Esther Afua Ocloo: The Woman Who Was The First Person To Establish A Food Processing Industry In Ghana

Esther Afua Ocloo: The Woman Who Was The First Person To Establish A Food Processing Industry In Ghana

  • Esther Afua Ocloo was a student of Achimota School where she started selling marmalade to support herself in school with 10 shillings she received from her aunty
  • She established Nkulenu Industries Limited after landing a huge contract to supply the Gold Coast military, Royal West African Fontier Force with her products
  • The Ghana Trade Fair Centre for the exhibition of made-in-Ghana goods was established thanks to her and she also co-founded the Women's World Banking

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Esther's entrepreneurial journey began at a very young age. Her successful business took it roots from Achimota School when she chose to use money her aunt sent her to feed on to rather start a business. Today, Nkulenu Industries Limited is in existence thanks to a smart decision a poor Gold Coast girl took.

You see, Esther Afua Ocloo was born into a poor family but luckily, she won a scholarship to move all the way from Peki Blengo in the Volta Region to study in the Greater Accra Region and even than, it took the intervention of her aunty to pay for her transportation to get there.

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Meet the woman built Ghana's first ever food processing company
Esther Afua Ocloo in an interview and at an older age Photo credit: photos thp/YouTube,
Source: UGC

Selling marmalade to support herself in Achimota School

While in Achimota School, there was a time, Esther had no money on her and she needed to eat. She therefore called on her aunty once again and about 10 Shillings (Gold Coast currency) were sent to her. One would think that the young secondary school student would have just spend the money on food for her belly but no, that was not the case. Afua chose to start a business with it.

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"I was determined to turn the 10 shillings to 2 pounds. With 6 shillings, I bought ingredients to make marmalade and got jars as well", she revealed in an interview.

With her jars of marmalade, she went to the road side and began searching for buyers and in a span of 1 hours, her jars had all been sold.

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"I turned 6 shillings into 12 shillings and I was so excited. I treated myself to a delicious lunch"

Esther Afua Ocloo getting teased by her mates for hawking on the streets of Accra

Unlike many Ghanaian youth today, Esther Afua Ocloo's goal after secondary school was to venture into running her own small business right away and she did just that. She continued to sell marmalade after school and got ridiculed for that.

"My friends who saw me hawking marmalade on the street made fun of me like an uneducated street vendor because in my days, people who had received secondary education were expected to go after office jobs and managerial positions", Esther told Kavitha in an interview.

Esther also stated passionately that Ghanaians trying to mimic the ways of their colonizers in terms of only going in for white collar jobs only meant that they look down on the old fashioned traditions.

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How Nkulenu Industries Limited came into existence

News about Esther's marmalade business reached her teachers at Achimota School and oneday, she was invited and given a business proposal. She was asked by the school to supply marmalade twice a week.

While working with her alma mater, she landed a contract to supply the Royal West African Fontier Force, the military with her products. The huge supply meant an expansion of her business was required and so, Esther went in for a loan and in 1942, Nkulenu Industries was established, reported.

Today, Nkulenu Industries Limited is still in existence with their products ranging from already prepared and packaged banku balls, banku floor, chopped and dehydrated konkomire, fanti kenkey, fermented corn flour, Ga kenkey, the original orange marmalade, palm soup base and palm wine.

Receiving assistance from Achimota School to study in England

Esther's hardwork and drive eventually earned her an assistance from Achimota School to travel to England to study food technology, preservation, nutrition and agriculture.

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"After working on my business for 6 years, Achimota was so impressed with me that they preserved a portion of my profits and with the money I had also saved up, I travelled abroad for my studies". Esther shared in an interview.

She returned to her motherland with all the knowledge she had acquired from her studies in England and sought to help the underprivileged and the women in her society.

With this in mind, Esther established eight Non-Government Organizations which helped create jobs for unemployed youth through the establisment of a farm. She also set up an entrepreneurial training centre for African women which helped equip them with the skills needed to be more effective as entrepreneurs.

"I came from an underprivileged family. I wanted to see to it that women were equipped to help their children so they do not suffer the same hardships. Women can contribute effectively; socially, economically, and culturally," she explained in an interview.

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The birth of Ghana Trade Fair Centre and the Women's World Banking

During the lunch of the centenary celebration of Dr Esther Afua Ocloo in 2019 years after she had passed, the then CEO of the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI), Seth Twum Akwaboa revealed that she was the very first president of the AGI. During her time, Esther organized the first Made-in-Ghana exhibition show were Ghanaian creatives and entrepreneurs got the chance to showcase their products.

"The president of Ghana at the time, Dr Kwame Nkrumah was invited and when he came, he was so surprised to see the kind of products that were exhibited and which were manufactured in Ghana.
He was very impressed and promised to proved a permanent place for made-in-Ghana products to be exhibited and that was how the Ghana Trade Fair Centre was established", Seth shared in his speech.
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Another goal of Dr Esther Afua Ocloo was to ensure that business women in Ghana and in the world at large never lacked the financial assistance needed at any point to grow their businesses. That dream was realized when she along with one Michaela Walsh and Ela Bhatt founded the Women's World Banking in 1976 to offer micro-lending services as well as provide strategic support and offer technical assistance.

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Becoming the first woman to receive the Africa Prize for Leadership

Dr Esther Afua Ocloo's passion towards ensuring women are equipped with the necessary skills to excel in their line of work as well as her drive for championing the developement of an indigeous economy based on agriculture won her the Africa Prize for Leadership.

In an interview in 1990 after winning the award, she shared what that recognition meant to her;

"For the women of Africa, the award stands for the recognition of their contributions towards economic growth and the constant availability of food in Africa", Esther said.
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She also revealed that thanks to the award, a lot of farmers are will be receiving more support and she believes the award would give them the assurance that their efforts are being seen not only in Africa but the world at large.

The late Dr Esther Afua Ocloo believed that some of Ghana's problems would be solved if the youth of the country stopped mimicking the western ways of doing things and focused on indigenous entrepreneurship including agriculture.

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Achimota School Alumnus Becomes First ever Ghanaian Representaive for a World Trade Organization Program

Meanwhile, earlier reported that an overjoyed Ghanaian lady by the name of Matilda Setutsi Frimpong took to social media to share an exciting news.

In her post on social media, Matilda shared that she was selected out of over 7,000 people from across the world for the World Trade Organization's Youth Professional Program.

She announced that the feat makes her the very first Ghanaian and one of the youngest ever representatives for the program.


Linda Anderson avatar

Linda Anderson Linda is a graduate of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in 2017 where she studied Chemical Engineering. She made an interesting career pivot from a Quality Control Officer to a Human Interest Editor in pursuit of doing what she loves and currently has close to 2 years experience in Journalism. Linda believes in kindness, respect, and empathy towards all and is firmly on board to help achieve all its set targets and goals.

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