They say nothing succeeds like success. It is especially true for women in countries still recovering from the wounds of war. Struggling to find new sources of income, they draw encouragement from others who have already succeeded in business and can show the way. Women, in other words, like Marie Bob-Kandeh and Eva Roberts from Sierra Leone.
Once selling onions from a basket on her head, Marie now leads the Market Women’s Association, protecting the rights of more than 6,000 female street vendors, most of them poor and illiterate. She is also a member of the Sierra Leone Business Forum, an umbrella group engaging the government on investment climate reform options. With the forum’s support, small-scale entrepreneurs now find it much easier to leave the informal sector and register as official businesses—a key to increased productivity and growth.
In the past two years new registrations have created more than 25,000 jobs, including those at Marie’s bustling new firm, Rehoboth Services. A familiar face in the local media, her upbeat tone is hard to resist.
“Some Sierra Leoneans believe a woman Investment climate Role Models of Reform Sierra Leone doesn’t have the right to be independent and can’t succeed unless she subordinates herself to her husband,” she says. “But my business is my own. It’s my freedom. When you register your business, you don’t need a husband. You register your business as your own, in your own name.”
Eva returned from the U.K. as business conditions began improving in her country in 2007. A medical doctor, she then won a nationwide business plan competition that IFC sponsored, beating out 400 competitors. She used the $23,000 prize money and free business advice to launch Moringa, a popular new herbal tea. Like Marie, she is helping change mind sets, showing just how far women-owned businesses can go.
The business plan competition and Sierra Leone Business Forum are part of the far-reaching support that IFC provided as part of the World Bank Group Investment Climate Advisory Services, working in partnership with the U.K.