There is a growing awareness among researchers and world leaders that economic empowerment of women is not only critical to the achievement of women’s rights, but also to the broader SDGs. Empowering women economically is seen as a key driver of economic growth and development, as well as a means to reduce poverty, improve health and education outcomes, and promote gender equality.
Economic analysts have argued that the exclusion of women from the economy is not only morally wrong, but also economically inefficient. They point out that when a significant proportion of the population is not able to participate in the economy or realise their full potential, the economy as a whole loses out.
Based on this premise, Kenneth Amaeshi, a sustainable finance expert at the European University Institute, has proposed a unique strategy to promote peace and economic development, particularly in the southeast region of Nigeria.
His proposal, the One Kindred One Business Initiative (OKOBI) movement, is based on the idea that if each kindred (a group of extended family members) in the region, including the women, was to establish one business, this would lead to a more inclusive and sustainable economic growth. He argues that this would also promote peace, as it would create new opportunities for young people and reduce their vulnerability to violence.
In a virtual presentation at the 2023 annual conference of Nkata Ndi Inyom Igbo, held recently in Enugu, Amaeshi observed that when women in Ala Igbo come together, they often work on socio-economic projects, such as building town halls, roads, and electricity infrastructure. It is worth noting, as he further remarked, that women play a critical role in both dispute resolution and social cohesion, and their contributions are fundamental to achieving social and economic progress in the region.
Amaeshi, who also doubles as the chief economic adviser to the Imo State Government, pointed out that the August Meeting, an annual congress held by Igbo women, is a significant economic development opportunity that could be used to develop the economy of the southeast region.
“The question then is, how can we leverage both the trajectory and the antecedents of what our women have done in the past, and what they are currently doing through the August meeting and other economic interventions, to galvanise the south east economy?” he said.
The visiting professor of leadership and financial market in Africa at the London School of Economics and Political Science, argued that women’s economic participation is key to mainstreaming development and should be prioritised, adding that the OKOBI agenda is a valuable vehicle for advancing economic goals.
“In this case, there is a place for women in economic development and it can be mainstream and I see that as a very good vehicle to pursue what we are trying to do through the OKOBI agenda,” he added.
Amaeshi described OKOBI as a business initiative that empowers every family in Igboland to start their own business, rather than waiting for the government to provide jobs or relying on employment opportunities.
He noted that the initiative recognises the industriousness and entrepreneurial spirit of the Igbo people, and provides a platform for families to create businesses that are economically productive. This, in turn, supports the overall economy and fosters a sustainable model of growth.
He therefore invited Igbo women to key into the OKOBI initiative and use it as a way of intervening to address the problem of unemployment, to create shared prosperity in ala Igbo and address the issue of insecurity.
He emphasised that the August Meeting can be a powerful platform for the OKOBI initiative.
In his words: “Every year, I imagine that many communities will take the opportunity to launch businesses that can have a significant impact. Not all of these businesses will succeed, but that’s all part of the journey of entrepreneurship.
“I encourage women to take their rightful place in economic development and participate in this initiative. Together, we can create a brighter future for our communities,” he said.