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Lifestyle

Reverse Brain Drain: The reason Kim and Priscilla Addison moved to Ghana to do business

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Priscilla and Kimberly (Kim) Addison did not grow up in Ghana, neither did they set out to be chocolatiers.

Although of Ghanaian heritage, both girls grew up in Senegal and had their higher education in the United States. Priscilla is a graduate of New York University’s Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service, where she obtained a Master’s in Public Administration (MPA) with a specialization in International Development. Kim holds a Bachelors of Arts in French and International Studies with concentration in Social Justice from Boston College.

So what prompted them to move to Ghana to start a business in an industry where they had no experience?

Priscilla (left) and Kimberly (right)

Their Inspiration

Kim/Priscilla: “Two years ago, we thought it was strange that Switzerland is known for its chocolate but yet, does not have a single cocoa tree. Meanwhile Ghana, being the second largest producer of cocoa grows the main ingredient in chocolate (cocoa) but produced very little chocolate itself. We saw a vast need for manufacturing in Ghana and across the continent of Africa.” The girls said in an interview with African Vibes.

Just last year these sisters were awarded the 2016 Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship program for manufacturing. This was in recognition of their game changing entrepreneurial efforts as chocolatiers.

I caught up with the girls to learn about their business and experience as Returnees. Here is what they had to say.

Their Business idea

Kim/Priscilla: “Generally, there is untapped potential in the manufacturing of chocolate across the continent.  In Ghana, the candy shelves of supermarkets and malls are overflowing with foreign chocolate bars, some undoubtedly made with Ghana’s very own cocoa. On the other hand, Ghana is known for its cocoa, but not for its chocolate products. Having recognized all this, we were determined to create a Ghanaian brand that is reputable locally and internationally.

‘57 Chocolate was conceived in an attempt to inspire the youth to use their minds and creative geniuses to transform Ghana’s resources by making and creating local products of premium value. At ’57 Chocolate we take dried cocoa beans and process them into luxurious chocolate and confections. What’s most unique about our business is that we produce chocolate that is a reflection of Ghanaian art and culture, right from our packaging to our chocolate products.”

Their Inspiration

Kim/Priscilla: “We look to Ghanaian art and culture for our inspiration. Our 10 gram Adinkra bars are particularly a reflection of motivation. These bite sized bars are beautifully engraved with visual symbols created by the Ashanti of Ghana. We have a collection of 12 different Adinkra symbols, each representing a concept or a particular meaning. We will be adding more concepts to our collection in the coming year.

We are also working on some exciting flavors which will incorporate more local ingredients, we hope to debut within the coming year!”

Their brand

Kim/Priscilla: “The name ’57 is short for 1957—the year of Ghana’s independence. 1957 was a revolutionary year for the country, not only because it was freed from colonial rule, but it is the year that gave birth to the nation’s “can do spirit.” Before 1957, industrialization in Ghana was non-existent, most goods were imported and not produced in the country. It is a call and reminder that sometimes in order to go forward, we need to look back at our foundation—our roots. ‘57 Chocolate aims to inspire the people of Ghana, especially the youth to create and develop made in Ghana products of premium value.”

Their Goal

Kim/Priscilla: “Over the long-term, we aim to create a Ghanaian chocolate brand that is known world-wide, but most importantly one that surpasses our lifetime.  We hope to have our chocolate sold across the continent of African  and around the globe.”

The Naysayers

Kim/Priscilla: “The biggest setback was meeting people along the way who kept telling us the idea of making chocolate from bean to bar in Ghana was impossible.

Despite the discouraging comments, we persevered. What may be impossible to one person is possible to 100+ others. We decided to show people that it can be done. Of course we made plenty of mistakes along the way, but this is always part of the journey and the climb to success.”

Overcoming Negativity

Kimberly: “It’s my faith in Jesus Christ. In challenging times, I am able to press on because I know God is bigger than any challenge I can ever face. He is my source of strength.”

Priscilla: “For me, it’s the endless possibilities Ghana has to offer.  We are eager to keep using our creativity to address some of Ghana’s problems. Our intention is not only to stick to cocoa but adventure into other sectors and create something in addition to ’57 Chocolate that will outlive our lifetime.”

Accomplishments

Kim/Priscilla: “Winning the Tony Elemelu  Entrepreneurship Program for manufacturing is one of our biggest successes. Our experience with the program has been a great opportunity! It has provided us with an incredible amount of insight in business and has linked us to a multitude of entrepreneurs across the African continent. We are honored to have been selected to represent Ghana in the field of manufacturing.

The second accomplishment is having actual products we can sell on the market locally that our customers patronize.

Currently, we have 6 signature flavors: dark (2 kinds including 88 percent baobab and 73 percent dark chocolate), milk, white and mocha latte (coffee flavor), and bissap (or hibiscus flavor) chocolate products. We pair our chocolates with various ingredients like coconut, almond and sea salt. For a complete list of our products, please visit our website. Our best sellers are the 73 percent dark chocolate and mocha latte flavors.

Our clients buy our chocolate directly from us since all chocolates are handmade and made to order. They contact us via Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter or via email at hello@57chocolategh.com. At the moment we do not retail our products, but we hope to do this in targeted boutiques once the time is right.

Why it’s worth it

Kim/Priscilla: “First and foremost, we love seeing the joy our chocolate brings to our clients, knowing that we are adding value to a resource right at home. Many people thought this would be impossible to achieve. Additionally, it’s the support and encouragement that we’ve received from near and far. We have received several inquiries about investments and whether we ship our chocolate abroad.”

Memories along the way

Kim/Priscilla: “One special memory we have is making our first batch of chocolate. It was absolutely spectacular to feel, taste and see an actual product we created. After experimenting with a few recipes, we had finally settled on one we both enjoyed and wanted to share with the world. This was really a proud moment for us. An equally special moment was our first bulk sale of our Adinkra chocolates for a Ghanaian wedding!”

Lessons Learned in Business

Kim/Priscilla: “We have learned many lessons. Here are just a few: In our experience as emergent entrepreneurs, we have learned to always have several contingency providers in case your primary contact is unable to deliver in a timely manner.

We have  also learned that there is really never a right time to start. Now is always the right time.  Start making and creating your product, put it out there. Based on feedback from you market, you can always improve  or tweak it along the way.

We have learned that mistakes are important. As much as you don’t want to make mistakes they are inevitable. It’s part of the journey to becoming great.”

True Grit

Doing Business in Ghana

Kim/Priscilla: “It’s definitely not been easy. Although we are Ghanaian by heritage, we had never lived in Ghana up until this point. It is important to know and understand the factors that can either benefit or hurt the operations of your business.

A major challenge for us with starting the business was dumsor– a popular Ghanaian word used to describe the unpredictable power outages. Ghana has been undergoing a power crisis and our business requires a study supply of electricity in order to produce and store our chocolate, since it is made from bean to chocolate bar. We have a generator in case we are in need of electricity.”

Take the Leap of Faith

Kim/Priscilla: “We were living in Switzerland, before moving to Ghana. We both knew we wanted to move back to Ghana, get to know our culture better, be closer to family (our parents) and build something with our creative minds. We didn’t have many fears, we were always hopeful and positive. We believe if you speak and believe positivity it will manifest itself this way. What was incredibly challenging was understanding Ghana’s business environment, as this is not so evident.”

Ghana Culture Shock?

Kim/Priscilla: “Not at all. We grew up in Dakar, Senegal. No matter where you live there will be similarities and differences. We learn to understand and sometimes appreciate the differences.”

Ghana – The Good

Kim: “I like the sunshine, heat and the avid entrepreneurship movement in Ghana.”

Priscilla: “Tropical fruit (pineapples, mangoes ans coconuts). I also like that there is so much opportunity to innovate, create and solve some of the country’s challenges.”

Ghana – The Bad

Kim:  “I dislike that we import so much and place very little value on goods made in Ghana.

Priscilla: “The plastic waste! It’s everywhere, on the streets and along the beach side. It’s a huge problem! We all need to make an effort to keep Ghana clean”

Word of wisdom to entrepreneur returnees

Kim/Priscilla: “Do a lot research and reading , as well as talk to people in your field of interest. Anticipate your challenges but be open to making mistakes. That’s the only way you are going to learn.”

Editor’s Note

Priscilla and Kim are a reminder that for Africa to live its potential, we all have a role to play.  It is not enough for Africans in the diaspora to elevate themselves and their immediate families with some level of intellectual and financial success. Success of an African diasporan should have an additional measure, and that  should be the knowledge and resource contribution given back to the continent to improve the situation of those who may not be direct beneficiaries of the same opportunities we were each given. Whether it is job creation, training people in an industry to do things better, building infrastructure, contributing ideas or resources … we each have an obligation to do something. If Africa thrives, the world thrives along with it.

– Belle Niba

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Health & Fitness

Scientists In Tanzania Discovers ‘Invisible’ Malaria Species

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Malaria is one of the greatest threat to health in the tropics. Governments and organizations around the globe are making efforts to curb the spread of malaria. However, it appears there are hidden facts about the parasite. A group of researchers in Tanzania have discovered malaria species that can live for decades in the body without manifesting any clinical signs. However, it still contributes to the transmission of malaria.

According to the study recently published in Malaria Journal, two healthy men still tested positive to Plasmodium malariae. Consequently, it made the scientific community ponder on the possibility that this malaria species can live in the body for a long period of time. The men who hail from Bagamoyo were 20 and 22 years.

The men were part of the research testing the efficacy of a vaccine. To rule out any possibility of disease, the men underwent a battery test. Speaking about the ‘invisible’ malaria species, Dr. Tobias Schindler, the lead investigator from Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute’s Department of Medical Parasitology and Infection Biology in Switzerland said,

“It is not sure if asymptomatic cases of Plasmodium malariae infections ever will develop symptoms…there are cases where people lived for decades with this parasite without any reports of malaria-like symptoms.”

Malaria species in Tanzania

There are five malaria species that affect humans and you will find all of them in Tanzania. However, Plasmodium falciparum is the most common and deadliest in Africa. Majority of malaria deaths in Africa are due to Plasmodium falciparum. The second most common malaria species in Tanzania is Plasmodium vivax. It is believed that this malaria species was imported into the country during the First World War by Indian immigrants. The other three species are Plasmodium knowlesi, Plasmodium ovales and falciparum malariae.

The scientists found Plasmodium malariae was able to live alongside other species of malaria. According to the study, it has been observed in an average of 15 percent of all malaria infection cases. Distinguishing the different species will be difficult with just a microscope. Rather, Schindler said,

“It is important to use new and better technologies such as Polymerase chain reaction (PCR). PCR is an attractive addition to microscopy for confirmatory identification of Plasmodium spp. in clinical specimens, which are better at detecting disease, even when there are very few parasites in blood.”

Challenges to the fight of malaria

Tanzania has made great strides in combating malaria. For example, the incidence of malaria dropped from 18 million to 5.5 million annually between 2008 and 2017. Consequently, this has led to the prevention of 60,000 child deaths annually.

However, there are still lots of challenges that impede the fight against malaria. First, public health centers lack the facility to diagnose and differentiate the malaria species. Majority of the current techniques cannot detect malaria when they are in very low levels in the blood. Secondly, highlands are cooler and uninhabitable for malaria species. However, with global warming, these areas can become breeding grounds for the vectors. Dr. Fredros Okumu, the director for health at Ifakara Health Institute explains,

“Increasing temperatures, however, could transform many of these areas into stable malaria zones.”

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Raising The Bar

Nigerian Teenager Sets New Academic Record

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A Nigerian-born teenager is making waves with her academic achievement. Tobechukwu Phillips, a high school student of Alvin High School smashed a 125-year old academic history of the school. Phillips graduated with a 6.9 GPA after earning A’s throughout her stay.

Miss Phillips’ accomplishment breathes fresh air to the image of Nigeria, a country tainted by corruption. Consequently, she was the first Black valedictorian in the history of the school. Talking about her achievement Philips said,

“Maintaining the highest GPA in my class is a difficult task. It truly takes time management but more importantly acknowledging what you do it for. I know that I am no longer just representing myself.”

A brief history of Alvin High School

Alvin High School opened in 1894. However, it was not until 1965 before African-American students could enroll. Alvin High School was the only high school in Alvin Independent School District (ISD) until 2006 when Manvel High School was established. Besides academics, students of Alvin High School also participate in different sports including basketball, baseball, and football.

Alvin High School serves Liverpool and Alvin as well as unincorporated parts of Brazoria County. According to an online source, the school currently has approximately 2,800 out of which 86 are black students. Tobechukwu Phillips for a long time will be the face of Alvin High School.

What next for Tobechukwu Phillips?

There are other interesting aspects of Tobechukwu Philips worth talking about. She is a Rho Kappa Honor Society, a Sunday school teacher, an AP ambassador, and the president of the National Honor Society. Phillips also has tremendous achievements in volleyball and track events. Jennifer McGraw, Phillips’ track coach describes her as “an excellent student from a loving family”.

Tobechukwu Phillips displays her certificate

Tobechukwu Phillips will attend University of Texas’ Nursing School on full scholarship by Full-Ride Forty Acre Scholarship. There were about 4,000 applicants for the scholarship. However, only 16, including Phillips were selected. She hopes to one day own her own clinic as a pediatric practitioner. In a word of advice to other colored students, Tobechukwu Phillips said,

“My biggest advice to other scholars of color is to truly adopt the mindset of Rosa Parks — ‘No.’ Do not conform to the stereotypes that have held us under thumbs for so long. Do not be discouraged when someone speaks out against you, simply allow what they say to fuel your fire. But more than anything, do not remain tight-lipped. Stand up for what you believe in and take it upon yourself to be the change you’ve always wanted. Say ‘No’ to the ways of the world and stick out.”

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Money Matters

The Njangi: An African Financial Support System

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In tough financial times when banks are failing and the systems we trusted before are no longer reliable; in times when money is scarce and financial responsibility enormous, I reflect on an age-old system of money management that is used to this day. A community-based system that has supported families through tough times, stretched meager incomes allowing parents to educate their children; giving others great opportunities to develop their lives without the total dependence on any banks or major regulatory system.

The Malians, Algerians, Moroccans and several other French-speaking African countries call it “”. Liberians and Ghanaians call it “”. In Nigeria it is known by many names but “ajoh” and “” seem to be widely used. In Cameroon “” and “” carry the same meaning.

The variety of names conveys the diversity of the beautiful African continent, however, the underlying principles that have been handed down many generations to guide this process are not new.

How it works

In Cameroon as in other parts of Africa, the Njangi helps individuals save money. When done as a group it gives access to large amounts of cash loans with little or no hassle. With major institutions having stringent guidelines for borrowers, especially those who may have recently migrated into the United States, njangi, sousou, pari and tontine have stepped in to provide some much-needed financial relief.

Whether it is a group of friends, an alumni association or just a handful of family members, some Africans have historically pooled their resources together to help each other achieve financial dreams. The detailed requirements may differ across countries, ethnic or cultural groups but overall, the process is built on a high level of trust. Njangis also provide an avenue to meet friends or family members, socially.

Take the example of a group of 10 friends who have formed a social group and njangi with a monthly meeting. Every month they each decide to bring in $500. Members could increase their stakes. Two members decide to bring in $1000 each instead of $500. That means there are 12 ‘hands’ of $500 each. The group, therefore, has $6000 at each sitting. In some groups, members may cast ballots to decide the order in which they take home the funds.

In other cultures, the hosting member takes home the funds and hosting rotates to a different member’s home each month. On the day of the meeting, everyone brings in their contributions and the first member takes home a cash packet of $6000. This process will rotate each month for a year to consume the 12 ‘hands’ of the Njangi. Each time a member takes home money, the member is said to have ‘chopped the njangi’. The two members whose contributions are doubled will have two opportunities to take home money. They could negotiate with other members on the collection times. In some larger groups members “chop” or borrow funds on a bi-weekly or even a weekly basis. The Njangi term is consummated when all hands have been chopped and the group can start over.

How it is used

Some groups use Njangis as a support system or investment club. They require members to leave behind a token whenever they collect funds. For instance, instead of taking home $6000 as in our example, each member leaves behind $50 which will be saved in a group account and could be used to invest in a mutual fund, visit a sick or bereaved member or some other purpose.

In some variations of this process, all funds pooled together can be borrowed. Some situations warrant the borrower to present some form of collateral such as a car or a house especially when the stakes are higher. In other cases, one or two members will have to surety a potential borrower. Trust is the dominant factor in groups practicing the Njangi.

Njangi funds have helped Africans achieve the dream of owning a home. They have also been used to pay tuition bills, buy a car or relief an immediate financial crisis. It has helped many Africans save as it creates a level of discipline since the funds are actually a loan and must be repaid.

Some Njangi groups are actually set up for investment purposes. Every time the group meets, they put money down and when a project comes up, they all go into the project as a group. Njangis have helped some African Entrepreneurs thrive and has been the stepping stone to low or no interest borrowing that has propelled many African businessmen and women into much higher gains.

Njangis could be compared to a secure line of credit. It could also be likened to an investment club. There are many Africans in the Diaspora who will laud this process for their financial success today. Njangis have the added benefit of developing deep and lasting relationships while achieving financial growth and independence.

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