Awahou Codjo Alabi
Who is Awahou Codjo Alabi ?
Hailing from a rural environment Awahou Codjo Alabi, BPW Cotonou, is a graduate of National University of BENIN (UNB) and the International Communication Center and holds a Masters degree in English. She also holds a Higher Degree of Bilingual Secretary (DESS). She served at various times at American Cultural Center and ODIFIC, the largest commercial supermarket Super V Amelco of Cotonou.
Awahou set up AWA FISH in 1995, as a result of joblessness. Although she was without any instruction on local sea fishing business, the organizational experience she had gathered earlier in her career helped her in her new business. She took time to learn the trade from the local people in the fishing business. Although treated with distrust initially, they came to trust her as she helped the women get more organized in the business.
With financial assistance from French Development Fund, later known as French Development Agency (AFD), she opened her first cold room in 1997 at the fishing port of Cotonou. In January 2002 she also received support from FOBAPE (CEPEPE), known today as FONAGA, to address organizational deficit in the business. As her business grew, Awahou CODJO opened a second cold room at Dandji, Akpakpa on her own piece of land with financing of Equip Bail Bank of Africa. Her enterprise was on its way to prominence.
The company now employs 17 permanent and, from time to time, 15 part-time workers. But, to fulfill the needs of her customers and to be close to them, there was need to open a new branch near Kouhounou Stadium, very close to the down-town market where the customers were located. To achieve this she would need access to finance.
In a formal consortium partnership with the fishermen, their wives, the fishmongers and the fish cleaners, AWA FISH applied to and received financial support from the Millennium Challenge Account, an American subvention which financed the consortium to the tune of Five hundred thousand US dollars (US$500,000): three hundred and fifty thousand US dollars ($350,000) went to AWA Fish, the lead partner; the remaining amount of one hundred and fifty thousand US dollars ($150,000) went to the fishermen, fish cleaners and the others.
This financing was strictly for equipment and increasing the capacity of the people involved in the business with the ultimate goal of poverty reduction.
With new equipment in place, a new experience started for AWA FISH. Not only has AWA FISH been enabled to increase its turnover, it has become more visible.
Two good lessons have been learnt by Awahou in building her enterprise:
• Instruction pays, and good instruction pays better. An entrepreneur needs to have a minimum of instruction before starting any business. This keeps the entrepreneur aware of the reality on ground, the peculiar challenges of the trade, and how to develop strategies for a solution.
• One must believe in what one is doing and be positive. There will always be challenging times, but it is useful to think that the better is coming further. This has been Awahou’s testimony.