After Melissa Bime, another Cameroonian is in the spotlight. Manka Angwafo is the winner of the 2019 Cartier Women’s Initiative Award (CWIA) for sub-Saharan Africa.
An international independent jury selected the 33-year-old among nearly 2,900 applicants from 142 countries. Manka Angwafo won the award thanks to Grassland Cameroon, a company she launched in 2015 that offers smallholder farmers asset-based financing, tools, training, and market access. Grassland Cameroon has already reached 300 farmers in the Northwest with an indirect impact on 1,800 residents to date.
Her award grants her about FCFA 50 million and tailored support. It will also boost her visibility on the media with networking possibilities and the opportunity to take part in an executive program of the business school INSEAD.
The finalists spent a week in San Francisco, receiving personal coaching and presenting to 35 judges from around the world. This is a continuation of the coaching each of these finalists received for three months prior to the final ceremony. The two runners up in each region received $30,000 each for their business. The CWIA, therefore, distributed $1.1 million among all 21 finalists.
These finalists are now part of a community of women around the world who can share their experiences with over 200 other finalists and laureates.
The Cartier Women’s Initiative Award (CWIA)
The annual international business competition aims to identify, support and encourage projects by women entrepreneurs. It was founded in 2006 by Cartier in partnership with McKinsey & Co., a global management consulting firm, and the INSEAD Business School. Since its inception, over 18,000 women worldwide have applied to the CWIA, creating over 7,000 jobs in 52 countries. Over the years nearly 400 jury members and coaches supported these women entrepreneurs.
Cartier, INSEAD, and McKinsey & Company are partners in this program now in its 13th year. Cartier provides the financial, organizational and promotional support for the program throughout the year (including the prize money). INSEAD and McKinsey provide personal coaching and educational support in all aspects of the finalists’ businesses.
INSEAD will continue this support for the winners throughout the year. The three organizations took part in selecting and overseeing the judges and the judging process.
About Manka Angwafo
In 2013, Manka went out into the fields to help her grandmother harvest her maize. She realized how labour-intensive the process was. They broke a lot of kernels and lost good grain.
“I knew it could be done differently,” Manka explains.
A discussion with her grandmother revealed that a big issue was a lack of funding to purchase quality resources, including farm equipment.
“Access to finance is difficult for most farmers and even the little that is available comes with an interest rate of 25-35%,” she added.
Manka decided the answer would be to offer finance to farmers, which they can reimburse in grain. Two years later in 2015, she founded Grassland Cameroon, a company to offer smallholder farmers asset-based financing, tools, training and market access. Working with NGOs to select vulnerable farmers, Grassland offers loans at a marginal interest rate for four months.
They make repayment at harvest-time and Grassland Cameroon buys up to 70% of the remaining crop. This, therefore, offers farmers crucial access to the market. Thanks to its contacts and consistent grain quality, Manka’s company can sell directly to its corporate clients.
To date, Grassland’s actions have helped farmers double their yields, reaching 4.6 tons per hectare, boosting their income by 200%.
Manka, who did not initially plan to start her own business, began her career in mergers and acquisitions before working with the World Bank.
Coming from a family of farmers gave her insight into the challenges facing smallholder farmers, many of them, women.