The first week of the aXd has come to an end so I took the time to reflect on my experiences thus far. One of the challenges I faced in the first week of the @axdprogram was figuring out where exactly I could add the most value to Hatua Tech’s business. Hence, I focused on speaking to all the different teams and key stakeholders, to lay the foundation for strong working relationships and in order to understand the reality of their work, the different processes that are currently in place, as well as their goals and aspirations. Through this, I learned a lot about business culture and beyond in Ghana — including the central importance of respectfully building relationships before undertaking any work in a new environment, especially one that is cross-cultural.
Before delving right into the work talk, I soon realised, that in the Ghanian context, it was important to begin with a more personal conversation, in order to establish rapport and trust that could even include asking about someone’s family. This was a key learning for me, as it’s something that doesn’t usually happen right away in a German business context. Once I followed this advice, I noticed a much stronger connection in conversations which served as a catalyst to dive deeper into the business aspects of each person’s lives as well. I truly value this way of connecting in the business world — at the end of the day, we are all more than our jobs, and authentic human connection can thus make any business experience more pleasant and productive.
Before we went on our trip to Ghana, all of us participated in an Academy with the goal of preparing us as well as possible for our time in Ghana and for our work with our startups. While you can read as much as you want about the Ghanaian economy my learning curve went up so quickly while being with the start-up. Doing business here can be quite different. So when I worked with Gloria, who is a sales representative at my start-up, I learned so much doing sales here when we went through her sales process. Gloria taught me that companies expect to be “chased” with calls and e-mails as to them it shows them that you really care about your product.
I also got to participate in a branding workshop that Kevin ran for his startup. We did an exercise that goes by the name of news of the future, where one selects a set of relevant magazines, for example, Forbes, Time Magazine and Vogue Magazine. Then you get around 20-30 mins to create a headline and a subline for news about one’s business 10 years from now. The goal is to understand one’s brand vision and brand values. For me and Kevin’s start-up, it was super insightful to be a part of this process and I believe that it is valuable to anyone with a relatively new business.
We also visited Elmina Castle on the Gold Coast and it was one of the most intense experiences I’ve had in the last few months. Elmina Castle was a central point of the transatlantic slave trade. We toured the castle and our guide explained the horrors that took place at the site.
This is an excerpt from Elmina Castle’s Wikipedia page:
The slaves were held captive in the castle before exiting through the castle’s infamous “Door of No Return” to be transported and resold in newly colonized Brazil and other Portuguese colonies. Up to 1,000 male and 500 female slaves were shackled and crammed in the castle’s dank, poorly ventilated dungeons, with no space to lie down and very little light. Without water or sanitation, the floor of the dungeon was littered with human waste and many captives fell seriously ill. The men were separated from the women, and the captors regularly raped some of the helpless women. The castle also featured confinement cells — small pitch-black spaces for prisoners who revolted or were seen as rebellious. Once the slaves set foot in the castle, they could spend up to three months in captivity under these dreadful conditions before being shipped off to the New World. An environment of harsh contrasts, the castle also had some extravagant chambers, devoid of the stench and misery of the dungeons only a couple of meters below. For example, the governor’s and officers’ quarters were spacious and airy, with beautiful parquet floors and scenic views of the blue waters of Atlantic. There was also a chapel in the castle enclosure for the officers, traders and their families as they went about their normal day-to-day life completely detached from the unfathomable human suffering they were consciously inflicting.
I highly recommend the book Home Going. It’s about two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, who are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle’s dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast’s booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. It’s a very captivating story that allowed me to understand the history of the slave trade by means of a novel and excellent storytelling. I find the following quote from the book very powerful: “We believe the one who has power. He is the one who gets to write the story. So when you study history, you must ask yourself, Whose story am I missing? Whose voice was suppressed so that this voice could come forth? Once you have figured that out, you must find that story too. From there you get a clearer, yet still imperfect, picture.”
I want to finish off this post with a quote from a plaque at the castle: In Everlasting Memory of the anguish of our ancestors. May those who died rest in peace. May those who return find their roots. May humanity never again perpetrate such injustice against humanity. We, the living, vow to uphold this. ”
This week was very interesting for me. Working with any new person can initially be challenging. You have to see how the other person likes to work and understand their style of communication.
I know that I work best when collaborating with others, which is often as simple as bouncing ideas off another person or talking an idea through. Since my startup has been around for close to ten years and the founder is very busy with the day to day management of the 20 people strong team, I consulted with the aXd program and decided to further collaborate with Kevin on my work for Hatua Tech. We started out the week by taking the time on Monday to go through some work that Kevin had done for his startup, Tukwan. On Tuesday, I briefed Kevin on my work with Hatua Tech and we went on to meet with Nehemiah and Hatua Tech’s technical lead, Agbesi. We focused on analyzing the business’ needs and which value I could deliver to the company by the end of the program. During this meeting, we explored a lot of different ideas and solutions. Some of the key needs we defined were: updating the website to reflect the needs and solutions for their key industries, creating specific sales pitch decks for those key industries and brainstorming simple yet effective marketing ideas. The meeting left me motivated because it left me with a more precise idea of the value I will be able to provide for Hatua Tech.
We also got to visit the German embassy and the Ghanaian-German Center for Jobs, Migration and Reintegration. It was very interesting to learn more about their work, how they connect Germany to Ghana and hear about the programs that the German Ghanaian center offers to support people in Germany who want to return to or work in Ghana. You can find out more on their website: https://www.returningfromgermany.de/de/programmes/deutsch-ghanaisches-zentrum-fuer-jobs-migration-und-reintegration
Lastly, we visited Aburi Botanical Gardens. Below you can find some pictures of our visit: