Think and act for entrepreneurship in Africa

Women entrepreneurship

SOAFIARY: the case of a socially responsible company in Madagascar

A company can be much more than just an economic player. It can play a significant societal role, as demonstrated by the Malagasy company Soafiary. Since its creation in 2006,…

A company can be much more than just an economic player. It can play a significant societal role, as demonstrated by the Malagasy company Soafiary. Since its creation in 2006, this agrobusiness company has integrated its social commitment at the heart of its business model.

 

Founded in 2006 by the Malagasy promoter Malala Rabenoro, SOAFIARY is specialized in the sourcing, processing and commercialization of cereals and leguminous plants on local and international markets. The company begins to diversify its activities in 2017. The company sets up a feed mill unit and launches the SOADIO project, a contract farming project run in collaboration with the diocese of the Vakinankaratra region, located in the highlands of Madagascar. The company’s operating site is located in this rural area, known as “the farmer” of Madagascar.

The Vakinankaratra region is not spared by the precarious situation that prevails in the country, with an extremely low literacy rate, an infrastructure deficit and a high poverty rate. As an actor committed to the development of its region and its country, Soafiary aim to address these social and economic challenges.

 

Promoting employment among an underprivileged and undereducated population

The local population lives mainly from subsistence agriculture or livestock farming. They often find it difficult to produce enough to ensure self-sufficiency, let alone to develop their activity. Due to a lack of education, they are not eligible for qualified positions in the business world.

Soafiary is committed to facilitating the professional integration of this population. The company employs nearly 200 people, most of whom are locals. They are engaged in field work, manual sorting of legumes and packaging of products. The company has made the choice to do the sorting and packaging activities manually, even if automation is possible. This choice makes it possible to create more jobs.

Soafiary’s contribution also takes the form of financial assistance in the form of loans granted to employees, to help them develop another income-generating activity. Doing so, Soafiary provides the surrounding community with the opportunity to improve their economic condition through access to dual employment.

Soafiary is committed to facilitating the professional integration of a local population that lives mainly from subsistence agriculture or livestock farming.

Accompanying employees on literacy and hygiene issues

Soafiary’s employees include 21% who are illiterate, 46% who have completed primary school and 25% who have completed lower secondary education. Hiring poorly educated people from the rural world is a real commitment on the part of the company, which has put in place extensive support to enable them to assimilate key production techniques, learn hygiene measures and basic skills such as reading and writing.

Soafiary regularly conducts awareness sessions on hygiene issues for its employees, including the correct use of the sanitary block and water hygiene. Regarding literacy, the company focuses on teaching employees to read and write so that they can check their pay slips, by identifying and validating information concerning them, in particular their first and last names, and then signing it if the slip is satisfactory to them. This has created a climate of trust and exchange within the company.

These measures may seem basic but their implementation is not easy and can be time consuming. The production director, Ms. Agnès Randrianampizafy, plays a key role in their implementation thanks to her background as a teacher. As she explains, “It takes good teaching skills, patience, and discipline”.

 

Supporting and training small producers trough the Soadio project

The agribusiness sector is at the crossroads of several serious issues: the integration of small producers, environmental protection, product quality and price competitiveness, all this in a highly competitive international market.

Soafiary is trying to respond to these challenges through its Soadio project, a model of responsible contract farming that consists of training small producers and providing them with the agricultural equipment and inputs needed to farm the 4,100 Ha of land belonging to the Diocese of the Vakinankaratra region. Since the project launch in 2017, 380 Ha have been exploited and the entire production is purchased by Soafiary.

The project represents an important socio-economic driving force for the region. It aims at improving the living conditions of small producers in Morarano, a rural commune located 200 km from the Soafiary exploitation site, where the Diocese’s lands are located. It also allows for the inclusion of small producers in Soafiary’s value chain, who now ensure the company’s supply.

This inclusive partnership between Soafiary and the Diocese is a step towards greater social and humanitarian cohesion. This is a prerequisite for launching various projects: setting up an irrigation system, strengthening the fields to combat erosion, strengthening the basic health center by providing medical equipment, improving the village’s only school by extending classrooms, supporting agricultural training centers, to name but a few.

 

Soafiary demonstrates that integrating social commitments at the heart of its business model can be beneficial for the company. This approach has generated greater commitment from its employees, but also enabled the company to build a sustainable model of contract farming that secures its supply volume while meeting the challenges of product quality and traceability.

 

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Covid-19: what impacts on the early childhood sector?

Faced with school closures in at least 188 countries around the world as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, many educational institutions have had to set up a distance learning…

Faced with school closures in at least 188 countries around the world as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, many educational institutions have had to set up a distance learning system. This temporary reorganization of activity will certainly have a strong and lasting impact on educational structures.

If this distance learning is sometimes complex, particularly because of the problems of connection or availability of computer tools, it is even more so for the early childhood sector, given the risk of overexposure of toddlers to digital tools and the lack of autonomy of the latter in their learning, as evidenced by the three actors dedicated to this sector met for this article.

 

Reinventing learning

The current health crisis has forced educational institutions as a whole to reinvent and rethink their activities. La Coccinelle, a network of crèches and nursery schools in Côte d’Ivoire, has put online exercises, educational games, nursery rhymes and some graphic design, pre-reading and mathematics activities so that children do not lose their skills. At Kër ImagiNation, a learning and cultural center for children in Senegal, online sessions by Zoom were carried out in small groups to enable better participation by the children. As the sessions progressed, the content and the way of interacting with the children at a distance became more refined, for example by using puppets or proposing simple educational experiences, such as an experiment on water, which the children could carry out at home with their parents.

E-learning, although possible and sometimes even favorable for theoretical subjects, does not easily lend itself to practical learning. At La Coccinelle, for example, parents had to print out the exercises to enable the children to work on paper. Because many fields, such as graphic design, cannot be learned online. At the Institut Académique des Bébés in Senegal, a training school dedicated to the professional training of children’s professions, practical subjects represent about 45% of the learners’ curriculum. For these subjects, e-learning was not feasible and practical workshops were conducted on the premises, in small groups. However, this required a significant investment for the promoter, as the whole school organization had to be rethought. The space had to be rearranged in order to respect the meter of social distance between the learners. Masks and hydro-alcoholic gel had to be purchased to equip the learners and trainers. Finally, between each group, the premises had to be disinfected.

E-learning, although possible and sometimes even favorable for theoretical subjects, does not easily lend itself to practical learning.

 

Many difficulties arise with this learning

The crisis revealed huge disparities in the level of emergency preparedness of countries, children’s access to the Internet and the availability of educational materials. These difficulties make it difficult for children who are far away from these tools to learn.   In addition, distance learning has often required the training of both parents and trainers in digital tools.

Finally, home-schooling for toddlers requires the presence of a parent or an adult who is able to accompany the child in his or her learning. However, the latter’s professional occupations were not necessarily compatible with the children’s needs. The closure of schools left parents confused about how to support their children’s learning at home. Aware of these issues, Karima Grant, founder of Kër ImagiNation, now wishes to develop a project specifically dedicated to parents, in order to support them, through a platform, in parenting and pedagogy.

 

The same concern: the future of the early childhood sector and, consequently, the future of these children

The realities of the early childhood sector are of particular concern, as the recovery of tuition fees is even more complex in times of school closures, compounded by the costs of school staff and operations. Many early childhood actors in Sub-Saharan Africa are today in a delicate situation, with an uncertain start to the new school year.

The latter feel forgotten by the public authorities, even though the early childhood sector is essential for the development and construction of the child. In Bangladesh, a study implemented by the World Bank’s Strategic Impact Evaluation Fund (SIEF) revealed that providing young children with an extra year of pre-school education is an effective way to improve school readiness for both boys and girls (especially girls). Researchers measured the impact of an extra year of preschool for children at age 4, compared to the standard year of only one year from age 5. After two years, children who were offered an extra year of preschool had significantly higher scores in literacy, numeracy and social-emotional development than children who were offered preschool only from age 5.

According to Sara Adico, director of La Coccinelle, “The awakening, simulation and development of children have been left behind. But if early childhood is well supervised, it promotes a good psychological development of the child, which is beneficial for the whole nation”.

Children have already begun to unlearn, both in terms of skills (graphics, dictation, etc.) and psychic skills (social interactions, motor skills, etc.), a situation that is more serious for children with psychosocial problems. According to these actors, if the situation were to drag on, it should affect primary, secondary and finally higher education in the years to come, and thus represent a real problem in term of human capital and economic repercussions.

If the situation were to drag on, it should affect primary, secondary and finally higher education in the years to come, and thus represent a real problem in term of human capital

 

Whether for Sara Adico of La Coccinelle, Karima Grant of Kër ImagiNation or Fa Diallo of IAB, the current crisis can be an opportunity to reinvent and rethink the early childhood sector. It is a way for the early childhood education community, once the weaknesses of the digital tool as a solution to early childhood distance learning are recognized, to seek innovative solutions to improve the added value of child care.  But for this to happen, a reflection must be conducted with all stakeholders (families, public institutions, major employers, etc.) to find and create systems that are conducive to the psychological development of children. With regard to early childhood, it is not appropriate to limit efforts in the field of health or nutrition, since the lack of quality early childhood care structures can be especially damaging to the child’s psychological development and thus, in the longer term, have real economic and human capital implications.

 

Read more

Discover the article “African schools: facing the covid-19 crisis”

 

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Girls’ Education, Women’s Empowerment

Today, many young girls face significant barriers in accessing education (primary, secondary and higher education), in obtaining decent and remunerative employment, in accessing finance, etc. Their education is often considered…

Today, many young girls face significant barriers in accessing education (primary, secondary and higher education), in obtaining decent and remunerative employment, in accessing finance, etc. Their education is often considered a low priority, when in fact it is a first step towards their emancipation and empowerment.

 

Inclusive, relevant and quality training…

Sub-Saharan Africa has 30 million children excluded from the school system. Girls, rural populations and marginalized communities are particularly affected. One of the most persistent obstacles to girls’ schooling is the low value placed by society on their education. When schooling is no longer compulsory, families do not enroll their daughters, not only for financial reasons but also because of social norms (keeping girls at home, early marriage and maternity, inadequate school infrastructure, discrimination, etc.).

Primary education has received significant support from Governments and development aid, which has led to considerable progress. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 34% of countries had achieved gender parity in primary education by 2017. This performance falls to 21% for lower secondary, 5% for upper secondary and 0% for tertiary education[1]. Due to a lack of sufficient financial and human resources, higher education has received less attention, even though the needs are immense and gender inequalities blatant.

To become true actors in the development of their region and their country, girls and young women need continued access to relevant and quality education. Second-chance’ programs for vulnerable women and young women who have not received sufficient education to enable their empowerment may be considered. UNWomen is developing its Second Chance Education and Vocational Learning (SCE) program to provide a comprehensive solution for marginalized women and young women who have missed out on education and who are at risk of being left behind. This project aims to develop context specific, affordable and scalable learning, entrepreneurship and employment pathways for empowering the world’s most disadvantaged women and young women.

It is also a question of changing mentalities, for example by developing gender-neutral educational content and setting up awareness-raising activities designed to change the perception that both men and women may have of the career prospects open to young women.

 

… enables access to economic opportunities …

Significant differences between men and women have emerged in the labor market, according to sector of activity; occupation and type of employment (vertical and horizontal gender segregation). Women frequently work in sectors where they are less likely to benefit from training that could lead to career development or a change of occupation. Africa is the second least egalitarian region in the world in terms of women’s participation in the formal economy. Nearly 90% of employed women on the continent work in the informal economy, compared to 83% of men[2].

Women’s participation in the world of work and their professional advancement also face considerable obstacles that are the result of sectoral and organizational cultures and practices dominated by values, beliefs and patterns of behavior (encouraged or reinforced by social norms and institutions).

Women are thus less likely than men to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics. In 2013, the share of women graduates in science and engineering was 19% and 21% respectively in Burkina Faso and 27% and 18% in Ghana[3]. Lack of information on opportunities in these male-dominated sectors, psychosocial factors, lack of role models, networks and biased gender norms are some of the factors that explain these dynamics.

In addition to traditional skills such as literacy and numeracy, digital skills have long since become one of the key areas of expertise for the 21st century. 55% of women entrepreneurs say that improving their technical expertise is a priority. However, nearly one billion girls worldwide (65% of all girls and young women under the age of 24) do not possess these skills, that are essential to participate in the world of work in the future. Some players have already positioned themselves on this issue. This is the case, for example, of the Ghana Code Club[4] that, with its “Code on Wheels” project, will organize a mobile coding workshop for girls and women aged 12-24 in different regions of the country. The workshops provide participants with a fun and practical introduction to computer thinking and technical skills.

 

… in favor of the economic and social emancipation of women.

These economic opportunities then play a central role in social relations and enable women to assert themselves as members of the economic society, which is a first step towards empowerment and emancipation.

Giving more women access to economic opportunities, entrepreneurship, free consumption and the chance of being an integral part of economic life not only significantly reduces gender inequalities, but also transforms society and the economy as a whole. Indeed, gender inequality hinders economic and social development. It is estimated to cost sub-Saharan Africa an average of US$95 billion a year, peaking at US$105 billion in 2014 – or 6% of the region’s GDP –[5] which undermines the continent’s efforts for inclusive human development and economic growth.

 

Access to quality education, especially for girls, is thus essential to combat the cycle of poverty and to ensure a more inclusive society with equal opportunities for all.

 


Resources

[1] Rapport mondial de suivi sur l’éducation 2019: Migration, déplacement et éducation: bâtir des ponts, pas des murs, UNESCO, 2019

[2] The power of parity: Advancing women’s equality in Africa, McKinsey Global Institute, November 2019

[3] Is the gender gap narrowing in science and engineering, Unesco, 2015

[4] Pour en savoir plus sur le Ghana Code Club

[5] Rapport sur le développement humain en Afrique 2016 : Accélérer les progrès en faveur de l’égalité des genres et de l’autonomisation des femmes en Afrique, PNUD, 2016

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Digital technology to increase school success rates in Africa

It is October 2018, 18 years since I left the school where I spent all my secondary education from the 6th grade to 12th grade. It was the local school…

It is October 2018, 18 years since I left the school where I spent all my secondary education from the 6th grade to 12th grade. It was the local school in the largest municipality of Abidjan, a large municipality with a high population density, but also and especially significant a school with a high student/teacher ratio, at that time: 80 pupils per class on average. In 2018 I found it split into 2 parts for better management of the excessive number of students, but in the same old buildings dating back more than 30 years.

Enthusiasm and nostalgia perfectly reflected my feelings when I go to present my project, a heart-felt project of great ambition: to raise the success rate for the Baccalaureate (at age  18) examination of this school, which is around 30%, similar to the Cote d’Ivoire national average for the Baccalaureate (40% on average over the last 5 years).

My name is Christelle HIEN-KOUAME, marketing and communication engineer, I have been an entrepreneur for 9 years in the field of communication and marketing, and I am passionate about the education offered to students in my country and my continent.

Help to raise the national school examination success rate, is it not too ambitious a goal?

Work in the education field is exciting and demands commitment because it concerns everybody – from the educational level of household employees to the professional performance of the employees in a firm, we are all impacted. So, for my part, it is essential to contribute in our way and with our means.

The project – www.prenezlesfeuilles.com

The initial project was to offer students a revision toolbox, a digital collection of homework and exams from the best schools in Côte d’Ivoire to:

– Prepare them to do well in their homework and exams, with tools adapted and customized: Homework and exams are defined by a school schedule in our education system

– Give them back their self-confidence, because, in reality, a child in the 3rd grade of a school well graded in the capital does not have the same level as a student in the same cycle in another part of the country!

Having defined my two primary objectives, I turned to digital solutions to offer an accessible, reliable, and innovative approach to the students. I started without any digital experience, and with only the funds of my communication agency. I collected homework from all disciplines and from institutions which had at least 70% success rate in the Baccalaureate.

My project was born. It was stolen in a neighboring country, and was therefore renamed one year later as www.prenezlesfeuilles.com, was officially presented to the authorities (Ministry of National Education), was appreciated, and finally allowed to be spread to students in all schools in the country. The difficulties of its beginning have given it more resilience, and more objectives to achieve. Making homework and exams available to students became restrictive. We had to offer more alternatives to encourage them to do their homework challenge them, motivate them to surpass themselves regardless of their series or disciplines chosen, and do better than we did in the past.

Evolution of the project

After an analysis of the success factors, one key factor seemed irrefutable (other than the environment and motivation): learning tools.

We then integrated three important tools to the platform: Motivation by reward by offering gifts for quizzes or exercises performed correctly within a given time frame, Orientation assistance by talking about jobs with different people, and enriching experiences, and Small general culture broadcasts on WhatsApp.

In August 2019 www.prenezlesfeuilles was acquired by ENEZA EDUCATION, a technology company, initiator of another innovative educational service via mobile that offers tutorials and quizzes via the SMS channel of mobile phones. Today, the Cote d’Ivoire student has access to the lessons of the entire school program explained in tutorials, and with quizzes allowing them to test their knowledge. The website www.prenezlesfeuilles.com helps students to prepare for future tests based on homework already done in the best institutions in the country.

The next challenge is to make this solution better known to all students and parents throughout the country and to prove its real impact on subscribers’ academic results.

I love to take challenges up! Like when I was 18 and I was the only girl in a science final year class in a high school in the commune of Yopougon (a working-class district in Abidjan), and succeeded at the Baccalaureate. Or like the challenge 9 years ago when I resigned from my job to set up as a young entrepreneur, and I had to assume my choice and everything that entailed. Taking up challenges is not for euphoria or pleasure but giving back a part of what we have graciously received from the family, the State and society. Because giving back is to be more alive!

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Voices of African women entrepreneurs (1/2): Patricia Zoundi Yao and Catherine Krobo-Edusei

65% of the wealth of the African continent is produced by women entrepreneurs according to the latest study published by the Roland Berger consulting firm at the end of September…

65% of the wealth of the African continent is produced by women entrepreneurs according to the latest study published by the Roland Berger consulting firm at the end of September 2018. In sub-Saharan Africa, women produce 80% of the continent’s agricultural commodities and represent 70% of the continent’s agricultural force. 24% of African women aged 18 to 64 have started a business (compared to 17% in Latin America, 12% in North America, and 8% in Europe and Central Asia).

Despite these facts, African women still face many inequalities, particularly in terms of access to employment, remuneration and overall access to economic resources. What a contradictory situation… On International Women’s Day, the blog offers you 4 portraits of African women with inspiring stories!

 

Patricia Zoundi Yao

 

Patricia, who are you?

I am Patricia Zoundi Yao, an entrepreneur at heart as I like to define it. I head three structures, operating in different sectors of activity but all targeting people at the bottom of the pyramid. In 2009, I founded Quickcash, a money transfer service for the rural world. We are now transforming ourselves into an Agency Bank considering the needs and competition observed on the ground. This will allow us to dematerialize traditional banking services in rural villages. I also created Digital Hub, which offers digital services to young and connected customers. Finally, I work since 2014 in a structure dedicated to the agricultural sector, Canaanland. Since 2014, I have also been working in an agricultural sector structure, Canaanland, which provides support for women farmers (70%) and young people (30%). We train them to sustainable farming techniques and organic farming, and we support them in the marketing phase. Within 3 years, we plan to launch 5 franchises in Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia, which will follow three key principles: 0 deforestation, 0 pesticides and 100% inclusive. Small producers in particular are systematically included in our value chain.

 

Why did you choose the rural sector?

I myself come from the rural world. My parents are farmers, and I worked very early in the village-based business run by my mother. I only discovered Abidjan after my baccalaureate: I found it too modern and it has been difficult to find my place. In my entrepreneurial activities, I naturally turned to what I knew best. When I started my activities, I had not heard of the concept of “social entrepreneurship”. I learned about it for the first time around 2013-2014. I was doing something I loved, period. I have always been immersed in this environment, where people are actually sincere: they are not restricted, they are real.  You see the effort, the energy they give out, even if they are extremely poor.

 

What difficulties did you face as a woman?

Honestly, I didn’t have any problems related to my status as a woman. For me, being a woman is not a problem, it’s even an asset. I consider that this has given me essential skills and qualities to succeed in entrepreneurship: perseverance, the fact that you are the one who gets up a little early, who goes to bed a little late…

Of course, I faced difficulties throughout my career, but they are related to the business, not to the fact I’m a woman. Once again, I think it has rather helped me. Women can handle many things at the same time: the house, the kids. That’s why rural women are my role models: they manage to work in the field, take care of the children, the kitchen, the household… I’ve also heard that women are more passionate and dedicated than men… I don’t know if that’s true, but at least I am a passionate person! What drives me is to offer opportunities to women and young people, especially in rural areas, where there is not much going on. Sometimes we feel that success models are only found in urban areas.

 

An advice to give to (future) women entrepreneurs?

My advice is to get started, because we will never be “fully ready”. There is never a “good time”. We don’t know in 5 years what the new focus will be, but these days you can find training and financing opportunities fully dedicated to women. It is also important to focus on the solutions and not the problems. It’s very valuable to see things in a new perspective and take the leadership. Believe me, you have the skills and resources to get started and succeed!

 

 

Catherine Krobo Edusei

 

Who are you?

I am Ms. Catherine Krobo Edusei, I am 57 years old and I am a managing Director at Eden Tree Limited. Eden Tree is a leading producer and distributor of high-end fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs in Ghana.

 

Did you experience any difficulties because you are a woman? If yes, can you give us some examples?

It was difficult getting finance facility from the banks and venture capital funds at the beginning, for which if I had been a man it would have been possible. I also experienced difficulties working with men from certain tribes due to their outlook on what a Woman’s place should be.

 

Who are / are your model (s)? Why?

Oprah Winfry, Mia Angelou, Yaa Asantewa, Mrs Clinton were and are very strong women not afraid to shatter the glass ceiling. It is true that a woman has to fight twice as much as a man, cause men network in their various clubs, where opportunities are scooped up. So far Women do not do too well regarding networking and sharing opportunities amongst themselves.

 

An advice to (future) women entrepreneurs?

They should give it their all, focus, work hard, believe in themselves and they will not regret it.

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Voices of African women entrepreneurs (2/2): Sylvie Sagbo and Sokhna Ndiaye

On this International Women’s Rights Day, let’s continue our exploration of inspiring women’s entrepreneurial paths. In this second part, we interviewed two Senegalese women entrepreneurs: Sylvie Sagbo, who, after several…

On this International Women’s Rights Day, let’s continue our exploration of inspiring women’s entrepreneurial paths. In this second part, we interviewed two Senegalese women entrepreneurs: Sylvie Sagbo, who, after several international experiences, took over the Senegalese company founded by her mother, and Sokhna Ndiaye, involved in several associations and companies operating in the health sector.

 

Sylvie Sagbo

 

Since 2015, Sylvie Sagbo has been managing SENAR Les Délices de Lysa, a Senegalese SME that processes peanuts and cashews. Since 2015, Sylvie Sagbo has been managing SENAR Les Délices de Lysa, a Senegalese SME that processes peanuts and cashews. She holds a master’s degree in finance and market management from the Ecole de Gestion de Paris, and worked for 18 years in market finance (asset management, portfolio management in banks, etc.). She then opened a restaurant of African cuisine in the Paris area. She finally returned to Dakar to join the company founded by my mother in 1982, at a time when she wanted to gradually withdraw from the company.

 

Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?

I think I have always had this entrepreneurial spirit, and it shows through my career: when I was working as a self-employed consultant, when I started the African cuisine restaurant with my husband, and of course when I took over SENAR, the company founded by my mother. I grew up with this company, and I have always been involved in it, even though I was far away. So it was a logical step to take over the structure, and it was very motivating because I knew that we could make it a very successful company.

Have you experienced any difficulties because you are a woman?

It is possible that my funding application was refused in the past because I am a woman, but this has never been made clear to me. I have worked with two sales managers who have never accepted that I tell them what to do and I think this is was related to the fact I’m a woman.

How do you see yourself in ten years?

In ten years’ time I see myself at the head of a large Senegalese African company, a leader in the distribution of cashews in Africa and throughout the world. I think we are on the right track because we produce high- quality and healthy products. Recently we created a created a spread called Cajoutella, which has nothing to envy to its distant neighbour (laughs)!  And I have many other ideas for my company!

An advice to (future) women entrepreneurs?

You have to fight. An entrepreneur must fight in any case, but a woman entrepreneur will have to fight twice as hard because as a woman she has to manage many things at the same. When you want to start a business, you shouldn’t start just like that with an idea: you have to perfect your idea, conduct a market study, even a minimal one, to develop your business model. Why do I want to do it? Who am I targeting? What turnover do I hope to achieve? This thorough analysis is really necessary. Once it’s done, you will have to run your business with your guts, to be truly passionate about it! There is no reason, in these conditions, that a woman could not succeed. But it takes a lot of courage. It’s not a simple life, there are many ups and downs, especially in Africa. There are many women entrepreneurs today, and tomorrow there will be many more… New and inspiring role models will emerge!

 

Sokhna Diagne Ndiaye

 

Who are you?

I am Sokhna Ndiaye, I own a pharmacy in Dakar and I’m the Chairman of the Board of Directors for the company Duopharm. Duopharm has partnered with Investisseurs & Partenaires between 2010 and 2017, and it went really well. I also chair the board of directors of the University of Health Sciences, which trains pharmacists, doctors and dentists in Senegal. I am also a member of several foundations: Vice-President of the Senegalese League against Cancer, President of the Graduates Commission of the Cheick Antia Diop University Foundation, representative in Senegal of the Monaco Humanitarian Collective where I represent the Monegasque Red Cross and the Association Rencontres Africaines. In parallel I have a few social activities in the education sector…

How do you manage to balance your personal life with this very busy professional life?

Very good question! I guess it’s just a matter of organization. There are 25 employees in my pharmacy. It’s no easy task to manage, but we put in place a well-organized system.  Everyone one of them has specific tasks and missions to attend to. As for Duopharm, I am deeply involved but I don’t run the business myself, which allows me to have more time to dedicate myself to other social activities that are extremely important to me.

To be a woman, is that an asset or an obstacle in the professional environment?

Regarding my activities on social issues, notably my experience with the Senegalese League Against Cancer, I would say that being a woman gives a little more sensitivity. In Senegal, women play an important role. There have been significant advances.  Women in Senegal have practically taken over the social sector and I think that being a woman is an advantage in coordinating these activities and movements.

An advice to (future) women entrepreneurs?

Women should have more confidence in themselves and their capacities. In Africa, women could play a greater economic role, they are not second-zone citizens! I think it is up to women to keep fighting, to show that every time they are given a task, what they are able to do it and do it well. I think the results are visible on a global scale: every time a woman is entrusted with management in specific areas, the results, the performance are better than those of men. There is no reason to be afraid of being a woman. A woman must assert herself, fight, work and give more results than men.

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Improving health services through entrepreneurship: the case of the clinic PROCRÉA

Based in Abidjan, the clinic PROCRÉA offers a range of medical services dedicated to reproductive health. Founded in 2008, it stands as the leader in Côte d’Ivoire for medically assisted…

Based in Abidjan, the clinic PROCRÉA offers a range of medical services dedicated to reproductive health. Founded in 2008, it stands as the leader in Côte d’Ivoire for medically assisted reproduction, a technique that allows people who have difficulty having a child to successfully give birth. Popularizing this practice and making it accessible to the greatest number of people is at the heart of the vision of the clinic’s founder and current director, Dr. Myriam Kadio-Morokro BROU. A brief review of her career path, the obstacles she encountered and her motivations.

 

A career dedicated to medicine… and entrepreneurship

At the head of the clinic PROCRÉA, Myriam Kadio-Morokro Brou serves two functions: that of a doctor and that of a company manager. “Basically, I did not see myself working as a civil servant, which is the usual career path for healthcare practitioners in Côte d’Ivoire. Today I combine the two aspects of my activity, both of which fascinate me: practicing my profession as a doctor and managing the clinic as an entrepreneur.”

“I have always believed that entrepreneurship is essential to improve people’s living conditions. It is obvious in the sector of reproduction: it is a research profession, which requires us to move forward with our time and take certain risks”

Myriam Brou pursued her medical studies in Abidjan, where she completed a thesis on the biology of reproduction. She then moved to France to specialize in this area. At the Pierre and Marie Curie Faculty of Medicine, she specialized in reproductive biology, sterility therapy, molecular cytogenetics, and worked in several hospitals and laboratories. But her return to Côte d’Ivoire has always been an evidence:

“There is no reason that such fundamental practices should not be available in Africa! When I returned to Côte d’Ivoire in 2005, I decided to create a fertility center based on the European model but adapted to African realities.”

 

A private initiative with high impact

PROCRÉA’s offer is unique in Côte d’Ivoire, where there are very few local private initiatives in the health sector. This is explained by the fact that the vast majority of Ivorian doctors are civil servants. “Few doctors here have what we could call the “entrepreneurial spirit”, compared for example to Anglophone African countries. It is often difficult for us to find the right profiles, and recruitment is one of our main problems. The training component is essential within our team, which now has about fifty people”.

Specialized in reproductive health, PROCRÉA is working on a controversial subject, linked to many taboos in Côte d’Ivoire and the sub-region. “We are talking of delicate, sometimes intimate issues… which can also challenge certain beliefs. For example, it is still not very well understood that infertility can come from men, especially in rural areas. Mentalities are changing, but it takes time. One thing is sure: the needs are real!”

PROCREA expands access to medically assisted reproduction while guaranteeing the same standards as in North Africa or Europe. The patients are mainly from the middle class, and most of them would not have been able to afford to be treated abroad. The clinic is also looking to make this care accessible to the “lower” classes. The current reflection focuses in particular on microfinance, which could be a way to finance, at least partially, the treatment and follow-up provided by PROCREA.

 

The Clinic PROCRÉA is an interesting example of a private initiative seeking to improve local living conditions and healthcare access. Overcoming certain obstacles linked to the context (taboos, recruitment, financing, etc.), the clinic has become a leader in reproductive, maternal and child health in the past ten years. This success is due to the will of its founder, but also to the relevance of its care offer.

 

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