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I don’t give up easily – says Ijeoma Ogbugo

BY: Enoch Darfah Frimpong

Thirty-one year old Eunice has been in the news lately, being awarded not only as the youngest female civil engineer who owns a construction company, but most importantly for excelling in her chosen field of endeavour.

She was decorated with two awards for Business Excellence and a Female Personality at the 2012 edition of the National Youth Achievers Awards ceremony.

Ms Ogbugo told the GRAPHIC BUSINESS at her office in Tema that “I am a soft speaker but I have inner tenacity, a persevering spirit and I don’t give up easily.”

She stressed that challenges were yet to make her give up, so much also because I had no option.”

She added that “I focus very much and I have a fighting spirit, I won’t take no for an answer. No matter how hard I get knocked, I rise again and forge ahead.”

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THE STORY OF EUGO TERRANO LTD

After graduating from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) with a degree in Civil Engineering in 2004 at the age of 24, she worked with Contera, an engineering consultancy firm.

While working there she realised that being confined to an office area to work was not her calling and therefore undertook a six-month course in entrepreneurship in June 2004 to enable her start her own company.

As divine test for her, Ms Ogbugo performed a fee based job for Jogis Real Estate Developers, when she was doing her National Service, which helped her to save up to start up her own business. This helped her to focus on Eugo Terrano Limited which she incorporated in December 2004.

The Tema based Eugo Terrano Limited, coined from her names Eunice and Ogbugo (EUGO), is a construction firm, which started business in January 2005. The name TERRA is the Italian word for Earth and ‘NO’ affixed to make it rhyme with EUGO.

Though an indigenous company, the name gives it an international appeal.

Ms Ogbugo explained that the main rationale for establishing the company was to create jobs and construct professionally to lift up the image of the construction industry.

In less than 10 years of operation, the clientele of Eugo Terrano include the Department of Urban Roads; the Department of Feeder Roads; the Ghana Highway Authority and the Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing, with contracts scattered in regions such as the Eastern, Volta, Brong Ahafo and Greater Accra. The company also performs contracts for the European Union and the African Development Bank (AfDB).

“I was virtually doing everything on my own right form purchasing of tender documents, preparing the tender documents, going through the bidding process, then upon winning, sourcing for financial assistance from banks, carrying out the accounting, site supervision, geodetic engineering, procurement till successful execution and completion of the work,” she said.

SOME OF EUGO’S PROJECT

The company’s first major project was the grading of Ho Polytechnic Down Roads in the Volta Region. Some of its current projects includes the GH¢7-million Upgrading of the Techimantia-Akomadan road in the Brong Ahafo Region. The company has also completed a Rectangular Storm drain at Goaso.

Eunice said her company’s choice of project was strategic and influenced by a number of factors such as location, source of funding and client.

“Accra is pretty much congested because so many contractors are working here. However, we see that the rural areas also need to be developed. We decided to concentrate outside Accra where we will be needed most,” she explained.

CHALLENGES

The managing director of Eugo Terrano Ltd said had overcome many challenges. These include delay in payment after execution of projects, which brings along a lot of harassment, as a woman in a male dominated industry.

“You get negative feedback because of your gender, so you have to be tough to be able to rub shoulders with the men. People also expect that as a young entrepreneur, the status quo is that you have to complete school and get employed, gain experience for a number of years before you can think of doing your own business,” she said.

Her patrilineal background as Nigerian also gave her a lot of challenges with the banks, as bankers threaded extra cautiously before dealing with her.

ADVICE

Eunice believes that people just need to look beyond gender and age and focus ones capabilities rather than equating youthfulness to inability to achieve, adding that the government also needed to pay contractors promptly.

“The payment process is cumbersome and delays payment unnecessarily since every contract has its own uniqueness,” she lamented, adding “everybody thinks you have to be a politician to get contracts.”

LOCAL VS FOREIGN CONSTRUCTION COMPANIES

Comparing local and foreign construction companies, Ms Ogbugo said the difference had to do with organisational structure and managerial skills, with the foreign companies doing generally better.

“Local contractors are entrepreneurs who have not been able to migrate to become corporate entities, because they have not put in the proper structures, processes, policies, procedures and systems.

She said local contractors were also unable to attract the highly qualified and capable technical and administrative personnel because of fear of delay in payment.

ACHIEVEMENTS

Eugo Terrano has been able to successfully migrate from a small medium enterprise (SME) into a corporate entity and Ms Ogbugo vowed that the company as ready to change the face of the construction industry in Ghana.

The company is implementing steps to establish a Project Management Unit, a Corporate Affairs Unit, as well as the Eugo Foundation – Corporate Social Responsibility arm of Eugo Terrano Limited.

OUTLOOK

While she believes she is on course, Ms Ogbogu says there was still a lot of room for improvement. The immediate plan is to grow Eugo Terrano into Ghana club 100, be number one when it comes to construction, to go international and possibly list on the Ghana Stock Exchange at a point.

COURSES AND HOBBIES

Ms Ogbogu has also taken a lot of courses such as in Human Resource Management, Procurement, Accounting, and Good Corporate Governance and Project Management.

Eunice loves reading, especially non-fiction: “it is a continuous learning process for me,” she said.  She also likes swimming and engaging in church activities.

FAMILY BACKGROUND

A mother of one, Eunice hails from Tegbi near Anloga in the Volta Region, has three siblings and three step siblings.

Story by Ama Amankwah Baafi