Think and act for entrepreneurship in Africa

Women entrepreneurship

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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