Tran Thi Viet, founder and managing director of Viet Trang Handicraft in Vietnam has been announced as winner of the 2016 Empretec Women in Business Awards by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) at a ceremony in Nairobi on 21 July. Five African women were included among the 12 finalists for the awards that celebrate exceptional micro and small businesswomen who have benefitted from Empretec, UNCTAD’s global entrepreneurship training network. Their businesses and their contribution to the socio-economic development in their countries is well worth celebrating.
The winning entrepreneur, Tran Thi Viet, has a long history of handicraft production that specializes in natural fibres such as seagrass, jute, water hyacinth, corn leaves, banana leaves, and bamboo. Her company's handicrafts are one hundred per cent eco-friendly, and the products are made without any chemical substances. The natural fibres are handwoven by talented and passionate women artisans, located in the oldest traditional seagrass-weaving villages of Thanh Hoa Province.
Empretec was launched in 1988 and has trained more than 350, 000 entrepreneurs in over 37 countries to date. This year’s awards received more than 50 nominations submitted from Empretec centers in 23 countries.
Beatrice Ayuru Byaruhanga of Lira Integrated School Uganda is the only African woman entrepreneur who has previously brought home the recognition having won the Empretec Women in Business award in 2010.
The five African women entrepreneurs who were shortlisted for this years awards are:
Berthe Bonou-Zanou, director of the Akpakpa Paediatric Clinic, Cotonou, Benin
Berthe Bonou-Zanou is the director of the Akpakpa Paediatric Clinic in Cotonou, Benin founded 19 years ago. It is the first private clinic in Benin to offer health care to children from birth to age 17. It provides consultation services for infants in differing states of health, as well as nutritional advice and an extended range of vaccination programmes and biological exams. It can also provide hospitalization and surgical consultation. The quality of the services and the round-the-clock availability of highly qualified staff is what makes the Akpakpa Paediatric Clinic stand out.
“We face competition by providing quality service to our clients”
Fatou Saine Gaye, founder of Gayenjoro Hair Plus, Gambia
Fatou Saine Gaye, Gambia whose Gayenjoro Hair Plus provides vocational training to 280 young people in various marketable skills including hairdressing, beauty cosmetology, massage therapy, catering, tailoring, IT, animal husbandry, carpentry, masonry and agriculture.
In 2005, after studying in the United Kingdom for 10 years and graduating with a degree in banking and finance, Fatou moved back to the Gambia for a job in banking. However, she then decided to become an entrepreneur in order to achieve work-life balance and also to follow her passion as a hair stylist, which she had pursued part time while in the United Kingdom. In 2007, Gaye Njorro Hair Plus opened, initially as a hairdressing salon. Two years later, after Fatou saw the vulnerability of young girls in the streets, she transformed it into a skills training centre for hairdressing, beauty cosmetology and massage therapy. The centre was then fully licensed and accredited by the National Training Authority of the Gambia. In that first year it started with 14 students. They all graduated and either found job opportunities or started their own businesses.
“I have a mission: getting young people off the streets”
Aline Wong, founder of L’Inattendu, Mauritius
Aline Wong, Mauritius: Her company L’Inattendu manufactures original textile products designed for women, men and children. It employs 75 people, 95 per cent of them women. It also empowers its staff to achieve the well-being of their families and socio-economic development of the villages where they live.
L’Inattendue, founded in 1988 by Aline Wong, produces garments for well-known brands in the clothing industry. It provides its customers with everything from simple logo embroidery to fully fledged customized solutions. In 2004, it established its own brand: “L’In”. L’Inattendue developed an in-house design department, which offers its customers screen printing, integral print solutions and handmade embroidery carried out by about 20 women working from home. The company owns two shops and maintains three spaces in other shops.
“I look into avenues of innovation and technology in order to expand”
Joyce Kyalema, founder of Josmak International, Uganda
Joyce Kyalema, Uganda: Her company, Josmak International, offers a variety of organic pumpkin products distributed on the national market. The sustainable agricultural practice has been adopted by 80 rural female pumpkin growers and substantially reduces land degradation.
The company’s business is unique in the way that it uses pumpkin, a common household food, transforming and exploiting all asepcts of this natural resource. It produces pumpkin juice, pumpkin wine and ready-to-eat roasted pumpkin seeds, as well as pumpkin powder from leaves and flowers which is used to make bread, cookies, biscuits, bagias, soup, seeds, peanut butter, and pumpkin ginger and cinnamon tea spices, among other products. The remains are also used as animal food and organic fertilizer. The company sells its products to supermarkets, traders, restaurants and hotels, and institutions such as schools and hospitals. Joyce founded Josmak in 2013 and participated in the Empretec workshop in 2014. In two years, Josmak has doubled its sales revenue in all the product lines. The workforce has grown from 3 permanent staff to 5, plus 30 part-time employees.
“We have a mission to produce highly valued and quality products profitably in an environmentally sustainable manner. As a social enterprise, when the business grows, the community is also transformed”
Brenda Omba Kayumba Lacey, founder of Katcey Construction Limited, Zambia
Brenda Omba Kayumba Lacey’s Katcey Construction Limited in Zambia provides design and construction services to the private and public sectors in Zambia focusing on green construction, using local material and compacted-soil or kiln-fired clay bricks.
Katcey Construction Limited is a rapidly growing trading supplies and construction company. It provides a complete design and building service to the private and public sectors in Zambia for the construction of houses, schools, clinics and other commercial buildings. It further supplies guidance on building design, acquiring cost quotes and sourcing good-quality green construction materials from Zambia, South Africa and China. Buildings are constructed to pre-agreed high quality standards within agreed deadlines. Customers are involved in all stages of the building process to ensure that the final product meets their requirements and gives them a building that is efficient, fit-for-purpose, economic, attractive and long-lasting.
Katcey is one of the few Zambian construction companies to focus on green construction, using local materials wherever possible and compacted-soil or kiln-fired clay bricks wherever appropriate. This not only gives customers better-value buildings, minimizing the expensive use of cement (which usually must be transported long distances) but also brings benefits to local communities through the increased use of local labour as well as the development of skills in green building.
“We improve environmental sustainability by using green construction methods, and we provide small finishing touches to construction projects that make a big difference to our customers”