered via SMS to mobile phones with the Nokia Life service. Women entrepreneurs present at the launch of the service expressed optimism that the new information service would assist them in overcoming some of the social and economic barriers preventing women from reaching their economic potential.

Research conducted by the CBFW, supported by the ExxonMobil showed that 93 percent of women entrepreneurs in Nigeria were willing to use value added mobile service to address the core challenges they face in their business and 75 percent of them felt that addressing these challenges would lead to a significant increase in value of their business.

“Giving women the chance to become financially independent and make the most of their talents is the key to higher living standards for them and their families. “With the extensive reach of “Businesswomen” through Nokia Life and content tailored especially for Nigeria women entrepreneurs, this new service has the potential to empower thousands of women business owners.”

Industry analysts, however, told Business World, that the introduction of the service was indeed a welcome development. According to them, while computers and the internet allow women to build entrepreneurial success, mobile phones have the most potential because their portability and ease of use make them a particularly friendly tool to support women’s business growth. Vice president of Nokia West Africa, James Rutherford, explained that by partnering with CBFW and MTN Group to make “Businesswomen” service a reality was indicative of Nokia’s commitment towards connecting people to new opportunities, including making women a larger part of the next billion of people to be connected.

“Nokia Life is by far the world’s largest mobile information service suite helping consumers in emerging markets learn, live and share information better. The foundation invests in women entrepreneurs to build and expand their businesses, and in doing so, benefit not only them but also their families and communities. We are delighted to partner with the foundation to provide Nigerian women with the best information available to help their businesses.

Besides, the “Businesswomen” service will be available for free, for the first six months, to Nokia Life users who are also currently subscribed to MTN Nigeria.

—Henry Ojelu