Helping other people succeed was just as important to Esther Afua Ocloo as securing her own success.
The Ghanaian entrepreneur and pioneer in microlending, who was born 98 years ago Tuesday, was the first person to start a formal food-processing business in west Africa’s Gold Coast. To highlight Ocloo’s accomplishments, Google published a doodle Tuesday in her honor.
Ocloo made her livelihood selling marmalade and orange juice, but to expand production she needed a loan — a challenge for women with few economic resources. Through persistence, she was able to secure a loan, allowing her to travel to England to learn the latest techniques in food processing.
After returning to Ghana, Ocloo taught local women those newfound skills, as well as everything she knew about starting and running a business, which she realized could improve the health and prosperity of the women and their communities alike.
Recognizing that banks often ignored low-income women because they lacked collateral, Ocloo in 1979 founded and became chairwoman of Women’s World Banking. The nonprofit organization provides financial and technical assistance to low-income women around the world so they can reach their entrepreneurial goals.
Ocloo was also the first black person to earn a cooking diploma from the Goodhousekeeping Institute in London.
She died in 2002 at the age of 82 after a bout with pneumonia.