“Young Africans can make a change to the global perception of Africa… by being the best version of themselves.”
In honour of Women’s History Month, we bring you the story of Joyce Sarpong, a young entrepreneur who is determined to change common western perceptions of Africa by providing young Africans with a platform to develop their projects.
Living in the United Kingdom, Joyce felt that the media was lacking enough positive stories about Africa. In contrast, stories featuring death and disease were abudant, often causing misrepresenting the continent. In 2007, after a trip to Ghana, Joyce founded AfricaOracle, an online platform that helps market and promote African businesses, thereby contributing to the transformation of the brand image of Africa.
“My lasting memory of Ghana at that time was the scene at the airport. It was busy with people and flights leaving and landing,” Joyce told the IPF.
“Yet, when I returned to London, the international media was still reporting about Africa with negative stories being the dominant news and hardly any mention about the progress being made on the continent or by its diaspora.”
Despite the global economic turmoil, a number of regions across the continent maintained steady growth, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, which kept a 5% growth rate up to 2009. The problem, Joyce said, was that major Western news organisations were reluctant to report on this.
“There is more to Africa than the usual stories about disease, death, disaster and despair. I was inspired to create a platform to change that perception and narrative and create more complete stories about Africa.”
The foundation of AfricaOracle ties into a holistic view of young African people working to dispel their own negative media image by what Joyce describes as: “Being the ‘brand’ and ‘brand builders’ of the brand image of Africa.”
Joyce believes that young Africans can “make a change to the global perception of Africa”, simply by being the best version of themselves. Equally, she draws on modern day stories of African achievement as a source of inspiration for young Africans seeking to make a positive global impact.
“I recently read about Malawi’s sole netball export, Mwawi Kumwenda. She won the International World Games Association 2015 Athlete of the Year Award with a land-slide victory. Among 18 nominees for the award, Mwawi was the only African. Her achievement is a source of inspiration for young people and I hope that many will follow in her footsteps.”
This is the kind of story that Joyce wanted AfricaOracle to bring to the world. From an entrepreneurial perspective, she feels that there will always be difficulties and barriers presented to young entrepreneurs regardless of race, age, gender or social situation. She remembers the challenges she has faced herself, in all walks of life:
“When pursuing your dream, you will always face challenges. As a woman and mother I faced challenges in the workplace. Equally as a leader, I have also faced them.”
Joyce told us that the main challenges facing African women at the moment are the scalability of their initiatives, learning how to leverage technology and media for social impact, obtaining access to the resouces required to devlier their vision, as well as developing relationships with mentors and partners.
However, Joyce noted that all entrepreneurs, whether male or female,are subject to key rules that they need to follow to achieve their dreams. She believes that while the life of an entrepreneur is a journey of challenges, rewards, and successes, the main source of happiness comes from achieving one’s true potential.
“Be focused on your dreams, have a positive mental attitude, know your purpose and focus, adopt a life habit of learning and surround yourself with people who love and respect you.”