Ghana’s bright idea makers

The International Finance Corporation, a sister organisation to the World Bank, released an infographic featuring 100 start-ups across the four regions of Africa in October 2018. In West Africa, Ghana came second to Nigeria with a total of 11 start-ups named including Buildpals, KudiGO and Esoko. But this figure just scratches the surface and fails to acknowledge the scale of raw talent and entrepreneurship  operating in the system.Ghana is known for being a nation of creatives – just look at the global appeal of the Adinkra symbols, Kente, African cloths, Ghanaian music, art and design – and it is not hard to see.  Ghana’s entrepreneurs are tapping into a growing global appreciation of their national heritage and applying innovation to promote their products and initiatives to consumers on home soil and across the Diaspora. This post aims to highlight some examples where Ghanaian entrepreneurs are pushing new trends in business and becoming pioneers in new areas….

Tourism

Accra Cycle Share & Tour parked at the Jamestown Cafe © MisBeee

Accra Cycle Share claims to be the first company of its kind in the city to offer tours on a bike. Created by founder Mark Boadi in June 2018, the Accra Cycle Share was established to show tourists in and outside the country another way of seeing Accra.

The idea ticks a lot of boxes for me. It’s a ‘green’ way of touring the city; keeping fit, and taking in the city, its cultures, architecture and history. Accra Cycle Share is connected to The Shop, a retail establishment where tourists can hire the bikes, helmets and high-visibility jackets. Once hired, tourists get to bike around the city with a dedicated tour guide. Tours are normally staged on Sundays, when there is less traffic on the road and operate between 10am and 4pm.

The tour covers Osu Castle, Asomdwee Park, which houses ostriches, Black Star Square, the National Theatre, Jamestown Lighthouse and the Art Centre. There is also a night tour called Neon Night Cycling.

The ultimate aim is to promote a different culture of tourism and an alternative transportation system in the city. Mark also wants to push for cycling lanes across Ghana’s tertiary institutions and later across the city. Anyone who knows Accra knows that it has a pollution and traffic problem so efforts to create an alternative transport system get a bit thumbs up from me! You can read more about Accra Cycle Share in the following post here and watch the short interview with Mark above. You can follow the company on Instagram @accracycleshare_gh

Socks

From Afrisocks’ new collection – these socks are named Tro-tro are the Ghanaian slang-turned official word for public transport mini buses. © Afrisocks

Ghanaian entrepreneur Huzaif Alhassan and his investor business partner Michael came up with the Afrisocks business idea in January 2018. They made their first sample in April 2018; opened their store in June that same year. Since then, they have sold thousands to people in 40 countries across the globe. Their inspiration comes from a love of African cultures and designs, and also a desire to represent African styles and change perceptions.

MisBeee with Afrisocks’ CEO Huzaif at an independent crafts market at the W.E.B du Bois Centre, Cantonments

I met Huzaif – Afrisocks’ CEO – at a recent Christmas event for independent retailer and he said his socks business got a real boost from a video that went viral some months back.

The video showcased the company’s colourful range, which is inspired by the Akan Kente designs and other West African fabrics. The company recently launched a new range of socks for inspired by Ghanaian and Nigerian slang.

Click here to learn more about Afrisocks and follow them on Instagram @afrisocks

Food

I sampled Annie’s Handcrafted Sausage at an independent market at the W.E.B du Bois Centre in Cantonments, Accra. They have been the answer to my prayers since spending time in Accra. I am not a fan of the German sausages because the meat content is way to high for me so finding an outlet that sells the English type of sausage was a rare treat. Annie told me that was the same reason why she started making the product.

She had relocated from the UK to Ghana and couldn’t find a sausage she liked, so decided to make her own. Many hours after studying the process on YouTube, and she has developed a tasty brand that includes a garlic & herb, and spicy sausage version. Annie can be seen selling her sausages at food fairs such as the Labone Green Organic Market, and outlets such as the Labone Coffee Shop on Saturdays. You can also order via her social media platforms at Annie’s Handcrafted Sausages at @AnniesHandcraftedSausages

Education

The JUNEOS Challenge is an initiative launched by social enterprise WeGo Innovate to get students and teachers thinking differently about how they learn and teach. JUNEOS is an acronym for the Junior Experimenters of Science and is a clever play on the word genius, which is what this initiative aims to engender in Ghana’s youth. Since the beginning of August 2018, the WeGo Innovate team has been scouring the country looking for school children able to demonstrate the most innovative science experiment using everyday items.

The brainchild behind the Challenge – Charles Selorm Agbemashior – believes that a focus on STEM education (science, technology, education and maths) is where Ghana can work to make measurable strides in improving the quality of life for the average Ghana. Increasing STEM education delivery is one of the Ghanaian government’s major priorities and it also fits in with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals to raise the level of education across part of the globe.

The Challenge is a nationwide initiative to find the best experiment in Ghana and a host of prizes will be presented to the winning school, students and teachers in 2019 – so watch this space. Click here to find out more and see examples of past experiments here. You can follow the Challenge by visiting their Instagram handle @wegoinnovate

Womenswear

A snapshot of Ekua Addo’s work

Ekua Addo’s couture womenswear range celebrates West African design through a South American optic. Heavily influenced by her Colombian birthplace, her outfits have a strong pre-Hispanic influence that celebrates uniformity through the bold lines and circles, and vibrant colours she creates.

But look deeper and you will see that this South American influence has its roots in African soil and many of the hand-printed patterns, use free-flowing paint designs and her signature addition of gold weights which is 100% Ghanaian. Gold weights are made of brass but used in antiquity to measure gold dust on weighing scales when gold dust was used as form of currency. I came across Ekua’s work at the Chale Wote Street Art Festival in August 2018. I was taken by her use of paint on jute-like fabric which she makes into skirts and also reusable and environmentally-friendly bags she calls mochilas.

Mochila bags by Ekua Addo © Ekua Addo

The 27-year-old manages to juggle her business – Ekua Addo – alongside her degree in fashion AND her national service and has already featured her creations at Accra Fashion Week 2018, amongst other places.  She is helping to refine what we describe as African art with her clothes and is showing that even though thousands of miles and an ocean might separate Colombia from Ghana, the two countries have a lot more in common than what separates them. Find out more about her couture and ready-to-wear range via her Instagram page @akuaaddo

Paint-splattered skirt © Akua Addo

 

Beverages

When I think of herbal tea, Ghana is not the first country that springs to mind as a purveyor of this beverage but there is no reason why it shouldn’t be. Ghanaians have a tradition of drinking sobolo – what the Caribbeans call sorrel and which comes from the hibiscus plant. So when I saw the Butterfly Pea Flower Tea (Clitoria Ternatea) and its vivid blue colour, when water is added, it made me think that this could be the next big herbal tea alternative in the country.

Butterfly Pea Flower Tea is produced by Blue Tea Break, which sources the flower from Mampong in Ghana’s Eastern Region. Blue tea is a natural food dye as well as a beverage and has a host of health benefits including being packed with antioxidants. It has alkaline properties and is claimed to improve night vision and ward off fatigue.

The biggest appeal for me was learning that a drop or two of lemon turns this blue drink a lovely shade of purple!! Try it for yourself and see! The owner told me you can add lemongrass and honey too and it makes a lovely cold drink. Apparently, she serves all her guests this beverage during Christmas time!  Visit the company website here.

Adventure sports

Outdoor adventure activities and sports are growing in popularity in Ghana and smashing that stereotype that paragliding, rock climbing, kayaking and the like are the domain of only the white man. Established names in the adventure sports industry include Bravehearts Expedition in Accra, Ahanta Wave and Surf School in Busua, and Abibikwantuo – an initiative set up solely for Black travellers, are attracting interest.

MisBeee in action at the Krobo Hills

Bravehearts Expedition is one of the companies behind TV3’s adventure reality TV Spear of Survival – the only one of its kind in West Africa. But there’s also smaller groups such as Adventure Ghana that have been set up to allow the amateur hiker get a taste and feel of the great outdoors. I participated in a hike and climb with this group at the Krobo Hills in Ghana’s Eastern Region and scaled at 25-metre rock face. The meet-up was a great opportunity to network, get fit and learn more about the sights of Ghana. Find the group on Facebook @adventureGH

Animation Magazine

This one is for all the nerds and geeks in the house that have been looking for a publication that celebrates comics, games and animation,  from across the African continent. You can find it all in Squid Mag – the brainchild of two geeky nerds called KaDi Yao Tay and Kofi Sydney Asare. This online portal is the only one of its kind in Ghana and is representative of a growing interest in a genre that has been dominated by Western and Asian (Japan) artistic influences. Why Squid? Well, according to the founders:

“The name is inspired by squids, sea invertebrates that release ink as a defensive mechanism. We find it poetic how such a mechanism can be a metaphor for painting a people’s realities and dreams fluidly in an ocean of canvases. An ocean that is threatened to be overrun with narratives that exclude us.”

The online publication was established in 2015 with the aim of exploring, critiquing, promoting and archiving African creativity. What I particularly like about this publication is its uniqueness. When people think about comics and animation, Africa tends not to feature – let alone a litany of Black characters.

But this does not mean there isn’t an interest outside the West. Far from it, the range, breadth and quality of the comics and animations coming out of the continent shows that there is a thriving community of artists creating animation and comics but doing their way – the African way.

This is the place to go to to learn about who is making comics in Ghana; the trends in illustration styles and keen abreast of the ones to watch in the industry with interviews from emerging names such as digital artist Shika Odamtten and Emmanuel Dankyi – popularly known as ed. who is a master of motion graphics – amongst other things.

Check them out and this interview with one of the staffers at Squid Mag Ink called Kevin Sampong who waxes lyrically about his passion for comics. Follow Squid Mag Ink on Instagram @squidmag

 

Jewellery

A book put together by a Dutch holidaymaker based on Kwadjo’s impressive work.

Made by the shores of an almost untouched beach in Ampenyi, near Elmina, in Ghana’s central Region, a man by the name of Kwadjo Gomado creates beads and necklaces from scratch made from discarded bottles. He learnt the trade from his mother and now teaches holiday-makers by the Ko-sa Beach Resort against an ocean backdrop.

This place is idyllic, tranquil and as close to paradise as I’ve been able to find this year. Kwadjo says that there’s nothing more fulfilling than creating beads from hand and seeing the reaction of those that buy his products. He made everything from necklaces to bracelets and even fashioned a beaded version of his stringed glassesholder (the one you hang around your neck when you don’t need to be wearing them) for my mum! To see more of his Beads on the Beach products, visit him on http://www.facebook.com/Kwadjo Gomado.

For more posts like this, click:

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