Bridget Boakye was meant to come back to Ghana as a human rights lawyer, instead the Ghanaian with a Bronx accent came home to help her countrymen get what they want from the USA.
Bridget Boakye was meant to come back to Ghana as a human rights lawyer.
Instead, the 25-year-old with a Bronx accent came back to her homeland to immerse herself in Ghana’s growing startup culture, something she bubbles with passion over.
As the Ghana manager for Shypmate, a peer-to-peer shipping company based out of Ghana and Nigeria, Boakye spends her days promoting the company, speaking with its customers and meeting with other entrepreneurs in the country.
She’s involved in a startup that is determined to go global.
The company allows someone in Ghana to order from an online store in the USA, and then Boakye and her team will find someone traveling to Ghana to bring the purchased order, saving time and money for the buyer, and the person bringing it gets 70 percent of the fee the buyer will pay for the service.
Boakye moved back to Ghana in January this year, after spending the past 15 years living in the USA.
She moved there at the age of ten, to join her parents who lived in the Bronx, in New York.
“In many ways I felt at home, there is a vibrant African community in the Bronx and a strong Ghanaian community."
However, this year, Ghana called her home.
“I’ve always been passionate about Africa’s development, and always had the idea that I will move back to Ghana under some kind of development initiative.”
Originally, she had planned to come back to Ghana as a human rights lawyer, but her cousin offered her the opportunity to get involved with Shypmate, and become part of Ghana’s startup culture.
She was initially warned it would be a battle to do so, but she has been amazed at the resources, like weekly events where she can meet with very successful startups and entrepreneurs.
But, there have been barriers to success.
“I think they are more insidious than they are structural, some of the little ways in which in my personal experience I have seen, [it] may be everyday sexism that will get in the way of my work or chip away at it.”
She was handing out fliers recently at an event, when a young man told her ‘I don’t care about your flier I want you’.
“In many ways those little things you hear, if you have been outside of the culture it will want to make you take a step back, but in the larger context of the culture if you don’t take it to heart and let it discourage you, you can push forward….We need to engage African men in that conversation, someone saying ‘I don’t want your flier I want you’ to them it’s harmless…[but] it impedes on the progress of women’s aspirations.”
Despite the hurdles, Boakye believes now is the time for African business women to step up.
“African women in Ghana are in many ways privileged in the sense that the world is looking for these narratives at a time like this, the world wants to hear from Africans and specifically African women, so I think there are many platforms that have really weighed in and are excited for us to tell our stories.”
The information sector is playing a huge role in pushing women forward, she found, where technology can attract larger audiences through digital platforms.
“I think that’s where the empowerment will come from to get more scale, to allow these female entrepreneurs to grow their businesses into larger enterprises.”