Esther Afua Nkulenu (1919 – 2002)


“women must know that the strongest power in the world is economic power”Esther_Cover_.png

Ghanian-microfinance-champion-entrepreneur extraordinaire! & she started with no formal education. The story begins in the Volta Region; where Esther Afua Nkulenu was born. Her dad was a blacksmith, her mum a potter & famer. Nkulenu’s grandma ensured she got her primary school education, after which she won a scholarship to attend high-school in Achimota school.

Here, “Aunty Ocloo” began to build her empire.
In 1930; with 6 Ghanaian shillings provided by her Aunty, sugar, oranges & 12 jars, Nkulenu started her very own small marmalade company. She was just a teenager! & her classmates in high school were her first customers. After her high school education she secured a contract with Achimota school, as a supplier of marmalade & orange juice. Nkulenu says she heard the whispers of her classmates, who all had gone off to some college or university, referring to her as an “uneducated street vendor” but that didn’t deter Aunty Ocloo! In 1942 she bagged even another deal! This time with the Ghanaian military. With this contract Nkulenu industries was born! Ocloo became the first person to start formal food processing in -then known as- the Gold Coast.
There is no elevator to success you have to take the stairs! After establishing her business, Achimota School sponsored Nkulenu to visit & study in England; where she took a post graduate food preservation course at Bristol University before return to Ghana.
In 1959 Nkulenu returned to England to develop recipes for commercial canning. To overcome the prejudice- through capitalism & brainwashing- with locally produced goods, Nkulenu formed a manufacturers’ association & helped organize the first “made-in-Ghana” goods exhibition with the support of President Nkrumah. She was the first woman to hold the position of Executive Chairman of the National Food & Nutrition Board of Ghana. However, of all her many firsts, Aunty Ocloo is notably remembered as a pioneer of micro lending.

Motivated by her pursuit for financial freedom for low-income women who lacked the credit & financial history to escape predatory lending, she spearheaded the launch of Women’s World Banking (WWB). A non-profit microfinance initiative that provides low-income women with the small loans they need to start their businesses. The WWB network serves 24 million micro-entrepreneurs in 28 countries worldwide

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