Women In Business Challenge Finalist Kosi Yankey (Nuba Foods)

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Increasing employment and reducing poverty is something Nuba Foods is deeply committed too also, with the number of employees expected to quadruple to 16 by 2014. By Joëlle Payet (Marketing & Communications Coordinator, BiD Network)

Since 2009, the Women in Business Challenge has provided support, coaching, visibility and finance to over 600 entrepreneurial women in emerging economies. This year, five outstanding applicants were selected from almost 300 and, chosen on account of their potential for growth and the overall quality of their business plans, will receive coaching from professionals before having the opportunity to meet face-to-face with high end investors at the Growing SMEs event at The Hague in November.

Every week, we will be focusing on one of these five women, whose experiences are as varied as they are inspirational. Get to know them and their stories.

This week’s finalist is Kosi Yankey, a Ghanaian with a history in microfinance who has previously worked for organisations such as UBS, Citigroup, Merrill Lynch and Deutsche Bank, has now returned home to address issues effecting small hold farmers in her homeland.

Born in Ghana, Kosi Yankey developed an interest in microfinance in the banking institutions of the West, living in both London and New York, though she credits her grandmother, who at 85 years old still runs a boutique in her hometown, with instilling her entrepreneurial passion.

Kosi believes that while Ghanaian culture promotes entrepreneurship amongst women, there are serious limitations when they attempt to expand their business. She deems the lack of mentors and support available to women, inadequate access to capital and a lack of availability of technical support and training as factors which seriously reduce the efficiency as well as the ability of women to develop their business. Returning to Ghana, Kosi tackled such obstacles as she founded her own microfinance organization.

It was through the interactions of this organization that provided the inspiration for Nuba Foods Ltd. As Kosi stated, "interactions brought to the fore that the major predicament of our clientele, the farmers and traders, was not capital - which is what I had focused on for years - but the lack of access to bigger markets, inadequate storage facilities and poor packaging, among others."

To address these fundamental issues, Nuba Foods was born and the end result of quality products, consistent pricing, attractive packaging, job creation, bigger markets, and upfront capital for suppliers has been its central ethos.

Her experience with her own microfinance institution taught Kosi the invaluable nature of both building and developing partnerships, with diverse institutions around the world. With Nuba, she has travelled the length and breadth of Ghana sourcing as many products as possible in a bid to develop a diverse agricultural value chain. Kosi has built an extensive network of grassroots relationships, initiating symbiotic relationships benefiting both Nuba and local communities, already working with over 100 farmers as well as numerous process and traders throughout Ghana.

Agriculture is central to the rural economies of sub-Saharan Africa. Ghana is no exception, with a vast majority of the country’s human and capital assets contained within this sector. Kosi considers inefficiency and inadequate infrastructure the cause for sub-standard growth in this sector, and it is in this regard that Nuba Foods Ltd aims to address these issues.

Increasing employment and reducing poverty is something Nuba Foods is deeply committed too also, with the number of employees expected to quadruple to 16 by 2014. An investment of capital will ensure Nuba Foods Ltd can increase their product lines entering new and bigger markets, increasing employment and passing profits to the network of small hand famers they support.

When asked what advice she could offer to aspiring entrepreneurs, Kosi responded, "Seek out mentors, learn from them and allow them to guide you. They are a great resource."

For more information about Kiki Kamanu Inc. or the Women in Business Challenge, click here.

The Women in Business Challenge is run by BiD Network, ICCO and ING.

Missed the first story of this series? Click here to meet Kiki Kamanu, the Nigerian Fashion guru.

Editor's note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below. About the guest blogger: Joëlle Payet is Marketing and Communications Coordinator at BiD Network, contributing to sustainable economic growth by stimulating entrepreneurship in emerging markets. With over 42,000 members and 10,000 business plans, bidnetwork.org is the world's largest online community for emerging market SMEs, coaches and investors. Since 2005, BiD Network has launched 490 businesses, created more than 3500 direct jobs, and mobilized $12 million from investors.