Internet search engine giant Google celebrated the posthumous birthday of iconic Ghanaian entrepreneur Esther Afua Ocloo with a doodle (illustration) of her life and times on its homepage Tuesday.
Mother, wife, teacher, preacher, and foremost, businesswoman, Ocloo lived a fruitful life in her 82 years on earth. Born on April 18, 1919, to a blacksmith Father and a Mother who made pottery, the young Ocloo attended school in the South Dayi district of Ghana before winning a scholarship to study at the prestigious Achimota College.
While still a student, Ocloo discovered her entrepreneurial side: With only a few Ghanaian shillings given to her by an aunt, she launched her first business, selling homemade marmalade, which she created from sugar and oranges.
Ocloo would later win a contract to supply her high school — and even the Ghanaian military — with her brand of marmalade. In 1942, nearly two decades before Ghana’s independence, she secured a bank loan and formally established Nkulenu Industries in Accra, Ghana.
The company exists to this day, producing jam and more for export to foreign markets.
In the 1950s, Ocloo traveled to the U.K. to study Food Science and Modern Processing Techniques at Bristol University to broaden her knowledge and expertise in the area of food preservation.
Aside from her entrepreneurial accomplishments, Ocloo is regarded as one of global pioneers of micro lending: With Michaela Walsh and Ela Bhatt, Ocloo founded Women’s World Banking in 1976, serving as the first chairperson of its board of trustees.
During her lifetime, Ocloo was passionate about mentoring female entrepreneurs and grooming them to be independent, productive members of society.
“Women must know that the strongest power in the world is economic power,” Ocloo said in a speech in 1990.
“You cannot go and be begging to your husband for every little thing, but at the moment, that’s what the majority of our women do,” Ocloo said.
Ocloo was a champion of small businesses and the informal sector. She was also a member of Ghana’s Economic Advisory Committee from 1978 to 1979.
”You know what we found?” Ocloo asked once. “We found that a woman selling rice and stew on the side of the street is making more money than most women in office jobs — but they are not taken seriously.”
Esther was also a strong advocate of agriculture production and often urged young people not to shy away from blue collar jobs.
“Our problem here in Ghana is that we have turned our back on agriculture. Over the past 40 years, since the beginning of compulsory education, we have been mimicking the West.
“We are now producing youth with degrees who don’t want to work in the fields or have anything to do with agriculture,” Ocloo added.
Ocloo died in 2002 at 88 years old. In celebration of her many lifetime accomplishments and her 98th posthumous birthday, Google changed its homepage logo in 12 countries, including the United States, Ghana, Peru, Argentina, Iceland, Portugal, Sweden, Australia, Greece, New Zealand, Ireland, and the U.K.