As someone with African roots, the prospect of creating in Africa always excited me. It was like a spiritual calling.From the aesthetic and natural beauty, the vibrancy and colours, the weather and sounds, the people and energy, the tranquility and freedom; Ghana had a different kind of energy, one that always stuck with me from going on holiday for the first time as a teenager.
It was a place I had only heard stories about, as I was six years old when I immigrated to the UK and had only faint memories. As someone from the diaspora, even though I was born in Ghana, there was always this battle of feeling displaced, not being accepted as British or Ghanaian, rather somewhat of a hybrid being, who’s experiences gave me a unique standpoint. I could see the best and worst in both cultures.
With the prospect of being a part of Ghana and Africa’s development, being a big fish in a small pond, where there were plenty of opportunities to create, exploring Ghana made sense.
I already had an understanding of the culture and how to relate to people. In 2013 a holiday turned into a business trip, with the aim to explore opportunities and network with anyone significant.
I met the likes of Afua Hirsch, a correspondent for the Guardian Newspaper at the time. As well as MEST Africa, I found out that the HQ for the seed fund and incubator was in Accra, the capital of Ghana, so I payed them a visit, later that week I was already creating content for them.
By talking to people, paying attention to the world around me and making efforts to understand what was going on in politics, culture, business, media etc. I new eventually I would be back.
Fast forward three years and my first project was Directing the President of Ghana in a TV commercial, as a part of a larger marketing campaign. The opportunity had come about through a conversation, connecting the dots and reaching out to necessary people in my network.
Before arriving in Ghana for the project, I had already networked with freelance creatives and built a team off the basis of portfolios, professionalism and reliability. Instructing the President of a country was always going to be an interesting experience.
I was ready for anything, even a no-show. Then after prepping the cast and crew for a few hours, a convoy of about fifteen cars and motorcycles pulled up. The project went smoothly, I reiterated to the President what the process was going to be and instilled some confidence in him by showing him footage when we filmed a scene, he expressed his surprise at how amazing the quality was.
You have to quickly get used to how things work in Africa and you have to become accustomed to the mindset of the people and working culture. You have to learn the hard way. Things are very slow and you have to have a lot of patience when dealing with people. It can be frustrating but you can’t lose your cool – you have to be able to work smart and think two steps ahead, be ready for anything.
Understanding the culture is very important and knowing how to communicate with people so that you can gain respect. These are things no one can really teach you, you have to learn from experience and grow fast. But saying that there are core lessons in business and even navigating around that you would need to know and I feel those lessons I’ve learnt now and I could consult others on them.
My long-term vision is to keep on evolving, making films that permeate culture and making the So Fraîche brand synonymous with African excellence, whilst expanding what we do to the rest of the world. You get a lot of brands that champion being African, like Guinness, who’s marketing is all about being black and being African, yet these companies are not African owned. I really believe if we let people know who we are and champion Africa as Africans it is really quite powerful.