Thursday, December 16, 2010

3 Ways To Build Brand Loyalty - Lessons From a Makola Woman

I want to share 3 business lessons that I've learned from Auntie Rosemund, a fabric seller in Makola Market.

1. It Pays To Be Nice
We needed to buy fabric for AfroChic. Adwoa (my business partner) suggested we ask Woodin to sell to us at the wholesale price since we were buying lots of fabric. As it turned out, Woodin only sells at the wholesale price if you're buying at least 100 pieces of fabric. (A piece = 4 yards or 6 yards). That was about double what we wanted to buy. 

So the Woodin shop in Osu referred us to two Woodin dealers in Makola. Both of them had left business cards at Woodin so they furnished us with business cards. Adwoa brought me the business cards and I set about trying to contact these women. I called the first number. The woman on the other end of the phone sounded almost abusive in demanding how many pieces I wanted to buy. I tried to set an appointment to go see her.She told me that they're there so when I'm ready I can come. She was almost shouting at me. Okay...

I called the second number.That number was for TROSEMUND ENT. The response was more friendly. warmer. The person at the other end asked when I wanted to come. I suggested a day, and she told me to call her when I get to Rawlings Park in Makola so that she'd send someone to come get me.

That's when the first unfriendly woman got eliminated from the list. It wasn't conscious. I didn't decide to not go to her shop,but when the day came to go fabric shopping, it was to TROSEMUND that I went. Who could blame me? I'm  human. I prefer to deal with people I like...not those who will bark at me.

TROSEMUND kept their promise and sent someone to walk me from Rawlings Park to their shop. After buying, Auntie Rosemund got someone to carry the fabric to the car for me. I was happy. I left their shop and would have forgotten all about them until my next purchase.

2. Follow Up With A Thank You Call
After about 3 weeks, I got a call from Auntie Rosemund! She had saved my number the first time I called. And was calling not to ask me when I would come and buy from her again...she called to find out how MY business was going. Wow! In a whole year of buying lots of fabric from lots of Makola women, this was the only time someone had followed up with us. I was impressed. It made me feel like an important customer.

Now I'm sure Auntie Rosemund does not call every single person who enters her shop. But  having spent over a 1000 cedis at her shop, she realized I was a customer worth keeping and she made me feel important.As she should. It took very little for her to do that but that small act set her apart from all the other fabric sellers. I was blown away. 

And the next time I'm going fabric shopping, guess who will be  at the top of my mind?

3. Give And You Shall Receive

When I got to her shop, I was hungry. So I told her I would be back. I wanted to find something to eat. I asked where I might find food. What did Auntie Rosemund do? She bought me lunch. Free. 
After I had eaten, I shopped. This time I didn't need to buy as many pieces of fabric as the first time. Yet I found myself trying to buy as much from her as possible. I even bought a few pieces of fabric for personal use. 

And now I can't wait for January when I'll again be buying lots of fabric for AfroChic. I can't wait to reward her for treating me like an important customer.

See, Ghanaians often complain about customer service because we think of how people made us feel or wasted our time or whatever. How about seeing it from her perspective. Because she was nice on the phone, because she followed up with me after my first visit, because she bought me lunch...think about how much more business I'm going to send her. 

Think about me putting her name on this blog and holding her up as the go to person for fabric in Makola. Her number is 024-443-8788. 

Auntie Rosemund set herself apart from the other fabric sellers in a business where the offerings are pretty much the same. The fabrics you'll find in one shop aren't that different from what's in the other shops. The prices are also about the same among the wholesale dealers. From the outside looking it, it would seem obvious that in such a business where there isn't much product or price  differentiation, you need to give your customers a reason to choose you. The reason can be your relationship with them. Relationships can make the difference between successful shops and those that struggle. 

Here's my advice for you.

If relationship-building is key for your business like in fabric-retail at Makola, then learn 3 tips from Auntie Rosemund. Number one, be friendly. Number two, follow up, and Three attend to your customers needs even if it means buying lunch for them. It seems obvious...yet remember that in a whole year of buying fabric, only Auntie Rosemund did it. 

It seems obvious. But are you nice to your customers? Do you call back the ones who give you big business to thank them? Have you ever done something nice for them as a way to build relationship? It seems obvious but I know I haven't done these things consistently. Last Saturday at AfroChic, we launched our Festive collection. There were customers who bought 10 clothes at once. Even if I can't call everyone who bought to thank them, I should call these big buyers. All the tips seem obvious, but if I hadn't written this blog post today, I wouldn't have acted on them.

I wish you the best with your I go to make some phone calls. I should take my own advice:)

Monday, December 06, 2010

10 Ghanaian Gift Ideas For This Christmas...For Those Who Usually Give Goats.

Christmas is nearly here. If you’re like me, you’re going to wait till the last minute to get gifts. By then you won’t have the time to think of, and get thoughtful gifts. So you’ll end up giving a goat. Seriously. A goat?! For Christmas? Hehe. That might have worked for our parents' generation but I wouldn't know what to do with a goat if you gave me one this Christmas. Where to kill it? Where to smoke it? Space for a whole goat in my little fridge? Okay enough goat talk. Many of you really liked the gift ideas I gave you last year, so this year, I’ve come up with a new list of Ghanaian things that I think would make kickass gifts. You don’t have to get these, but whatever you get, please

DON’T BE BORING. This Christmas, I’m banning boring. Here we go:

1.    Give Music
Give M.anifest music. Or Efya’s new album. Or Becca. Or Amakye Dede. Here’s why I think a CD would actually make a great gift. You know us. We’re not buying CDs. Most of us only hear the most popular singles from the radio or youtube but you don’t fall in love with an artist by listening to a lone song. You have to experience the album. You have to play it over and over. And Methinks these three musicians actually make music you can fall in love with. I would love to get a pack of three CDS. One from Becca, One from Efya and one from M.anifest. Throw in the best of Amakye Dede and I'm yours.

2.    Give Art
I’m actually kind of pissed with Nanoff because I sent him my painting to be framed 2 whole months ago and he asked me to come for them in a week, and can you believe it? 2 whole months and he’s only just finished. I haven’t even picked it up. I’ve had to go to his gallery at least 6 times chasing after my painting so I don’t know why I’m recommending him. Well, he’s good. I like his paintings because they have details that make them stand out as Ghanaian art…not just African art. Recently, he’s created artworks with newspaper headlines from Ghanaian newspapers. I thought that was special. And his frames are to die for. If only he’d get them made on time…I also really like his sculptures. My favorite is the Pianist. It’s going for $800. I want!

You should also consider Korkor Kugblenu. I was dissatisfied with the painting in my living room because it was merely beautiful but it wasn’t me. It didn’t speak to me. It was just hanging there not inspiring me. So I pulled it down and Korkor made me a painting of a woman with an afro. All in reds. She delivered on time and on budget:)  Will post a photo soon.

3.    Give Books

Here, I’m going to cheat and ask for your help in suggesting interesting books that have been written by Ghanaian authors in the past year. Any ideas? 

4.    Give Something From

Because it’s live and people abroad can shop for their relatives in Ghana. Check it out.

5.    Give Jewelry
After the post on waistbeads, I’ve gone and gotten 4 strings from Nadel. I’ll post her number soon. But she’s at the first left turn off the Kanda Highway if you’re heading towards Kanda from Gold House.  They cost 20 cedis a pop so 80 GHC total, which is on the pricey side BUT gosh, they pop! And to be fair, they were made with pearls and beads. I think the glass and beads strings are cheaper. I keep looking for reasons to take off my clothes so people can see and admire. Ah, some things you can’t be pepei about them o. Plan to wear them for a long time so you’ll get your money’s worth.

There’s also Nelly’s Duaba Serwaah. I bought 2 gorgeous sets sometime last year for 40 GHC each. I don’t know if her prices have gone up or not. But check out her stuff here:!/pages/DUABA-SERWA/186312377635
I also discovered a beads shop at East- Legon just this past weekend.The shop is called BEADS. And their number is 024-397-9508. Ask for Jackie. You can find them on the same street at the A&C mall but closer to the end that has the American International School. Their regular waistbeads cost 12 cedis and the ones made with pearls cost 20 cedis just like at Nadels.

6.    Give Dramatic Photography

Emmanuel Bobbie is your guy. Me and my two girls went to the A-lounge and were impressed by some blown up photo he’d taken. A love. By all means.  You can even consider nudes. Ask Emmanuel. He might do them. Then have them framed. Hang it in your boudoir. I just wanted to use the word boudoir. Makes me feel sexy already. lol.

7.    Give Sisterlocs
Because I want to start it and the only thing standing between me and it is the price. I hear it’s around $500. Ya, that’s killer. I mean that kind of money can buy a kindle! Lol. Why would I spend it on hair? Lol. But if someone gave me a gift of sisterlocs…got me started on this journey, I would always remember that.

And natural hair is in right now…so if your woman is into that, suggest that you’d pay for her to get started, and watch her reaction.

8.    Give A Magazine Subscription
I haven’t bought Canoe in a year.Is Nkwaye better? Is the magazine doing okay? But if someone paid for a year’s subscription for me, I’d be happy. Hey, you’ve got to support local work.

9.    Give a vacation
Everyone’s heard of Little Acre in Aburi and the Axim beaches. And Akosombo hotels. Not all of us have been there. Infact Ms. Cleland here hasn’t been to any of them. So many of us would be thrilled if you gave you paid for a vacation this Christmas. Just do it. Give us a chance to enjoy your money small wai na money yE swine.

10.    Give a Bronya Atar

Allow.  Dis be genuine tin:) Remember when we were kids, it was at Christmas that we got new clothes. We even had a special name for it. The bronya atar. This Christmas, surprise your friends with a bronya atar from any of these Ghanaian clothing brands: Manise, Maksi, Christie Brown, Lola Bello and of course, my very own AfroChic. Preview AfroChic's Festive 2010 Collection.

You must also note that it’s not just about buying a gift, it also matters how you give it. Ghanaians we don't try when it comes to style koraa. But sometimes the how is even more important than the what. If you can deliver it in style, you must! 

Here’s an example:
If you buy AfroChic as a gift for your friends and loved ones, for a small fee, we will gift-wrap and specially deliver them to the recipients’ home or office. Imagine…AfroChic showing up to your friend’s office with a big gift box. Everyone’s going to be looking on, curious about whose gift it is. Imagine her face, when she unwraps the box to find a lovely dress and to discover it’s from you! Ah, what’s not to love? Don’t be boring.
Find AfroChic at a special 2-day event this weekend:

11th Dec, 2010   / Cafe Des Amis (next to Afrikiko) /10 am - 6 pm
12th Dec, 2010 /Marvels Mini Golf Course (Dzorwulu)/ 12 pm - 6 pm
After this weekend, you can either shop the collection online: or visit the shop at 20 Lower Hill, Univ. of Ghana, Legon.  

Have a fabulous Christmas. And remember, we’re banning boring. So give remarkable gifts. And do it in style.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Abi You Wan Sell? Google Trader Launches in Ghana

Yesterday, something quite spectacular happened at Makola market in Accra. And the taxi rank at Circle. And Oxford Street in Osu, and Akuafo Hall  in Legon, and Accra Mall. If you weren't there to see it for yourself, then listen up. I'm going to tell you all about what it was like at Makola.
The time was just a little past 8 am. Ghanaians were milling about as usual. Every third person was carrying something on their heads. Something like boxes, and basins. Empty basins. Full basins. Flat basins. Deep, and deeply scarred basins. Between the line of GTP stores which sit across from Rawlings park  and adjacent shops selling everything from imported suitcases to umbrellas, a coconut seller was preparing a coconut for a waiting buyer.

Music started blaring. It was Wanlov the Kuborlor's "Come home plus me".  We were all enjoying it small small, when the music changed. And with it came men and women from all corners dressed in Google t-shirts. Some wore red, others wore yellow. yet others wore green and even blue.  I even spotted someone I knew. Akwele from Ashale-Botwe, now all grown up and dressed in her green google tee and matching green head-band tieing her afro, white shorts, some sneakers. Hoop earrings, tiny bead bracelets and anklets. Nice.
Photo credit: Rodney Quarcoo Visuals
It's called a flash mob. It was moment there was just Makola as usual. The next moment, all these brightly colored people were pouring out of its corners. Then they started dancing. A fully choreographed deal o.  I'd never seen anything quite like it. It was disruptive. Entertaining. And cooooool! The makola traders must have thought so too, because in less than a minute, hundreds had gathered in a file along the street to watch. Some even run towards the action, forgetting for a few minutes the business of the day. 

Photo credit: Rodney Quarcoo Visuals

Abi you wan buy
Abi you wan sell
Google Trader something something something.

That was the song. A special song composed for the launch  by Horsley Samuel Horsfall. Nigerian dude o. Who ever heard of a Nigerian guy with a Fanti sounding name like that. Samuel Horse-what? Ya. Time to google him. But Gosh...we know Nigerian music is hot in Gh. but why couldn't google get some Ghanaian musician Sarkodie or Wanlov or M.anifest to make a song? I'm not feeling that.

Photo credit: Rodney Quarcoo Visuals
Anyway, so as this spectacular dance died down, one kayayo seller asked me what was going on. How does one explain google trader in simple terms? 

My attempt sounded like this...

Google foɔ enya new product bi. Sɛ wo pɛ sɛ wo tɔn biribi tese wo mpaboa a, wo betumi a text number bi, na w'akyerɛ bebia wo wɔ, ne shoe korɔ a woreton. Na google foɔ no de bɛto ɔmo website no so. Nti obi nso hwehwɛ shoe a, na wafrɛ wo.

Google now has a new product. If you want to sell anything, you can text a short code and indicate what kind of shoe, where you are, price and if someone's looking for a shoe, they'll call you.
She nodded vigorously.

Hey, I'd tried.  Maybe I should also have told her she could buy as well. But hopefully she would learn that on radio, or some other means. So I gave the kayayo woman the crude explanation but  exactly is google trader? Well, it's a product, with free classifieds listings similar to Craigslist and Gumtree that Google launched yesterday in Ghana. As at the launch, it already had 8 thousand listings.

You can search the listings online or on your phone.
Here's what you do if you want to sell something.
First, you have to register. You can do that online or on your phone. If you're using your phone, you  text "register" to 6007.
Next, you text "sell" to the same number, followed by a description of your item
e.g. Pen, Accra, 10 cedis.

If you're accessing trader online, then it's also possible to search categories like jobs, clothes, etc.Will Google Trader work for Ghana? Well, that remains to be seen. For now, it looks promising.  As an entrepreneur, the main takeaway from try. Try a lot of things. I mean even Google never knows which of its products is going to hit in which market so they try lots of things, and of course if you try enough times, eventually something will work out, and work out big. 

Whether trader will be that hit for Google in Ghana remains to be seen. I know I'm going to be registering soon. If  I ever try selling some AfroChic on trader, I'll give you an update on how it went. But you need not wait for my account. You can check out  Google Trader for yourself.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Can A Young Woman Have Older Male Mentors in Ghana?

As many of you know by now, I'm now a full-time entrepreneur. I want to succeed. I want to make some millions. Which is why I was heartened to be in the company of people who have already achieved this level of success in Ghana last week. I was truly inspired by these men. They've spent the last 10, 20 years building their businesses and they seem as energetic as ever.

I was excited to meet them, and excited to see that they seemed genuinely interested in me and what I'm doing and considered me the next generation of Ghanaian entrepreneurs. When they gave me their personal numbers, I remember in Ghana do I get to meet the business giants and to have this kind of ready access to them. 

A number of them called to check on me and to invite me to events. It's called networking. So I want to go. People don't do business with people they don't know. Or like. Or trust. How will they know and like, and trust me if they don't spend any time at all with me? If I were a guy, I wouldn't have to think twice about this. I'd just accept their invitations and go. And go again, and sleep over, and travel this country with them and learn from them?

But I'm not a guy. I'm a woman. A woman engaged to be married.

So, how can I take advantage of the benefits of networking with people you want to be like when an overwhelming percentage of them are men? If the businesspeople you know and admire are men, can you still learn from them without ending up in their bed?

Exactly 2 years ago, I wrote an article titled a new kind of relationship in which I raised the same concern. At the time, I was aba fresh, and correspondingly naive. Now I know, it's not that simple. You want to impress these men. You don't want to piss them off. But you also don't want to sleep your way to the top. You want to do this entrepreneurship thing for real. You're not interested in chopping anyone's money. You just want to learn from them. How does one go about establishing that kind of relationship? There's a thin line. If you're too hardcore, they'll just not invite you anywhere. And you won't get to know them.

Someone please tell me me how.


Monday, November 15, 2010

8 New Reasons To Love Ghana's Young Elite

1. We Don't Miss Any Opportunity To Remind You That We're Special

You mean to say you didn't go to CTK? You don't know what CTK stands for?


Or say you meet a new group of boys and they ask..
Boss, den you dey Cape?

Your response: No.




Presec? By this time your smile has faded and all that's left is the
awkward silence ringing loudly in your ears.

Even attend one of these gatherings of over-schooled self-important people, and the first person on the panel starts talking, and she's goes like
Back at HBS....

when you hear this, you die a little inside. And if your husband or boyfriend or bff is around, you turn to look at their expression.


He's already died and come back to life.

Last Sunday in Church, when the first time visitors were asked to introduce themselves, one woman got up. Very confidently...My name is Araba Mensima-Mends. I am here with my husband....Dr. Paa Kwesi Mends. We live at Trassaco. And even though we don't really like dogs, we have 6 rottweilers and 4 dobbermans hehe.

Okay, I made up the dogs and Trassaco bit but you get the idea. I was sitting next to one of my loveables (another name for good friend coined in the Cleland household....see how i just reminded you i'm special?) and he looked at me, and shook his head and I smiled.

We get it. You have a husband and he's a doctor. lovely. Now I wish I had a doctor for a husband too

2. We Love Talking About Starting A Business
Besides our education and our doctor husbands, another of our favorite topics is business ideas. Everyone is registering some business or other. Especially when we're aba fresh (tr: newly arrived). Our small world is abuzz with talk about this business or that business or some deal or other they're trying to broker.

3.We Love Talking About Traveling.
We want you to know that we're traveling. But we don't exactly know how to come out and tell you point blank that we are one of those lucky ones who can up and leave this sorry country behind whenever we want. We love it even more when the trip is only for a week or days. That tells you that we have arrived. Arrived at the stage in life where buying an ordinary plane ticket is well, no biggie. I mean, didn't we go to SA for the World Cup?  And to Paris to visit our old room mater, And Singapore, and Dubai and even Australia. I mean...when my company wants to train me, they don't send me to any locally organised workshops o... they fly me and pay per diem too.

Whether it's the cute text message you get from your friend  at the airport saying "I'm going to Abrokyire" Or someone making a comment about their "globe-trotting" friend, we juuuust want you to know...we fly.

4.  We Love The Toyota Corolla
Dude. Have you looked at the cars on our streets? Everybody is driving a Toyota. According to P. A of Ghana Customs, Toyota Corollas are now called Pure Water. Because well, they're everywhere.

5. Weddings For Show
You're not officially elite unless you have a wedding that get covered in some magazine. And you can't really have one of dem weddings where they hand you the doughnut in tissue paper. Lol. can't not have a wedding where the wedding dress did not come from Abroad. Nope. Unless you're me, of course:)

6. Sophisticated Outings
I don't know squat about jazz. I don't particularly like it. I think it's okay but give me Koo Nimo or Eugene Kyekyeku anyday. Or even something from Senegal. Music. Good music. I love Reggae. Lucky Dube. Yesssir! Give me some Lauryn. Give me some White boy music. Jason Mraz? Check. Jack Johnson. You have me. But Jazz? Nope. Not my thing. Poetry? Nope, I don't get that. But ask me the number of times I've had to tag along with my sophisticated friends to go to Jazz Clubs, Go listen to  Spoken Word. The Nubuke Foundation hasn't helped matters. lol. Shout out to you, Odile Tevie. Much love to you. I'll be getting in touch.
 I mean +233 is the hottest new joint. Maybe it satisfies the wannebes in us. But I also think it's about broadening horizons. So I approve.  I haven't even mentioned the salsa craze. One of my longtime buddies is a salsero. I know. Ask again. Aboa ben so ne salsero?

Speaking of sophisticated outings, I recently discovered 2 new joints. The A lounge which is inside the trade fair centre and The Whizzy Lounge, which is on the ARS road in Madina. Both places are perfect if you want to get away from the crowds for a cozy romantic time. 

7.We Love To Let You Know We Know Our Alcohol.
We want to remind you that we only drink single malt whisky. We probably have a booklet about the proper way to drink wine. We love names like Grand Marnier, Jack Daniels and Jagermeister. And we want you to know that we drink it straight. 

8. Natural Hair Sisters
Natural hair has become quite big among the young elite sisters in Accra. I dig it.  I don't have much to day about it, except that I hope it trickles down to the masses. 

Can you think of any thing else that characterizes the young elite in Ghana?

Monday, October 04, 2010

Oh la la! Didn't Your Grandma Warn You About Waist Beads?!

Mad love to Gifty Abena Otiwaa Arhin for getting me excited enough about a topic to blog about it. Paa Kwesi, I haven't forgotten about yours but you have to agree that Gifty has burned you small with her topic.

Waist beads. Ahondze. 

Ei ei.

look at this picture, and tell me. 
Where do we begin? 

To give the men some time to perch on the corner of their seats, let's begin with Gifty's questions.

1. Do female adults continue wearing waist beads?? 
Absolutely. My grandma still wears waist beads, so there's your answer. 
Do young women wear it, yep. They wear it a little differently than our grandmas though. The ones I've seen the older people wearing are the traditional clay beads. They're a bit heavy. Like what we see the picture here.

The younger women on the other hand, wear the thinner, slinkier-looking beads, often with gold pendants and other accessories thrown in. Mostly they're hidden under our clothes but one hot lady at my old workplace used to rock hers visibly. I was a bit shocked the first time I saw it, but I got used to it over time, and wished I had the chutzpah to do the same. But she was also 10 years or so older than me so maybe I'll get bolder and more comfortable with these things over time.  I think she said she got them from Abidjan. They looked nicer than anything I've seen in Ghana.

2. When you came to the U.S did you wear waist beads?
Yes, some of the time. I bought 3 slinky strings one vacation when I was in Ghana. I never liked the ones you had to tie with a knot so I was happy to find ones that could be fastened with a clasp. I wore them for several years and then I think they broke one, by one. My boyfriend loved them so I dunno why I didn't get new ones when the old ones broke. I remember oggling Sewra's waistbeads for a long time, but always thinking that they were way too pricey. I regret not getting them now.

About a year ago, I got 2 strings from the Whiteley's store at the Accra Mall. You know the store that sells African stuff right next to the Silver Bird Bookstore. Yep. That one. They cost like 15 cedis/string! I dunno what expired weed I was smoking that day but I bought 2 too! And they weren't even that nice. Nothing like Sewra's beads. Ugh! I think I only got them because these too, were fastened with clasps. Alas, I got home, tried them on and discovered...that my ass is smaller than I imagined. They dropped to the ground! So those overpriced beads are still sitting in a rafia basket in my bathroom. If any big booty gal wants them, please let me know and I'll gladly pass them along.

Aww, have me drooling over these beads now. I waaaaaaaaaaaaaaant one! Okay, if anyone wants to get me something for Christmas...try these. My waist measurement is 27, and my hip is 39. I just measured. lol.

I don't know anyone making gorgeous waist-beads like these in Accra. I have a friend who makes bead necklaces at reasonable prices. His name is Tony. He's one of the street guys. Maybe I can get him to make me something special. Gifty!!! Your fault:)

3. Where did the idea of wearing beads around your waist come from and what is its meaning? 

Yie! History. 

Frankly, I don't know. 

But I think at least one of our very smart, and knowledgeable blog readers will know. So please come out and educate us. Paa Kwesi? Help?! 

The myth is that wearing them consistently over time gives the wearer an hourglass figure. The truth is that some African men looooove it, and if you got dem tins on, all ya gots to do is erm, finger them a little and bat your eyelashes..and erm....agor n'asɔ.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Ms. Cleland Moves To AfroChic

Hi Good People,
I just checked the blog readers stats yesterday, expecting to see almost no readers since I haven't been updating regularly. Big surprise! Turns out there are still hundreds of you reading every day.
Aww, how nice?! Thanks.

So I'm baaack!
And I have news. Lots of news
I know I used to talk a lot about Publicis. This advertising agency I worked at. Said it was the coolest job in the world. Great great people. Awesome all around? Well, I've err left.

Well, one never leaves the fam, I mean, I went to eat lunch there the other day, and I still call all of my colleagues regularly to check on them, and they're having a going away party this Saturday September 25th!
Can't wait!

So, now, I work at AfroChic Limited.

AfroChic is a hot new shop in Accra that enables you to quickly elevate your style from drab to fab. Meself and my business partner Adwoa Perbi are doing this, and we plan on going all the way so if you're in Accra, come check out our store at 20 Lower Hill, Legon. We recently launched the Harmattan 2010 Collection at a day-long event at Afrikiko in Accra. Check out the AfroChic website and online shop.

So yeah, welcome to my new life!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Life in Ghana...Easy or Hard?

This blog post is for Sanders who has been reading this blog for a while wanted me to do a post on how easy or not it was to re-assimilate into Ghanaian life after staying abroad for so many years. Sanders wants to know what was easy and what wasn’t and some advice for people like who  are thinking about returning.

I'm treating this particular blog post as a conversation. It's got to be two-way. I'll talk about what occurs to me but if you have specific questions, ask in the comments and I'll try to address them, as best as I can.

Here we go.
How easy was it?
For me, re-assimilating into Ghanaian life was easy.
I had a rough first week or two when I moved back into my family’s very modest home in Ashale-Botwe. And suddenly it hit me that this move was permanent. And having returned with no money, I had to ask my mom for money so I could pay for driving lessons. That was hard, and made me question if I’d come too soon. I remember even writing an email to my friend Yaw who was then still in the US and questioning if I’d made the right choice. That was about the only shock I had.

Thankfully I had a job lined up before I moved, so once I started working, things started falling into place. That first job helped a great deal because it came with a brand new car, a sign on bonus and a pretty sweet office. So once I started work, everything was groovy. And I loved my job. So waking up everyday and going to work on something I believed in and wanted to work on, made my days....very happy.
It felt right.
It was exactly where I wanted to be.
And if happiness is doing exactly that which you dreamed to do, then you could say that I was very happy.

The fact that my entire family supported my move back also helped. My uncle and aunts felt I had done the right thing. I could go and spend time with them and hear how it is possible to make it in Ghana. They affirmed my choice and helped me not question. 

I did okay financially. From my very first job, I was able to save about 75% of my salary every month.

The one downside was inflation. When I first moved to Ghana in August 2008, the cedi/dollar rate was 1 :1. Six months later, the cedi had depreciated significantly. Assuming I was earning 1000 cedis/ month, in August that 1000 cedis was equivalent to $1000. By March 2009, a 1000 cedis was only worth $700. I felt like was being paid less. Hahaa. Especially when the time came to buy a ticket to visit the husband and I had to pay $1300 for the ticket.

One caveat about having done okay financially though. Remember I never actually worked in the US. So I moved from living as a poor student in the US to living in Ghana. Maybe that helped me maintain my frugal lifestyle, which has helped me save a lot. Sometimes I wonder how things might have been different if I’d worked in the US and gotten used to making "good" money and spending it too. But I guess we’ll never know.

Have my expectations been met?
Absolutely. I'd say my expectations have been exceeded.

Did things work out as I expected it to? Nope. Not in the least. Things didn't work out. I left my first job after 6 mths, and took another job doing something completely different. But you know what? It's been wonderful! I love my life, and am glad that I decided to move home. I've made some great friends at my second work place.I've had the opportunity to do amazing, fun work, and have been prepared for my next thing.
Is it all as rosy as I make it seem?

Yeah. lol. The problem with this blog post is...I'm the worst person to talk to about life in Ghana. Because you're not going to get a balanced view. You're just not. My experience has not been a balance of ups and downs. It's been up, up, up. I believe half of it is just...this is my place. I like being here. I like my job. And most of the time, i'm stoked.

Maybe I've just been lucky.

One thing I found quite easy about settling in is meeting people. Accra is not that big. Everyone seems to be connected. So my network has just expanded through the roof. You have to be sociable for this to happen of course. Go for parties. Go to bars. Check out events. Be curious. And open to many different kinds of experiences and types of people. The blog helps too, I think. I've met lots of really cool people through this blog.  
There's a flip side of course...that very quickly everyone can know who you are and form an opinion about you. I keep telling have to be careful who you piss off in Accra because everyone seems to be connected to everyone else.

One really hard thing about living in Ghana...if you're in a relationship, don't. Don't move here without your partner. What was I thinking? This long distance thing is hard. Impossibly hard. This isn't even about sex. Just plain old wanting someone to hug you, and laugh with you, go for movies with you. Plain old companionship. Did I say long distance sucks?

Men...Accra men...the fine ones no chaw. hehe. But they exist paa. And every once in a while, even though you're not looking, one eligible super eligible one catches  your eye and you do a double take. hehe. It is quite possible that they only pay attention to the unavailable women. You know how once you're in a relationship, all these men seem to want you, but the moment you're single, they somehow disappear? Someone has to study this phenomenon paa.

Things to do...when I first moved back, someone told me, it gets boring quickly. That after a while, you've been everywhere and seen everything. Err...I have so not seen everything. I want to travel, see more of Ghana, see more of Africa. Sleep at La Palm beach hotel and wake up next morning and have breakfast on the beach. For sheeege. Drive up the mountains and spend the night there. Go off for a weekend at Akosombo.Run a marathon. Read all the new books that Ghanaian writers are writing. How can I be bored when I still haven't done any of these things?

Here's my probably can be okay anywhere in the world if you set your mind to it. You have to believe in the place. You have to believe you're gonna be okay there. It helps to love the place and want to be there. It helps to believe that place has opportunities for you. It helps to believe you can make money there. That you can have your dream life there. It helps to like your job. It helps to have family there. And friends. It helps to imagine the life you want, and take concrete steps to build it. It helps to like the color of your apartment. And if you don't, to change it. lol. It helps to choose friends who motivate you and get you excited about being here. This afternoon, one friend visited me at my workplace and he is so so positive about Ghana that it was inspirational just hearing him talk. I said to him..."you're such a believer" and he said to me "how can i not be?, i'm happy here". It really helps to have such people in your life. It helps to buy a car if you're someone who will hate taking tro-tro. My friend does not have a car and neither do i, but as he said to me..."how much happier is the car going to make you, Esi?". It helps to work hard. It helps to have hobbies. It helps to make enough money to go to the movies if that kind of thing rocks your boat. It helps to have friends who will take you along when they're going off to relax in their very nice cottages in the countryside. It helps to have friends who throw cool parties. It helps to be friendly. In the end, I believe, we create the life we want. And then sometimes we get lucky. It helps to have a positive attitude. And If you're religious, it helps to pray. And find a church.

In the end, your life in Ghana will be whatever you'll make of it.

All the best.

 I welcome your comments and will answer any specific questions you  may have.