Women across Africa are now putting in effort to uplift other women and push for equal rights in every way possible. Judith Kabukie Ocansey, Chief Executive Officer, Coinbox Ghana has also joined this course. In this exclusive interview with African Leadership Magazine, she shares with us more about how her organization is shaping and transforming the lives of women across the continent. Excerpts:
Coinbox aims to support women by funding female entrepreneurs with loans to start-up their business. Can you share more about your company?
Coinbox is devoted to providing financial services to vulnerable groups and underserved female entrepreneurs in Africa. We integrate business management support with a social transformative change to improve the livelihoods of our clients and offer them the opportunity to become financially independent. It is our belief that everyone has the right to basic financial services, however, fewer women than men are able to access financial services, and the same applies to other members of vulnerable groups, such as people living with a disability.
We build innovative, comprehensive products and services that provide the entrepreneurs with vital access to capital, markets, and education.
Among those we serve are Small Scale Retailers, Smallholder Farmers, Artisans such as Potters, Dressmakers, Hairdressers, Florists, and Service Providers. They are all women and people living with disabilities.
Our focus is not only on giving them loans, but we ensure that the money they receive is put to good use and we help them put appropriate business structures in place to support the growth of their businesses. As a matter of fact, we start with training and coaching and give them loans where necessary.
Our other products include an incubator web and mobile app, which provides business concept training plus, business planning, and management for small businesses, It is very interactive and easy to use. The web app is used by our agents to support small business owners, who are unable to read or write, whereas, the mobile app is used by clients who have the ability to use mobile apps. This product enables businesses to be set up with the right structures in place and is managed properly to ensure sustainable growth. Among the features is the ability to set and track sales targets and manage staff attendance.
Our long term vision is for vulnerable groups in Africa to have equal opportunities, the skill, confidence, and capital they need to establish and grow sustainable businesses, resulting in their financial independence.
We want to see a continent where these entrepreneurs have greater control over their own and their children’s lives and influence in tackling injustice and discrimination in their communities and the continent at large.
What inspired your decision to venture into this business?
I see many people with great talent who are not living up to their full potential. There exists a vicious cycle of poverty among certain members of our economy that needs to be broken. Some of the people affected exert a lot of energy and time into work, yet they have very little income and are unable to save adequately. They just need the right kind of support to be able to make a living and contribute substantially to the economy.
My inspiration comes from my firm belief that everybody has the potential for growth and that the sky is the limit for everyone if given equal opportunity.
With the continent’s population tipped to double by 2050, there is an urgent need for the government and entrepreneurs to create more jobs. From your viewpoint, what should be the priority for African leaders towards job creation?
There is a direct correlation between more businesses and job creation. More businesses mean, (all things being equal), more jobs, so African leaders should encourage and support new ventures on our continent. A lot is already being done by many of our leaders. However, one area in which they can focus on in order to achieve tangible results is, for African leaders, to incentivize professionals in various fields of endeavor to retire early from working for other corporations to set up their own businesses. These people already have the skill, knowledge, and experience to set up businesses that have a high probability of thriving. Plus, they would be creating the opportunity for new graduates to be employed in their place.
How would you say Coinbox is contributing to the economic growth of the African community?
Coinbox has products and services that improve the sustainability of livelihoods among poor and vulnerable groups. Our work focuses on achieving the following UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
No Poverty: Through our business management and mentoring, our clients are able to earn enough to take care of their families and save, thereby alleviating them from poverty.
Gender Equality: Our focus on female entrepreneurs enables women to have increased participation in the economy and helps them have greater control over their own and their children’s lives and influence in tackling injustice and discrimination in their communities.
Decent Work & Economic Growth: We promote full and productive employment and decent work through access to business support. Our clients get a higher and more stable income which enables them to contribute adequately to economic.
Industry, Innovation & Infrastructure: We encourage innovation by supporting new ideas and supporting our clients to work turning their ideas into viable businesses.
Reduced Inequalities: Our project with Entrepreneurs with Disabilities, offers people living with disabilities the opportunity to participate in the economy and support their livelihood.
As a successful CEO, what are your top five productivity secrets?
Passion: I am passionate about Coinbox and I want to see it make the impact it was created for. For this reason, I work very hard, round the clock to ensure that our clients are benefitting from our work.
Expertise: I believe that I’m good at what I do and I’m constantly learning. I learn from books, and I learn from people better than I in the industry.
Teamwork: I am a team player and I love to draw on the knowledge and expertise of others in my work. I work better through people than doing it all by myself.
Valorous: I take a few educated risks every now and then. I do a lot of research and try out new ideas and delve into difficult ventures in a prudent manner, keeping the long-term outcome in mind.
Innovative: I’m always on the lookout for new ways of doing things. I like to delve into situations and ideas to find solutions that are specific and effective.
What advice will you offer budding entrepreneurs?
There is a phrase or quote that I have come to love.
“Not all those who wander are lost” (J.R.R. Tolkien)
As an entrepreneur, especially, a startup, you might feel as though you are not making headway. You believe in your idea or venture, so much, so that, you don’t see any reason why it should not be making progress. It might seem like you’re lost now and people around you might discourage you because they don’t see you making money.
I want you to bear in mind that, whatever effort you put into your work, whatever resources you spend, provided you are doing the right things and taking the right steps, you will definitely get to your destination. It’s ok to have trials and errors; that’s just how companies startups. Involve your prospective clients in developing and shaping your idea and you will succeed.