Comfort Dorkutso is no stranger to hard work. To help support her family, she was forced to leave school to find work. The only thing available was working as a house to house revenue collector. Not an easy job, and one that earned less than CHF 2 (AUD $2.60) a day.
In 2013, Comfort heard about a new opportunity. She had seen Accra’s distinctive coffee vendors weaving their way through the bustling crowds. The vendors stood out in their bright red t-shirts as they sold Nescafé by the cup to stall owners, shoppers and even drivers stuck in traffic.
What she hadn’t realised was that many of these vendors were small business owners, working hard to generate their own income and grow their companies. She knew instantly that this was what she wanted to do.
As a street vendor, Comfort is now earning around CHF 200 (AUD $260) a month. Not only is she able to rent a small apartment for herself, she’s also helping to support her siblings and her young niece too. This young entrepreneur doesn’t lack for vision, realising that her hard work will pay off. “I’m looking forward to saving up in order to build my own shop,” she says, proudly.
The ‘My Own Business’ scheme - known locally as MYOWBU - encourages people in Central and West Africa to develop a career and gain financial independence. The initiative, led by the company’s out-of-home business Nestlé Professional, is helping to provide thousands of people with the chance to head their own street-vending business, employing and managing their own street vendors.
All vendors are supplied with Nescafé, cups, flasks and the other kit needed to sell coffee on the street. They sell it and get to keep a portion of the profits.
If a vendor wants to become an operator, Nescafé trains them in sales, management, hygiene, quality and safety. The company also helps people find suitable kitchen areas with a clean, safe supply of boiling water to run their business. Operators then recruit more vendors from their community, set targets and working hours, manage payments, ensure product safety and maintain the equipment.
All the Nescafé operators and vendors have built loyal customer bases in their area and have become great ambassadors for the brand.
According to the United Nations' Global Youth Unemployment report, 11% of young people living in Sub-Saharan Africa were unemployed in 2016 and this figure is expected to increase.
The MYOWBU scheme has already helped more than 4,500 young people start their own micro-enterprises. Nearly 1,000 of these are women.
For Chrystèle Esso from Cameroon, it has been a life-changing experience. After leaving school, Chrystèle worked as an unpaid social worker in her local community. In 2013, she decided to start up her own small coffee shop and some months later joined the MYOWBU scheme.
Today, Chrystèle owns a thriving business of 35 vendors who each take home an average income of CHF 130 (AUD $170) per month.
“It’s really helped me become disciplined and mature in how I run my business,” Chrystèle says. “My operators depend on their jobs to take care of their families. I’m also happier because I enjoy what I do.”