Lahore (Muhammad Yasir) The 13th Citi-PPAF Microentrepreneurship Awards Ceremony was held at Serena Hotel to celebrate outstanding microentrepreneurs across Pakistan, equip them to expand their businesses, and raise awareness of the impact of small businesses on communities and economies.
Microentrepreneurs received awards in various categories. Nadeem Akhtar won the award for ‘Best National Microentrepreneur Male’ while Sakina Bibi won the award in the female category. Nadeem has significantly grown his business of rural transport by making smart investments and using loans, going from living hand-to-mouth to acquiring key financial stability. He has also provided employment to other individuals in his community. Sakina Bibi established a washing machine plant using savings and loans, and has provided for her son’s laundry shop. She began by washing clothes of neighbouring households, and now provides employment for four other individuals.
Bashir Ahmad and Aneela Abbas emerged winners in the ‘National Winners- Novice’ category. Bashir supports a household of seven people. He runs a business selling miswaq, generating employment for nine other persons. He plans to expand his business from the local level to the international level, currently planning to start exporting to the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Aneela Abbas runs a beauty salon in Layyah district. She was initially discouraged by her local community when setting up her business. Now, she provides employment well as trainings for local women so they can run their businesses and earn for themselves.
Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF) and Citi have been actively promoting the development of microfinance in Pakistan for the past several years. Qazi Asmat Isa, CEO of PPAF, said “More than 450 exceptional microentrepreneurs have been recognized through the Citi-PPAF Microentrepreneurship Awards. They displayed hard work and leadership qualities, changing their lives and those of their communities in the process of their work. The Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards programme is a great way to raise awareness about microfinance’s benefits to economies as well as highlight best practices in the field.”
The Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards have invested in microfinance networks and microfinance institutions (MFIs) to provide steady financing and mentorship to more than 6,000 entrepreneurs worldwide. Nadeem Lodhi, Citi Country Officer & Managing Director of Citi Pakistan said: “The Citi- PPAF Microentrepreneurship Awards in Pakistan have shown great success, indicating the continuous development of the finance sector of Pakistan and demonstrating the benefits communities receive when microentrepreneurs are supported, whether they are in rural Kashmir or bustling Karachi.”
Addressing the gathering Mr. Naeem ul Haque, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister on Political Affairs said: “Some 30 years ago when I joined political office, the government was working out how to attack poverty, reduce it, and completely wipe it out from Pakistani society. The ruling class has created a society for itself which protects its own socio-economic interest that ignores those of the poor. I believe the present economic, political, and social system in Pakistan does not offer solutions to the problems it has created. We want to completely change the face of our society. We know the poor have been denied the benefits of this wealth. We are setting up the Ministry of Poverty Alleviation, a programme called Ehsaas, for the benefit of the poor.”
Humair Kari, Additional Secretary for Minister of Planning spoke in replacement of Khusro Bakhtiar, Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms, who was unable to attend: “The growth projectory has been inconsistent since the 1970s but has trickled down, so that the standard of living has increased in the last few years. The government is committed to developing the SME sector, reviving manufacturing, and facilitating the growth of SMEs.”
Engineer Daroo Khan Achakzai, President of FPCCI and Yusuf Hussain, CEO of Ignite both spoke about greater inclusivity, saying that the private sector cannot work in isolation when it comes to public-private partnerships. Achakzai said Pakistan needs industralisation crucially and hasn’t reached the level it needs to. He added that policy making was a crucial concern right now. Yusuf Hussain talked about the importance of partnerships and economic growth: “Economic growth is crucial to poverty alleviation. It is driven by innovation. We want to focus on start-ups, impact millions of people.”
The Deputy Governor of the State Bank, Jamil Ahmed, gave the keynote address sharing the many initiatives the SBP is taking to expand financial inclusion. He congratulated the entrepreneurs and shared the numerous initiatives the State Bank has taken to achieve financial inclusion across Pakistan.
Awards were also given to microentrepreneurs who have positively impacted their communities through their work. Recognition awards were also given to respective loan officers who helped their clients recognise their potential.
The nominees for the awards underwent a two-day training on marketing and financial management that would help them further improve their enterprises. The winners were selected from the shortlisted nominees after a detailed interview by eminent jury panels drawn from corporate and development sector organisations., including International Finance Corporation World Bank Group, FAO, and Pakistan Microfinance Network.
The Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards programme was first launched in 2005, quickly becoming a signature initiative of the Citi Foundation. It is aimed at raising awareness about the significance and benefits of microfinance in supporting financial inclusion and economic empowerment of low-income groups. The programme was implemented in nearly 30 countries last year, going on to becoming a resounding success. It also raises awareness of how the Citi Foundation supports microentrepreneurship as an enabler of economic growth and job creation in communities around the world, and showcases how microentrepreneurs are contributing to global progress and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).