According to The World Bank, Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rate of entrepreneurship in the world and the women outnumber men.
Africa has produced inspiring female leaders such as: Bridgette Motsepe Radebe, the South African owner of Mmakau Mining which has gold, petroleum, coal, ferrochrome and uranium assets; Hajia Bola Shagaya, the Nigerian Founder & CEO of Bolmus Group, which has interests in oil, real estate, banking and communications; Salwa Akhannouch, the Founder & CEO of Aksal-Morocco Group, which owns the second largest shopping centre in Africa and the sole franchise rights for retail brands such as Zara and Gap in Morocco; and, Tabitha Karanja, Founder & CEO of the largest locally-owned brewery in Kenya, Keroche Breweries.
It is possible that the next generation of leading female entrepreneurs in Africa will be the alumni of The Women Entrepreneurship & Leadership for Africa (WELA) programme. The main objective of WELA is to empower African women to build large-scale businesses that will make up at least 20% of the Top 100 Pan-African companies in the next decade.
WELA is a programme managed by the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS), which is a joint venture between the European Union and the Chinese government. CEIBS has campuses in Shanghai, Shenzhen, Beijing, Zurich and Accra.
In an exclusive interview with Ongolo.com, the CEIBS Africa Executive Director and two alumni explained why the programme has been such a success.
Professor Dr. Mathew Tsamenyi is the Executive Director of CEIBS Africa and Coordinator of WELA. CEIBS Africa was founded in 2008 with a mandate to promote private sector development through entrepreneurship. WELA was launched in 2012 and the first cohort had 16 participants from Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. The programme is now offered in Accra, Lagos and Johannesburg.
Key information about WELA:
- WELA participants: 80% of alumni had already established their businesses before they attend the programme while the remaining 20% were thinking of becoming entrepreneurs
- Entry requirements: a diploma or degree from a recognised institution and a demonstrable passion for entrepreneurship. Applications are evaluated on a case-by-case basis
- Programme components:
- Participants are taught four modules: finance and accounting; strategy and innovation; sales and marketing; and, entrepreneurship, gender and leadership in Africa
- China immersion: a two-week trip to China which includes a visit to the CEIBS main campus in Shanghai; a three-day visit to the Alibaba head office, factories and retail sites in Hangzhou; and, a tour of the industrial city of Yiwu
- Mentoring and networking
- Duration: Six months with classes taught at the weekend
- Cost: USD7,000 which includes the tuition and the China immersion trip. CEIBS Africa allows students to pay in instalments and in the local currency equivalent
WELA alumni: Emi-Beth Quantson. Founder, Kawa Moka Coffee Roasters (Ghana)
Why she joined the programme
Emi-Beth signed up for WELA in 2015 after meeting the CEIBS Africa team and hearing how the programme elevated the ambition of African women from just owning a kiosk or small store to creating global businesses. At the time, Emi-Beth had worked for PwC in Ghana and Kenya for six years and was unsure about how to make the transition from the corporate world where there was a clear career trajectory, to running her own business which was still in the early stages.
WELA came at the perfect time because it gave her clarity about her business objectives and how to make the business profitable and sustainable. It also gave her access to a large network of women, some of whom were already accomplished and others who also trying to figure things out.
The USD7,000 fee seemed like a lot of money but was paid in instalments and this made it affordable. The fact that the fee has not changed in five years shows how dedicated CIEBS is to ensure that as many women as possible can access the programme.
The China immersion trip helped to change the perception of China as a “bad place which was inaccessible because I didn’t speak the language”. Upon arrival in China, the programme participants received a warm reception and were given access to many large companies throughout their stay. The highlight of the trip for Emi-Beth was a tour of the manufacturing process for socks with a large producer.
Kawa Moka specialises in the production of artisan small batch roasted coffee. The coffee is made from organic green coffee beans grown by women in the Volta region of Ghana.
Kawa Moka has two main objectives:
- Be a socially conscious company that works with local farmers to improve the quality and the quantity of coffee grown in Ghana. Africa is known for exporting raw materials and then importing the finished product. Kawa Moka is doing things differently by adding value locally and creating jobs
- Work exclusively with women and help them to own the land on which they work thus giving them a sustainable income and seat at the table
Kawa Moka wants the world to know that Ghana produces good coffee
Kawa Moka coffee can be purchased on their website and comes in five different varieties, all reasonably priced between $7-14. Orders are delivered globally via DHL.
WELA alumni: Ezinwanne Ajayi. Founder, BabyBliss Shop (Nigeria)
Why she joined the programme
Ezi signed up in 2019 when she realised that female entrepreneurs are so busy running their businesses and homes that they don’t have time to learn. Women need education and exposure to grow their businesses. Courses in finance, marketing and strategy gave her the knowledge she needed to reflect on her business, set a grand vision and find solutions to the challenges she faced in supply chain and logistics.
WELA taught Ezi to think big because most businesses owned by women operate at the micro-scale. The immersion trip opened her eyes to what was possible and helped her understand the operations of large businesses in China. She was also stunned to learn that Jack Ma only owns 6.8% of Alibaba because the concept of ownership in Africa means that someone has 100%.
Every woman in Africa can fry chicken better than KFC but the problem we have is limited vision, knowledge and access to finance
Ezi launched BabyBliss shop in 2010 when she was expecting her second child. She had a difficult pregnancy and was advised by her family to quit her job and stay at home. Ezi is not one to put her feet up and do nothing. She started shopping online to find baby products that were not available in Nigeria and was soon selling products to Nigerian women after setting up a Facebook page. She caught the Facebook e-commerce wave early and had first-mover advantage.
By the time the baby arrived, her living room was filled with inventory. Her husband realised that she was running a business not a hobby and the business had to move out of their home. Ezi set out to look for a store and hired a nanny to help look after the baby though she sometimes went about her business with the baby strapped to her back in true African mother fashion.
The early days were long and hard. Ezi often spent weekends and public holidays sleeping and eating in the warehouse. She even spent one Christmas delivering a breast milk pump to a client who had just delivered a baby and urgently needed one. She also faced many delays with customs and logistics and had to overcome other challenges such as the foreign exchange shortages. But she never gave up.
Today, BabyBliss shop is the largest mother-baby business operating in Nigeria. It has two physical stores in Lagos, an e-commerce website and an app for sharing information on pregnancy and babies. BabyBliss recently merged with Mom’s village in Kenya to create a female-led Pan-African consumer business.
It would seem that the ambition of WELA to create Pan-African businesses is already being realised.
Are you a female entrepreneur in Africa looking to build a business?
Are you outside Accra, Lagos and Johannesburg and keen to bring WELA to your city?
Contact CEIBS Africa today!
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