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In this Impactstory we would like to introduce you to Assetou Camara.

Assetou has lived in Djoliba for many years, but was born and raised in Liberia. As we walk towards her, we immediately notice her round belly. The 36-year-old entrepreneur is pregnant!

“Salam aleikum and congratulations!” We greet her and point to her belly. “Thank you,” Assetou laughs, “but this pregnancy is quite exhausting. Sit down.”

 

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Passionate about business

We accept her invitation and learn many things about Assetou. Assetou has been running a business in Djoliba for several years. She sells homemade cold drinks and ice water. The cool drinks are in high demand in the heat of Djoliba and Assetou has developed a business concept from local needs.

That hasn’t always been easy. A native of Liberia, Assetou came to Djoliba after marrying her husband. Economically, she quickly gained a foothold in the village and ran a well-functioning business for a long time. Thus she attracted envy. Other women in the village in particular were suspicious of her and sometimes very obviously excluded her.

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Assetou Camara in front of her house in Djoliba

"I think it's always difficult when strangers come to a new community and then earn better than the locals. Of course, there's envy. But what am I supposed to do? I'm ambitious and I've been doing business since I was young. I am good at it. I don't care what others say about me. But of course, you feel isolated."

Assetou Camara

Assetou discovered her passion for business early on. She didn’t do particularly well at school, so she asked her mother to let her start her own business. Eventually, she gave in to her daughter’s desire to start a business, because Assetou is known for her powers of persuasion. At the time, her main goal was to be able to earn money on her own and not be dependent on anyone.

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Assetou prepares hibiscus juice
Business,Strom
The cold drinks are very popular in Djoliba

"Independence has always been important to me. I don't want to put all my energy into something I'm not one hundred percent passionate about. I knew early on that I was good at trading and negotiating. This talent has become my passion and now brings me a good income. Definitely, it brings me more income than being employed by anyone."

Assetou Camara

Customer at Africa GreenTec

Her husband was a great help to Assetou in setting up her business. He supported her financially when she needed help and made connections with potential sponsors (including in Bamako). This was very helpful, especially since Assetou was only active in the local women’s business association for a short time and was again left to her own devices after she left. Furthermore, her husband financed the first refrigerators and solar panels for her business. 

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Assetou's family is a great support to her

When Africa GreenTec came to Djoliba in 2017, Assetou was very interested in sustainable electricity. Especially for her refrigerators, she was looking for a cheaper energy source. Assetou was a customer of Africa GreenTec for a few years. However, she decided to still generate electricity separately through solar panels. Since Africa GreenTec does not currently offer electricity for nighttime hours, she felt it was too risky with her refrigerated products. Sometimes people did not buy enough products, and the inconsistent cooling caused some of her products to go bad.

Business expansion plans

Currently, Assetou is still working alone in her business. Occasionally, her husband’s second wife helps her with the work, but her goal is to hire more employees.

"The work here is too much for one person. I would like to offer my stuff in several places in Djoliba, but am so busy preparing drinks that I hardly manage to go around the village offering my drinks. People only shop here. That's why I need reliable people to offer my drinks throughout Djoliba."

Assetou Camara
Business,Strom
Assetou talking to a customer

More credit opportunities would also be a help

For the future, Assetou would like to have more employees and more opportunities for loans. She would like to become more independent from her husband again and be able to set up several locations in Djoliba on her own. She is also flexible when it comes to selling her products. Quite the businesswoman, Assetou focuses on the products for which there is high demand.

"We'll see what the future brings. I just hope that I can expand with the help of loans. I also wish that the relationship with the other women in the village would improve. I think we women should support rather than sabotage each other. We should empower each other regardless of where we come from!"

Assetou Camara

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