Ghanaian entrepreneur Esther Afua Ocloo helped many women in Ghana find success in entrepreneurship by establishing Women’s World Banking. WWB helped millions of women to obtain loans to start their own businesses, as well as strive towards many future accomplishments.
Beginning in 1930, Ocloo started as a humble street vendor, selling her own homemade marmalade jam and orange juice. Ocloo became the first person in the country to create a formal food processing enterprise, Nkulenu Industries.
The entrepreneur continued to study business at the United Kingdom’s Achimota School. Adding to her record breaking streak, Ocloo became the first black person to receive a degree in cooking from the Good Housekeeping Institute in London. Ocloo also became the first woman to be awarded the Africa Prize for Leadership.
Ocloo eventually returned to Ghana to use her knowledge of business to turn other Ghanaian women like herself into success stories. She is credited as a barrier breaker for African women in entrepreneurship, establishing Women’s World Banking (WWB) in 1976.
A major proponent of self-sustainability, Ocloo was a visionary, spurning Ghana’s “mimicry of the West” while sacrificing the profitable industry of agriculture. She recommended alternative solutions to the issues of famine, poverty, and distribution of wealth. She eventually coined the methodology of developing an indigenous economy built upon farming.
“Our problem here in Ghana is that we have turned our back on agriculture,” Ocloo stated in a 1999 interview. “Over the past 40 years, since the beginning of compulsory education, we have been mimicking the West.”
The global micro-lending organization’s network lends to approximately 16.4 million women internationally, with a loan portfolio of over $9 b. For 35 years, WWB has created beneficial partnerships with 49 other financial institutions, encouraging them to invest in women as well as “equip them with in-depth market research, with sustainable financial products and consumer education to meet women’s needs.”
The results are invaluable. Over 32 countries have access to WWB’s services, including the ability to create new credit, acquire savings and insurance products as well as satisfy other needs specifically targeted at women. In addition to helping women obtain financial stability, WWB’s leadership and diversity programs contribute to increasing its participants’ self-sustaining abilities and confidence.
WWB provides a wide array of services including in-house training, executive coaching, peer exchanges and leadership workshops. The nonprofit continues to help, counsel, and empower women around the world, all thanks to one incredibly talented female entrepreneur.
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