A better world for women entrepreneurs in Côte d’Ivoire: Marina’s story
In Côte d’Ivoire, women suffer extremely high levels of discrimination. Whether it’s access to education, healthcare, jobs or financial inclusion, they are constantly faced with inequality issues.
Consequently, women entrepreneurs in the country have to overcome many challenges and obstacles in order for their businesses to survive.
But entrepreneurship is not only about creating a business to survive, it’s also about utilising one’s unique skillset and pursuing dreams. It helps create opportunities for low-income people to live a life of dignity and respect, as reflected in Oikocredit’s vision.
At 20 years old, Marina Ananou took a courageous step and started her own business selling bags, shoes and clothes in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.
Her entrepreneurial spirit helped her to maintain her business for years, and eventually she was able to own her own shop.
But while Marina’s business survived, she wanted it to thrive. She wanted to go beyond selling basic products and provide more luxurious, high-quality items that could eventually boost her income.
Finally after 13 years, she took the leap and moved to a smaller shop so that she could afford to buy and sell quality products over quantity. Her new shop’s name: Vision N Vogue.
In order for Marina’s shop to succeed in selling these higher-quality products, she needed financial support.
This is when she discovered and became a client of Cofina, a leader in mesofinance in Africa. Mesofinance products cater to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that need loans, but would be seen as too small for commercials banks and too big for microfinance institutions (MFIs).
Cofina establishes Fin’Elle for women entrepreneurs
To help address the discrimination and obstacles that women entrepreneurs face in Côte d’Ivoire, in 2018 (three years after Marina became a client of Cofina), the Cofina Group established Fin’Elle.
Fin’Elle is a subsidiary of the Cofina Group that focuses on empowering women entrepreneurs by providing microfinance and mesofinance loans to women-owned SMEs in Côte d’Ivoire.
Seeing Fin’Elle’s drive for social impact and empowering women, Oikocredit partnered with the MFI in 2021, supporting them with a loan of € 2.3 million to reach 10,000 households in Côte d’Ivoire.
Marina’s dream is realised
As soon as Fin’Elle came to Abidjan, Marina became one of their clients. Now at 43 years old, Marina has a successful business where her husband and children are also able to work.
Because of her business, her children were also able to attend an international school where they learnt to speak English.
“I learnt to speak English from my children,” added Marina.
She also has two employees.
Now Marina has a loan of XOF 25 million (€ 38,000) and said: “My business has grown and it has been a good experience. Fin’Elle has helped me to grow, to realise my dream. The shop is my own property and I have two employees. My next step will be to buy my own house.”