Image Courtesy: Google Doodle
Esther Afua Ocloo (18 April 1919 – 8 February 2002) was a Ghanaian businesswoman and pioneer of microlending, a programme of making small loans in order to stimulate businesses. Her life, career, and legacy are marked by her resilience, determination, and innovation, which have inspired generations of entrepreneurs and business leaders.
Life and Career
Esther Afua Ocloo was born on 18 April 1919, in Peki Dzake, in what is now Ghana. She grew up in a poor family and faced numerous challenges, including limited access to education and financial resources. However, she demonstrated an early entrepreneurial spirit by making and selling toffee to help support her family.
In 1930, at the age of 11, Ocloo enrolled in a vocational school in Accra, Ghana, where she learned skills such as cooking, sewing, and making marmalade. She used these skills to start her first business, Nkulenu Industries, in 1942, with just a few shillings. Nkulenu Industries produced a variety of food products, including marmalade, orange juice, and canned food, which were sold to local markets and eventually exported to other African countries.
Esther Afua Ocloo’s entrepreneurial journey was not without challenges. She faced discrimination and lack of access to funding and markets as a woman in business, but she persevered and became a trailblazer in her field. Her work was recognized internationally, and she received numerous awards for her entrepreneurial achievements.
In 1959, Ocloo was invited to the United States to attend a trade fair, where she gained valuable business insights and connections. She used the knowledge she gained to further expand her business, which eventually became a successful enterprise. She also traveled to several countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada, and Nigeria, to promote her products and share her entrepreneurial experiences.
In addition to her entrepreneurial activities, Esther Afua Ocloo was a vocal advocate for women’s economic empowerment. She believed that women had untapped potential as entrepreneurs and could play a vital role in economic development. She co-founded the National Federation of Women Entrepreneurs in Ghana in 1964, which aimed to promote women’s entrepreneurship and provide support and resources to female entrepreneurs. She also served as a consultant to several international organizations, including the United Nations, the World Bank, and the International Labour Organization, where she advocated for gender equality and women’s economic empowerment.
Esther Afua Ocloo passed away on 8 February 2002, but her legacy continues to live on. Her life and achievements are celebrated by entrepreneurs, women’s rights advocates, and policymakers alike, and her pioneering spirit and entrepreneurial mindset continue to inspire generations of changemakers to create positive social and economic change in their communities.
Award and Legacy
Esther Afua Ocloo’s legacy is that of a pioneering entrepreneur and advocate for women’s empowerment. Her resilience, determination, and innovation have inspired generations of entrepreneurs, particularly women, in Africa and beyond. Her work has contributed to the growth of the African small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) sector and has helped create employment opportunities and promote economic development in the region.
Ocloo’s advocacy for women’s economic empowerment has also had a lasting impact. Her efforts to promote gender equality and women’s entrepreneurship have raised awareness about the importance of including women in economic activities and decision-making processes. Her work has inspired numerous initiatives and programs aimed at supporting women’s entrepreneurship and promoting gender equality in Africa and beyond.
On 18 April 2017, Google celebrated Esther Afua Ocloo’s 98th birthday with a doodle.