A Ugandan entrepreneur, Josephine Okot and Dr. Mo Ibrahim, a Sudanese-born British billionaire are the African nominees for the inaugural ‘Business for Peace Awards’ slated for May 14 in Oslo, Norway.The awards are aimed at recognising “businesspersons who, through their own actions and commitments, promote socially responsible and ethical business practice in an outstanding way.”
Prof. Muhammad Yunus (Nobel Peace Prize Laureate 2006), Dr. Wangari Maathai (Nobel Peace Prize Laureate 2004) and Prof. Michael Spence (Nobel Prize Laureate in Economic Sciences 2001) constitute the committee that will select the winner.
Others nominees are from Sweden, USA, Saudi-Arabia, and China that has two nominees.
Okot is the proprietor of Victoria Seed Ltd, a seed company that aims at delivering quality seed to small scale farmers.
The company also deals in seed research, production, processing and markets over 100 seed varieties of cereal, legume, vegetable, oil and forage crops for farmers.
Okot told The Observer that her nomination was unexpected. “I don’t even know who nominated me; I have no clue at all. I just received a call that I had been nominated. At first I thought it was a hoax until I got an email from the Uganda Ambassador in Norway,” she said.
She however didn’t hide her excitement.
“I am really touched; I grew up in the north where there is no UMEME, then starting a business in a country where interest rates are very high at 24%. It’s really good when someone recognises you.”
She said she is driven by the need to empower women.
“Although women produce 70 – 75% of the country’s food output, the lack of control over productive household resources by women remains one of the root causes of gender poverty because their capacity to access credit for productivity enhancing inputs is severely limited.”
In 2007 Okot won the YARA Prize for a Green Revolution in Africa for her pioneering work with the agriculture input sector and being an outstanding example of a new generation of African entrepreneurs willing to take risks, take the lead and break new ground within African agriculture.
Earlier, in 2006, she was named the leading woman entrepreneur by Business in Africa Magazine and in 2007, her company won the Investor of the Year Award (SME category) by Uganda Investment Authority.
Victoria Seeds Ltd now has processing and research facilities in Kawanda and Gulu. “We are engaging displaced communities in the regional seed industry supply chain and transforming these subsistence-based producers into high-input, commercial based farmers,” she said.