Third best national award for excellence in 2017 for road transport sector, Michelle Kouao has managed to stand out in the difficult Ivorian microcosm dominated by men. Not for long.
A discreet young woman, Michelle Kouao Ama is the chief executive officer of the road transport company, KS Transport, named after Kouao Samuel, her the father and founder of the company. Varnished nails and hands in the mud and grease at Adjamé bus station in Abidjan, Michelle inherited the management of the company in 2002, without expecting it.
« Men have greatly underestimated me. But, in silence, I learned »
« In 2002, shortly before his death, my father asked me to come to work with him. At the station, I am today the old mother for all those young people working here, the old mother ».
Previously, she had to prove herself. « Men have greatly underestimated me. But, in silence, I learned, » she says. She believes that « it is in the mud that lies the great happiness. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. » For a woman, it is a real challenge!
In Côte d’Ivoire, the road transport industry for travelers and goods is considered difficult. When her father dies, Michelle Kouao was ready to take up the challenge. But, during the 2010 post-election crisis, thirteen of her coaches worth 120 million CFA francs (18,294 euros) were burned. Far from being discouraged, she is now one of the few women at the head of a transport company in the country. « In a world where individualism is the order of the day, being a woman requires more solidarity, » she notes. « Alone, I cannot do anything. With my employees, we form a team. We must remain humble, simple and accessible ».
Her hard work has earned her the national recognition. In 2017, she received the 3rd Best Road Transport Award for Excellence with twenty-seven coaches. « I am fighting all the time as the state has not compensated me for the destruction of my vehicles that were destroyed in a political affair in which I was not involved », notes the one who is also one of the bosses of the General Confederation of Enterprises of Côte d’Ivoire (CGECI).
« An educated woman is an asset for the whole society. She is the compass of life »
For the pious Michelle Kouao who multiplies charity actions, « an educated woman is an asset for the whole society. She is the compass of life. » Also, she sees in this National Award for Excellence, a « sign of encouragement to move on and help other women to do better. I love my job and I do it with a lot of courage and passion, » insists Michelle who blends into the sea of travelers. For this travel lover, « the support for women who want to venture into entrepreneurship in Côte d’Ivoire is not yet very noticeable ».
What would she have done if she had not been in the transport? «Trader» undoubtedly. But today she intends to contribute to the progress of the sector in which it operates, through innovation. She is therefore the first to have launched air-conditioned coaches between Abidjan and other cities of the country.