Deborah Ahenkorah is the co-founder and executive director of the Golden Baobab Prize, a literary award that inspires African writers to create stories for young readers. She graduated from Bryn Mawr College where she started Project Educate In Africa, a student movement that promotes literacy and education in Africa.
Deborah has recently been named one of Ghana’s leading social entrepreneurs by Playing for Change. She loves traveling and in the past 3 years has lived in different countries in 3 continents.
What are you working on right now?
My vision is to create a platform for identifying and nurturing talents to produce good quality African-inspired content that young people will relate to and enjoy! The first part of this has been establishing The Golden Baobab Prize, a literary award that encourages African writers to create stories for young readers. The award discovers gems of unpublished stories and we connect them with publishers in Africa and around the world. The Golden Baobab Prize serves a critical need in Africa by encouraging the production of good quality African children’s books that will ease reliance on foreign content for young readers in schools and libraries in Africa.
Trends that excite you?
Technological advancements: So technology just keeps getting better!! I remember a time when video calls were a thing that existed only in ‘The Jetsons’. Today I can sit under a tree in my house in Ghana and with a click SEE and chat live to my friend in say, oh I dunno, South Korea??! Blows my mind. And to think we’re only going to get more advanced.
Brain Gain in Africa: Over history, the crème of Africa’s human resource has been lured away to other lands for economic means. In the past the exodus was involuntary, today people willingly leave the continent in droves to places they feel the grass can be greener and African development has suffered immensely for this. Being myself one of these voluntary migrants – left Ghana for college in the United States, now returned home – I’m wildly enthusiastic to see more and more people like me coming home. Most of these returnees come with grand dreams, inflated ideals and unbridled passion that is so infectious that even when they don’t realize their grandiose visions, they manage to effect a ton of change.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I pick a sheet of paper, create a to-do list and then get to working so that I can cross things of the list.
What inspires you?
Whenever my productivity lulls I connect with social entrepreneurs and listen to their passionate spiels on their causes and how they constantly bulldoze obstacles to reach wonderful results. It’s wonderfully energizing for me!
What is one mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?
Don’t think you can do it all alone. Even if you can, with the support of a good team you will be faster and better.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
A budget airline that flies African destinations – get it right and you’ll be a billionaire.
What is one book and one tool that helps you bring ideas to life?
Book: I draw strength from the grand elaborate promises of the Bible. For Example: “You can do all things because Jesus gives you strength.” That statement makes me feel like superwoman everyday!
Tool: Google is the best thing invented since French toast.
Who would you love to see interviewed on IdeaMensch?
Nthabi Sibanda. She’s the founder of Puo Educational products in Johannesburg, South Africa. Nthabi’s such a super entrepreneur!
How do you balance work and personal life?
Work-life balance has never been one of my strong points. Especially when I love my job so much, all I want to do is work! I’m trying to be better though so sometimes I take the day off and just read a good book in bed or I do long lunches at the beach with friends.
Where do you see your project in the next five years?
We will have African children’s books in stores all over the world and we will be signing a contract to produce our second African-inspired children’s animation.
This interview was scouted by TheIdeaScout.com, a group-edited publication, with a mission to scour West Africa for the most innovative and promising ideas, concepts, and ventures that appear well positioned for regional or international adaptation, expansion, cooperation, investment or partnering.
All of Deborah’s photos were taken by Matt Muspratt.