Why my move from East to West was a journey worth taking
“To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself” – Soren Kierkegaard
I want to be part of the generation that addresses the challenges facing the continent … Nice and romantic, right? Alas, trying to work out how you do that and what it means both personally and professionally, whilst going about your normal day in London is a task and a half. Do you work for a multinational, NGO, consulting firm, start-up or do you simply start your own company? I knew I wanted to be involved in entrepreneurship in Africa, but how, with whom, and where exactly was unclear.
Coming to Kenya
Armed with little information and curiosity to investigate opportunities for myself, I took a leap and landed in Nairobi, where I was an entrepreneur in residence for a mobile tech hub for 3 months, mentoring small businesses. Nairobi is what you call a “soft landing”. There is an influx of young entrepreneurs eager to build the ecosystem, beautiful landscape and plenty to keep you busy. Nonetheless, even my soft landing in Nairobi gave me a sneak peek as to what I would have to contend with should I move back. The looming elections in 2013 gave an insight as to how Political instability/ uncertainty could conjure spontaneous renditions of The Cash’s “ should I stay or shall go”.
Nairobi as a Tech Hub
It was in Nairobi that I was able to learn about the emerging start-ups, where I met some great founders, investors and where I was able to learn about opportunities in other African countries. Information, which was simply not privy to me in London. From Nairobi I would go to Accra where the next challenge was waiting. Whilst contributing to Ghana’s tech ecosystem was a driving force to move there; the re-introduction to my culture and the strengthening of my Ghanaian identity is my most cherished experience from my time in Ghana.
Ghana v Nigeria
Although Ghana was a great place to live, weekend trips to Lagos confirmed that if the aim was to be in an exciting market in Africa with a lot of potential then Lagos was the place to be. I have been living in Lagos for almost a year now, everything they tell you is true and it is certainly not for the faint hearted. Infrastructure and logistical challenges coupled with the culture shock of working in a Nigerian company are likely to cause you frequent frustrations. Nonetheless, I assure you that, there are also a lot of opportunities here.
What has excited you most about moving back to Africa?
What I find most exciting about moving back is meeting young Africans full of passion and driven to make an impact. This is how I met Jeffrey Kimathi, my business partner for Buyucollection.com. We are creating an African designer luggage brand that specializes in making timeless travel accessories using vintage bark fibre harvested sustainably from the age-old Baobab tree. The fibre is hand woven by female artisans in Kenya, and then fused with high quality leather by great craftsman in the USA. We are very excited about the upcoming launch of our website.
How has Movemeback helped you in your journey?
I am excited about Movemeback because they are a one-stop shop for all the information about moving back that took me travelling through three countries to find out. By engaging with businesses through the website and getting a firsthand view of life on the ground, I would have had even greater insight before making the life changing move back to Africa.
Written by Diana Owusu-Kyereko