Esther Afua Ocloo

Esther Afua Ocloo, a trailblazing Ghanaian entrepreneur, stands as a beacon of women’s empowerment and economic development in Africa and beyond. Born on April 18, 1919, in Peki Dzake, in what was then the Gold Coast (now Ghana), Esther’s remarkable journey from humble beginnings to global recognition is a testament to her resilience, vision, and unwavering commitment to uplifting others. Her pioneering efforts in the realm of entrepreneurship, particularly in empowering women, have left an indelible mark on the world stage.

Empowerment Through Entrepreneurship

Esther’s early life was marked by adversity and challenges common to many in her time and place. Raised by her grandmother after her father’s untimely death when she was just nine years old, Esther understood the value of hard work and determination from an early age. Despite financial constraints, she was determined to pursue an education and carve out a better future for herself and her community.

After completing her education at the Achimota School, Esther’s entrepreneurial journey began in earnest. Armed with a mere one pound, she embarked on her first venture, producing and selling marmalade made from oranges grown on her family’s farm. This initial foray into business laid the foundation for what would become a lifelong dedication to entrepreneurship and economic empowerment.

One of Esther’s most significant contributions to the world of business was her role in co-founding the Women’s World Banking (WWB) in 1976. Recognizing the unique challenges faced by women in accessing financial services and capital, Esther envisioned a global network that would provide financial resources and support to female entrepreneurs worldwide. Her tireless advocacy and leadership were instrumental in establishing WWB as a leading force for women’s economic empowerment, helping millions of women gain access to credit, training, and business development services.

Pioneering Women

Esther’s impact extended far beyond the realm of finance. She was a staunch advocate for small-scale enterprises and sustainable development, believing firmly in the power of entrepreneurship to drive economic growth and alleviate poverty. Through her work with organizations such as the Sustainable Enterprise Development (SED) Programme and the Federation of Ghana Industries, Esther championed policies and initiatives aimed at fostering entrepreneurship, innovation, and job creation in Africa.

In addition to her advocacy work, Esther was also a mentor and role model to countless aspiring entrepreneurs, particularly women. She believed in the importance of passing on knowledge and empowering the next generation of leaders, often sharing her experiences and insights through lectures, workshops, and mentorship programs. Her commitment to uplifting others and fostering a culture of entrepreneurship continues to inspire individuals and communities worldwide.

Esther’s achievements did not go unnoticed, and she received numerous accolades and honors throughout her lifetime. In 1990, she became the first woman to receive the Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger, awarded by the Hunger Project. She was also honored with the Order of the Volta, one of Ghana’s highest civilian awards, in recognition of her contributions to entrepreneurship and women’s empowerment.


Despite facing numerous obstacles and setbacks along the way, Esther remained steadfast in her pursuit of economic empowerment and social justice. Her legacy serves as a reminder of the transformative power of entrepreneurship and the importance of empowering women as drivers of economic growth and development. Through her pioneering efforts and unwavering commitment to change, Esther Afua Ocloo has left an indelible mark on the world, inspiring generations to come to follow in her footsteps and make a difference in their communities and beyond.