When Ayisha Fuseini was a little girl, she helped her mother collect shea nuts while on her walk to school. Some days, she'd arrive to her classroom late. By the time she reached secondary school, Ayisha’s school fees posed a challenge to her family. But through her dedication and her family’s hard work, she was able to graduate and begin to envision a better life for herself.
After finishing secondary school, Ayisha joined the CAMFED Association (CAMA) and took part in the Innovation Bursary Program, offered in partnership with The Mastercard Foundation.
She received training, a small grant, and crucial mentoring support from the female CEO of a shea processing business, Madame Comfort, in Accra. With the knowledge she gained, she organized and trained 70 women to gather and process shea nuts into butter.
By 2015, Ayisha had employed 10 people, and set up four cooperatives with a total of 210 women processing shea butter and learning from each other, each able to provide better for their families. She continues to travel to neighboring villages to organize and mentor more women's groups.
Safura (right) and Sanatu (left) work for Ayisha (center) in order to provide for their families. Today, their daughters are receiving the education they never had.
“CAMFED really changed my life. I have benefited greatly from my education... My business has really changed things for my family. Now, if someone in the family is sick, I know I can support their care. For those who are in school, I can support them with books and school fees.”
Organizing her co-workers and keeping records is not easy, she says, and would be even more challenging without an education. Ayisha particularly appreciates the opportunity to meet with women in her community and discuss the importance of education. “If I see a child who is not in school, through [the CAMFED Association] we can identify these children and send them back with fees and uniforms.” She has also started a preschool for the children of the women working in the shea cooperatives, and trains her colleagues in financial literacy.
Ayisha’s venture quickly expanded beyond the two stalls she started with. She has built her own warehouse and dreams of having a manufacturing plant. As Ayisha’s business continues to grow, so does the number of women she employs. Other communities seek her out to bring her business model to their villages to engage and empower even more women.
Ayisha Fuseini, who accepted two business awards at the Invest in Africa Awards, is transforming her community.
“When women are free financially, they make better decisions, and are heard.”
In 2015, Ayisha was invited by UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) to speak in front of senior government officials and CEOs, and became one of only 16 women selected by the government of Ghana to receive Youth Enterprise Support (YES), money she used to expand her business.
Less than three years later, in January 2018, Ayisha accepted two awards at the Invest in Africa Awards (IIA): Female Entrepreneur of the Year and Business Innovation of the Year. In November that year, Ayisha was invited to share her expertise at the EVE Program Africa summit in Senegal.
Through sustainable businesses, Ayisha and other entrepreneurs in the CAMFED Association, are supporting more women and girls on the path to livelihoods and leadership.