Google is celebrating Ghanaian entrepreneur Esther Afua Ocloo who founded the country’s first local food processing company, Nkulenu Industries and championed women empowerment in Ghana with a doodle today [Tuesday, April 18, 2017].
The company in her honour, has decided to change the doodle on its websites in Ghana, Greece, Peru, Argentina, Iceland, Portugal, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and the UK.
Esther Ocloo, who died in 2002 at the age of 82, grew into a global inspiration having started her career in the 1930s.
Popularly known as “Auntie Ocloo”, she is championed the cause of women and dedicated her life to supporting others to succeed.
Esther Afua Ocloo
A co-founder of the Women’s World Banking; a lending organization in Ghana, she taught many women various skills to enable them live independent of financial support.
As a high school graduate with only a few Ghanaian shillings given to her by an aunt, she bought sugar, oranges and 12 jars to make marmalade jam.
Ocloo sold them at a profit, despite the ridicule of her former classmates, who saw her as an “uneducated street vendor”.
Soon she won a contract to supply her high school with marmalade jam and orange juice, and later managed to secure a deal to provide the military with her goods.
On the basis of that contract, she took out a bank loan.
In 1942, she established a business under her maiden name, “Nkulenu”.
Ocloo then traveled to England to take a course in Food Science and Modern Processing Techniques at Bristol University.
In 1953, determined to grow her business with her newly acquired knowledge in food processing and preservation, she returned to her homeland with a mission to help Ghana become self-sufficient.
Nkulenu Industries still makes orange marmalade today and exports indigenous food items to markets abroad.
In 1962, the company relocated to its present location at Madina, a suburb of Accra.
Besides working on her thriving business, she also set up a programme to share her knowledge with other women who cook and sell products on the streets.
”You know what we found? We found that a woman selling rice and stew on the side of the street is making more money than most women in office jobs – but they are not taken seriously,” she said.
In 1990, she became the first woman to receive the Africa Prize for Leadership.
Her work inspired men and women. She proposed alternative solutions to the problems of hunger, poverty and the distribution of wealth – championing the development of an indigenous economy based on agriculture.
“Our problem here in Ghana is that we have turned our back on agriculture. Over the past 40 years, since the beginning of compulsory education, we have been mimicking the west,” Esther said in an interview in 1999.
Ocloo died in 2002 after suffering from pneumonia.
President Akufo-Addo in his address at the celebration of Ghana’s 60th independence anniversary described Esther Ocloo as a “pioneer industrialist and entrepreneur, whose food processing enterprises under the Nkulenu label changed our habits of food preparation forever.”
Former President John Kufuor at her state-organized funeral said, “She was a real pillar.. worthy of emulation in our efforts to build our nation. Her good works in the promotion of development in Ghana cannot be measured. She was a creator and we need many people of her calibre to build our nation.”