Four exceptional, emerging businesswomen from West Africa – Ruka Sanusi, Selassie Atadika, Leticia Browne and Paschorina Mortty – arrived in South Africa in June to meet up with established entrepreneurs; in what they termed as a “week-long Business Odyssey.”
“Entrepreneurs become more powerful and more successful when we take the time to listen to each other, learn from each other’s mistakes and gain insight from people who have walked our paths before and learned their own lessons the hard way,” asserted Sanusi, whose company Alldens Lane led the delegation of businesswoman to South Africa.
Sanusi runs a business advisory and consultancy firm which focuses predominately on women-led enterprises.
“The reason why the focus is on women is because a lot of women start a business because they have a passion for something, but your passion cannot sustain you if you do not have a solid foundation of business management and business operational skills” she explains.
Atadika concurs with Sanusi’s view that women start businesses out of a passion as she also began her enterprise – Midunu – because of her strong interest in all things culinary that is steeped in her proud Ghanaian roots; a passion she has cultivated since childhood.
Midunu is a lifestyle business that wants to celebrate Africa’s cultural and culinary heritage.
“A lot of African food has not really been known by other people within the continent and outside. The idea is really to educate us and also to show the amazing food we have around the continent,” Atadika enthuses.
Although her business is still in its infancy, Atadika is conscious of localising her supplier base.
“We make sure that we use as much local ingredients as possible instead of using a lot of imported items. This is to make sure that we support the local economy and that we are able to grow the local agricultural industry (in order) to feed ourselves,” she says.
This drive to uplift local enterprises extends to Browne as well who manages a network of angel investors in Ghana. Angel investors (or informal investors) are prosperous individuals who invest in start-up businesses in exchange for ownership equity or convertible debt.
Browne explains that her real passion is looking for early stage businesses that “bring in innovation to Ghana. So innovation (and) job creation” are the things they look for when searching for investment opportunities. She is intentionally sector agnostic when scouting for investment.
“Being sector agnostic means that we are open to investors from different backgrounds and that’s important when (we) engage investors,” she elucidates.
The passion that these women exude for the continent’s development is tangible.Mortty, managing director of The One Event, is of West African heritage but was born and raised in the United Kingdom and left UK to set up her public relations firm in Ghana. She concedes, however, that people of African heritage living in the West who wish to come to Africa and start businesses should brace themselves for some hard work.
“It is not for the fainthearted, you really need to know what you are getting yourself into because a lot of us have a very romantic view of what Africa is about. The reality is different. You are going to get to get a lot of knocks because it is not the way you are used to working, you need to adjust but not compromise,” she emphasises.
Asked by African Independent how she balances adjusting and not compromising, Mortty asserts that she has a mantra that she lives by: ‘“I refuse to lower my standards just because you will not raise yours’.”
Jenna Clifford, one of the leading entrepreneurs from South Africa who interacted with the West African businesswomen, was enthusiastic about the time that she spent with the businesswomen.
“We were greatly honoured to have hosted the ladies from the Business Odyssey for a morning of networking which we found greatly inspiring and beneficial. Women in Africa are contributing to business in a big way and playing a crucial part in the economic development of their countries. We celebrate the fact that more women are in business today than ever before and fully support this development across borders – which helps the social and economic standing of women in Africa to rise. This unique platform for personal collaboration, such as the Business Odyssey platform, can bring about exponential change, new opportunities and create new markets and businesses which allow for international and regional collaboration. We look forward to growing mutually beneficial relationships with African businesswomen across borders. A women’s true power lies in her ability to seek collaboration and growth for all entities and to give back to society, the Business Odyssey concept is testimony to this and this I find very encouraging,” Clifford told African Independent.