The World Economic Forum is travelling to Ethiopia this week to bring together the voices of Africa and help transform the region. 32 Global Shapers from across the continent will be attending the event. This blog post is part of the One Year One Change campaign, which shares visions for a better Africa. What change do you want to see in Africa by 2013? #1y1c
At age 11, a group of my father’s friends asked me: “what do you want to do when you grow up Debbie?” I responded proudly, “an amateur detective, just like my favorite storybook character, Nancy Drew.” They all looked at each other and burst out laughing. One person asked, “does she mean she wants to be a police woman?” “Maybe she wants to direct traffic,” asked another. In the laughter and questioning, it hit me how my dreams based on American novels were out of context in Ghana where I was growing up.
Many years later, in university in the United States, I took an African literature class and I was asked, “Debbie, you’re from Ghana. You must know this famous Malian story about Sunjata. Or this famous Togolese folktale, that’s right next door to Ghana. You must know these stories from your childhood?” I didn’t know the stories. I had read tirelessly as a child, books from all over the world but rarely any about Ghana or Africa.
Still in university, I started an organization that sent thousands of books to over 30 African countries. After shipping over 8,000 books, I came across one with pictures of a little African girl. I realized this was the first book we had sent that depicted the people the books were going to. As a child, I had read western books. Over a decade and a half later, the problem was still the same and African children still had to read books about other people?
I decided to address it.
I founded an organization, the Golden Baobab, to ensure a consistent supply of good quality African children’s literature. In an annual writing competition we inspire African writers to create stories for children and young adults. We select the best stories by the most talented writers. We celebrate them and place them on a deserving pedestal.
This year, my organization is building a literary agency that will take all of this a step further. We will pick the best literary talent discovered through our prize and connect them with leading producers to create winning African books and multimedia for children and young adults. This agency, the Monkey Bread Literary Agency, is the only one of its kind in the world – focusing solely on African content by African talent for children and young adults.
Deborah Ahenkorah is the co-founder and executive director of the Golden Baobab. She is a Global Shaper from the Accra hub and one of 32 Global Shapers attending the World Economic Forum on Africa in Addis Ababa.