It was just like any other evening for 34-year-old Anietie Etuk, from Nigeria. “I was driving home from work when I noticed a mother with two children, selling bananas from a table top. The mother was breastfeeding one child, while the other was playing, and it was beginning to rain,” says Anietie. Just as Anietie considered how difficult it must be for the woman to work; exposed to the elements and attempting to care for her two children at the same time – Anietie passed another transient fruit stall. “Just two blocks from this lady, three other ladies were also selling bananas.”
Aniete, the Managing Director of Nigeria-based, business development company, Corehead Business Solutions, began to contemplate the banana-sellers’ situation in more depth. “If these four women came together to raise their funds and capacity… they would be more productive,” says Anietie. It was a moment which would eventually lead to the conceptualisation of a project called Co-op46, which aims to establish a co-operative of existing businesses in Nigeria, and teach women business expansion methods via weekly lectures, which are delivered to the women’s mobile phones via SMS.
In July, Co-op46 saw Anietie – along with teammates Oriseinte Johnson Anietie, 28, and Ohaneje Promise Chinedu, 23 – named as a finalist in Singapore Committee for UN Women ad MasterCard’s Project Inspire, an annual, global, social innovation competition, which empowers women through social entrepreneurship and financial literacy. If Anietie wins the competition, he will use the US$25,000 grand prize to implement his project in Nigeria.
“The development of small and medium-scale enterprises is something I am passionate about,” says Anietie, who also believes “when you help a woman, you help two people; the mother and the child.” This isn’t the first time Aniete has combined his interest in business development and women’s empowerment, he has previously consulted for a microfinance bank, and his business acumen has helped women increase sales in two companies in Port Harcourt.
“Entrepreneurship helps most of these women – especially mothers – control their time, and develop their skills. With financial literacy, they know how to budget effectively and use it to better support their family.”
Vote for Co-op46 in the 2014 People’s Choice Award.
Get to know all of our 2014 Project Inspire finalists.