By: Kartikey Srivastava
“49% of the population in West Africa live on less than $1 a day”, says Jaurés Aka Yao Okou, the young founder of Trade West Africa Consulting (Trade West), an Ivorian consulting firm.
This startling fact was a major reason for the formation of the firm which Okou says aims to “equip entrepreneurs with the market intelligence they require to get funding for their enterprises which in turn could lead to better living conditions for the general population.”
The idea of starting Trade West came to Okou when he was studying for the ‘International Trade Policy and Trade Law’ course with TRAPCA in Tanzania. He set up the consulting firm to advise and guide entrepreneurs within the West Africa region to engage in multilateral trade systems with a focus on trade facilitation, market research and business intelligence.
From a young age, Okou was involved in the family business where he has seen the difficulties faced by farmers, artisans and entrepreneurs in getting market information, business opportunities, customers for their products while facing a debilitating lack of funding.
This is why Trade West’s focus areas are trade facilitation, market research and business intelligence.
When forming the firm in 2012, Okou was able to call upon experience that he gained from working with different companies and NGO’s to guide him. For example, his previous work where he identified and designed feasible projects for vulnerable communities in Bouake, Cote d’Ivoire helped him understand that projects that enable low-income communities become financially independent are key towards developing the economy of West Africa.
“The more social entrepreneurs we can help the better as they have a direct connection to reducing poverty in these regions and boosting economic growth”, notes Okou.
Remembering these aims, Okou maintains a never give up attitude. This is particularly relevant for finding funds to start up Trade West, which he claims to have been the biggest challenge so far.
Okou firmly believes that there is great scope for expansion across West Africa. There are plans to set up branches in important West African markets such as Senegal, Liberia, Guinea, Niger and Mali. This will enable them to have close links with even more social entrepreneurs and have a bigger impact in the region. The expansion will take place not only in terms of geographical reach but also in terms of staff numbers – three analysts are expected to soon join the team at Trade West.
Trade West has plans to spread awareness by using below the line marketing. They aim to use websites such as Facebook and LinkedIn to reach out to social entrepreneurs within the region and also plan on organising and attending seminars and conferences to reach out to a wider customer base.
It is early days and Okou is counting on the young, ambitious and passionate staff to make Trade West one of the best known consulting firms in West Africa in the next few years.
To learn more about Trade West Africa Consulting, connect with Jaures Okou on the Ennovent Network - a global community of entrepreneurs, mentors, investors and experts that collaborate to accelerate innovations for low-income markets