The Business savvy-mind of Etta Beah
PUBLISHED MARCH 3, 2023
Etta has been a proud beneficiary of the Bonthe Island Fish Trading project as she took the opportunities provided by the project to economically empower herself.From being a struggling woman to a woman of admiration in her community, Etta is proud of how far she has come. Her outstanding entrepreneurial ventures have convinced the people of York Island and other communities to believe that Etta can be a good leader if given the opportunity.
Women are often described as the best entrepreneurs as they are skilled in combining business, household and social responsibilities irrespective of wherever they find themselves. Etta Beah, a forty-eight years old woman is an example of such a description. She is an entrepreneur who resides in the York community. Etta does not only cater for her children but also has to provide for other relatives who are dependent on her. York Island where Etta was born and resides is a historic island in Sierra Leone. It was a strategic transit location during the colonial age but life on the Island has long since deteriorated and is presently a difficult one.
Bonthe Island and its surrounding communities including York are faced with multi-dimensional fragilities including a lack of basic services like electricity, potable drinking water, financial services, and educational, and health facilities among others. Fishermen and fishmongers are faced with income and livelihood insecurity as they are unable to access critical services related to the fishery value chain.
Etta has been a petty trader throughout her adult life to cater for her children. Her micro-enterprise sells household consumables including food condiments. Her business has been successful as households on York Island do not have to travel across the Atlantic Ocean to purchase household consumables but simply patronise Etta's mini-shop. Etta's enterprise has however been one of a subsistence nature as her responsibilities of providing adequately for her children and family members overwhelmed her.
In 2021, SEND Sierra Leone together with its partner organisation Terra Tech Förderprojekte e.V introduced a project titled the Bonthe Island Fishing Project (BIFT) in York and 49 other communities in the Bonthe district. The project formed and trained Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA) groups in York and other communities. In York, Etta and twenty-nine other women formed a VSLA group to ensure women can take control of their lives and reduce their dependence on their spouses. In their weekly meeting, the group members saved profits earned from their different livelihoods. They were also encouraged to join the Bonthe Island Cooperative Credit Union, a financial institution that provides access to finance opportunities for women and other vulnerable groups of persons
Etta took the opportunity and joined the Credit Union and after months of savings, she took a loan of Le 15,000 equivalent to $1,500 and bought a solar energy system which included solar panels and an inverter system to provide electricity within her shop. With her shop having electricity, Etta began a mobile-phone charging station enterprise which allowed residents to conveniently charge their phones and devices within York as compared to travelling more than 10 nautical miles to Bonthe Island to charge their phones. She realised the need for clean food preservation, and with her savings of Le 3,000 equivalent to $300 in 2021, she purchased a deep freezer. She used this deep freezer to refrigerate water and drinks which she sold at a premium.
Etta's business flourished and with the profits she earned, she completed the repayment of her loan from the Credit Union whiles saving a considerable sum with her VSLA group and in her personal Credit Union account. Thanks to Competency-based Economies through the Formation of Entrepreneurs (CEFE) training which builds the capacity of individuals especially women to identify and explore business opportunities, Etta developed the idea to establish a commercial transportation passenger business. In 2022, based on a transport business plan she developed, she acquired a second loan worth $1,500 from the Credit Union which she used to fabricate a passenger boat and a 40hp powered propeller engine from her son. She believed that if she provided transportation for the traders and passengers who were often overlooked by the passenger boats that focused only on transporting traders from the Bonthe Municipality, her transport business would have an appreciable share of the market. And was she right, outlining her transport route, she employed four young men who serve as crew for this boat which transports traders and other passengers across the Atlantic Ocean from different coastal communities to Yagoi, the land port on market days
With revenue coming in from the passenger boat , Etta invested in the fabrication of a fishing boat. This fishing boat is operated by a 5-man crew all employed by Etta and ploughs the Atlantic Ocean for fish catch. In 2023, the fishing boat started bringing in revenue for Etta, allowing her to repay her loan from the Credit Union at a much faster rate than expected. Etta has been a proud beneficiary of the Bonthe Island Fish Trading project as she took the opportunities provided by the project to economically empower herself.
"I now have alternative income unlike before as a result of the VSLA and the Credit Union I was introduced into. I now have three sources of income generation, this means that I am now making profits from the charging and freezer business, the passengers' boat and the fishing boat", she proudly said.
From being a struggling woman to a woman of admiration in her community, Etta is proud of how far she has come. Her outstanding entrepreneurial ventures have convinced the people of York Island and other communities to believe that Etta can be a good leader if given the opportunity. Etta was chosen by the communities to contest as a Councillor in the forthcoming general elections in June 2023.