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Careers in Cocoa Buddy Buruku

In-Country Lead

Careers in Cocoa takes a look at some of the different backgrounds of those who make up the  World Cocoa Foundation. From the work they do, to the paths they took to get where they are today, learn about our team, and how they are using their skills and experiences to further WCF’s mission. This is the second piece in a five-part series. 

For Buddy Buruku, Digital Financial Services (DFS) Expert Consultant, the path that brought her to the World Cocoa Foundation was not the most linear one.

“I’m probably the most non-traditional person at WCF because I don’t have a background in cocoa,” said Buddy. “But throughout my journey I’ve always been interested in development.”

“My mother worked for the United Nations, my dad for the Red Cross, so I moved around a lot,” said Buddy. “But I did end up at a university in the United States, at a small liberal arts college in Pennsylvania called Haverford College.”

“Then for my second degree, I was interested in China, so I moved to China. Johns Hopkins has a master’s program in China, so that’s where I did my first master’s.”

Buddy’s first two degrees were in Chinese studies, but she pivoted after that, and got her master’s in degree business administration from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

Prior to joining WCF, Buddy worked for a think tank that worked with African governments to transform the management of their economies and to implement reforms that would make them more effective.

“I had already started developing an interest in using digital financial services to increase access to financial services, which is still quite low in poor communities in Africa” said Buddy.

Buddy joined the World Cocoa Foundation after seeing an advertisement highlighting the need for an expert in digital financial services to help member companies shift their payments from cash to digital. Now as the DFS Expert Consultant, Buddy is part of a program at WCF that is implemented in partnership with the Better Than Cash Alliance. The program not only introduces the use of mobile money into rural communities in Ghana, but also educates farmers on how to make a smooth transition from cash to digital money.

“A lot of cocoa farmers don’t have access to financial services and are paid in cash. Huge amounts of cash circulate in the supply chain,” said Buddy. “So there’s a lot of risk involved. As such there’s momentum happening in the industry to try and move farmers from cash to digital. In cocoa it’s particularly pressing, because there’s just such large amounts that are being paid to farmers in rural areas.”

According to Buddy, mobile money is a trend that is gaining steam in Ghana especially.

“Mobile money has been responsible for about two-thirds of the new access to financial services that Ghana has enjoyed in the past 6 years,” said Buddy. “The number of people that have gone from zero financial access to financial access through mobile money has gone up by about 60%.”

Access to mobile money is a key part of improving the livelihoods of cocoa farmers in Africa, and that is why Buddy cares so much about the work she does.

“The average age of a cocoa farmer in Ghana is 55 years old. So facilitating digital pensions is important for this group because they allow the farmer to save a little money on their own for when they’re no longer able to work,” explained Buddy. “Poor people are also using mobile money to pay for solar systems in areas where electricity is unstable or non-existent. These are major digitally enabled developments for people’s livelihoods.”

The work that Buddy does with WCF leaves her feeling satisfied and proud, knowing that she is helping make a difference in the lives of many cocoa farmers by improving their access to safer financial transactions through digital financial services.

“In terms of the impact that it has on the people of this country, I think WCF does really amazing work. There are some times, even in development work, when you feel your effort is far removed from the impact, but I don’t feel that way with WCF. I feel like it’s really direct,” said Buddy.

“I don’t know if there are any other organizations that are that intentional about how we can create a long term viable, sustainable cocoa industry. Those are things I’m very passionate about, and make me proud of WCF.”