Patricia Zoundi: Portrait of a woman who has democratised money transfers in rural Cote d'Ivoire
She’s one of those female African entrepreneurs for whom I have tremendous respect. She’s a fighter. She’s there at the helm as if driven by a mission, by one of her favourite quotes: “Where I am defeated will become the scene of my victory”… I’m talking about Patricia Zoundi. She’s 42 years old, married with two boys and has a degree in business law from Ouagadougou University in Burkina Faso, as well as from Stanford.
As a child, she already had leadership skills. “I was already a ringleader. I was successively class representative, CVAV (Catholic movement) officer and a member of associations such as the YCS”, she says. This mentality ran in the family, with her father being a major source of inspiration for her. “My father began his career as a farm labourer and ended it as an executive, corporate boss and diplomat. An example of work well done.”
In January 2003, she started out on her professional journey by helping her uncle develop a money transfer activity (Western Union) with a bank. Unfortunately this first experience wasn’t a success for Patricia, who found herself in debt: “I was bankrupt. I didn’t really have any vision at that time. I hadn’t put adequate procedures in place”, she admits. “I almost gave up…”
But, a few years later, Patricia decided to take on a much larger challenge: “I became aware that, in rural areas, it sometimes took people two days to carry out a transaction. I realised that European money transfer platforms couldn’t work in rural regions where there’s no Internet connection or electricity… those are luxuries for some people.”
She started out in fintech with the very basics: a second-hand computer she paid 60,000 CFA francs for and a 10,000 CFA franc mobile phone.
She then put a team in place to look at this issue of money transfers in rural regions. “I didn’t have any money to pay them, but I told them of my vision and they decided to come onboard”, she adds.
After two years, they were able to put a solution in place that works without an Internet connection and allows villages to be interconnected. Now farmers can carry out their money transfer transactions in just a couple of minutes and get back to their farm activities.
In 2010, Patricia Zoundi thus became the first woman to create money transfer company QuickCash, of which she is the CEO. The QuickCash project began with three villages; today this rural money transfer network covers more than 300 villages. It is notably based on gender promotion to give this activity a significant and social impact in the country’s most remote regions. “Rural women inspire me. Their courage, hard work, multitask potential, ability to surpass themselves and never give up”.
Thanks to her own courage and her management, Patricia has notched up numerous successes with QuickCash. Indeed two moments in particular will forever be etched in her memory. Firstly, when she joined the Stanford Seed programme: “Being a part of this transformation programme enabled me to see things differently. Genuine mindset training. I had access to mentors, business coaches and substantial networking that allowed me to meet more than 700 other entrepreneurs. I thought: Yes, I can do anything. I set myself the challenge of learning English in record time”.
Secondly, her participation in GES (Global Entrepreneurship Summit) 2016: “I’ll never ever forget meeting Barack Obama in Silicon Valley.”
However, despite all her successes, she never lost sight of her ambitions. “QuickCash has led to the creation of two more companies: Digital hub, in the field of digital finance, which focuses on young people and will be launched in the coming months, and Canaan Land, with focuses on sustainable farming and helping farmers become rural entrepreneurs. This led to us setting up the Farmer Visit School; we then created the Trust group to coordinate the subsidiaries’ activities”.
As well as connecting numerous countries thanks to her money transfer solution, Patricia is now getting involved in agro-business through the production and selling of market gardening products. She sees substantial potential in this activity: “There have always been opportunities in this domain. First and foremost you have to be passionate. It’s important because it’s one of the most disadvantaged sectors in terms of financing and insurance products. To get young people interested, a certain level of mechanisation is crucial because manual labour remains very arduous. You also have to love the earth, the soil, else you’ll quickly give up. But it’s a sector that is still underutilised, poor in terms of the value chain but with enormous potential”, she says.
Patricia thinks big – very big. She dreams of contributing to the emergence of a prosperous and active rural world. I have no doubt she will meet this objective. “For me, failure doesn’t exist”, she says, “it’s just another way of learning”.