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
My name is Fred Mawuli Deegbe and I am a shoemaker. My dad is a pastor and my mom is an educator – I have witnessed first-hand how they have had a positive impact on peoples’ lives. They have been my inspiration to follow in their footsteps.
A few years ago I went to a friend’s place to play video games. At the time I was working in a bank and I was not happy because I didn’t see the impact of what I was doing. I never got around to playing the video games that day because my friend laughed at my shoes so hard he swore that if John Mensah (the captain of Ghana’s national football team) had them he would never score a goal.
I tried to laugh it off but he wouldn’t stop. So, I left his house and went to a shop in town in search of shoes that would win me back some social acceptance. I purchased a lovely pair of wingtip oxfords, so shiny I couldn’t wait to see my friend’s smile when he saw them.
As I admired them in the window of the store a shoeshine boy walked by. I raced outside to ask him if he could make a pair like these. He said it was impossible. I was stunned. I asked if he could make a shoe not a spaceship! This encounter with the shoeshine boy prompted the journey which I am on right now.
It became apparent to me that his mentality was more widespread in Ghana than I thought. And, it troubled me that there is such an overdependence on foreign goods and that local innovation is shunned and not conducive for entrepreneurs.
Without any knowledge about shoemaking, I partnered with twenty-one-year-old Vijay Manu to start Heel The World – a high-end shoe company aimed at empowering local start-ups. Heel the World is more than a shoe company – it is a social enterprise that counters perceptions of the quality and capabilities of Ghanaian craftsmanship. Our motto at Heel The World is “we can if we try”. We should follow our passion and the rest of the ingredients needed for success will follow us.
The company is a little over a year old and I can see the change in people’s perception of locally made goods already. That is why I was drawn to the theme “One Year One Change”. When I began, many people laughed at me for making Ghanaian shoes. A year later I am on my way to the World Economic Forum in Ethiopia BECAUSE of my Ghanaian shoes.
My name is Fred Mawuli Deegbe and I am a shoemaker. This is how I Heel The World.
Fred Deegbe is the founder of Heel the World and one of 32 Global Shapers attending the World Economic Forum on Africa.