Born entrepreneur’s EZ Park app can create a legacy for African women in business

Caroline Sack Kendem’s latest venture is EZ Park, a female-led start-up that is bringing smart parking to African cities. A born entrepreneur with a successful background in fashion, consulting, global trade and women’s empowerment, she sees EZ Park as an opportunity to combine existing technology and mobile money to create a scalable, women-led solution for all of Africa.

Leading from the front

High standards, hard work and faith in your business are the keys to success according to Caroline. She learnt this early in her career, first as an MBA candidate at Scranton University and later as owner of Ken Atlantic, a textile company producing swimwear for European and US markets. Despite winning major contracts (US$2M) and increasing the number of employees from 20 to 200 under her leadership, she still faced obstacles because of her gender. As the company’s president, she was still the only woman sitting on the board of directors – a sign that nothing would come easy.

She went on to lead the Cameroon Textile Federation (ICOTEC), using her experience and hard-earned respect to build relationships, grow the reputation of Cameroonian exports and advance the country’s trade. The same experience and respect propelled her Ligne Rouge Consulting business, which she founded in 2012. For the past decade she has been consulting, advising and acting as a go-between for governments and the private sector. She works with new businesses and corporations throughout Africa, specialising in AGOA (African Growth and Opportunity Act).

Advancing the careers of African women

A common thread that has persisted since her early years as a business leader is her commitment to advancing the careers of African women. Since 2010 she has led the Central African branch of AWEP (African Women Entrepreneurship Program), whose mission is to promote women leaders and entrepreneurs, and achieve financial and economic independence for the women of Africa. The growing network of African women business leaders recently launched an impact investment fund called SAVE (Support to African and Vulnerable Entrepreneurs). The mission of the €1.5M fund is to enable women entrepreneurs by providing access to essential financing to those without money or collateral.

Scaling EZ Park through Africa’s connected market

The common thread of women’s empowerment is highly visible in Caroline’s EZ Park venture, started in 2019. The exclusively female leadership team is a model for how other companies can challenge the legacy of gender imbalance in business. The app itself uses geolocation and automatic recognition of license plates, allowing users to simply park and choose the length of their stay. The cost is then debited from the user’s EZ Park account via the Mobile Money operator. The ease of payment is what attracted Caroline to the opportunity – both the payment from the user and the payment to the different parties (municipalities and other owners of parking spaces), without delay.

A self-confessed ”non-techie,” she has put her faith in her entrepreneurial mind with EZ Park – her instinct and eye for spotting potential. In this case the potential lies in the combination of functioning, homegrown technology and the connected market that has become an integral feature in African economies.

EZ Park is currently being piloted in Cameroon. Working alongside Doula Urban Council, the end goal is to become the leader in Africa. It may be her biggest challenge yet, but that hasn’t stopped her before. In fact, she is a shining example of Nelson Mandela’s mantra in action: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” She knows she can access the keys to her success to unlock new markets, scale the technology and create perhaps her greatest legacy.