(Ethel Cofie) My Talk at Republi:ca Accra
In Order for me to tell you my story, I must tell you about the shoulders on which I stand. Telling my story this way is particularly interesting to me because you see.
In 14 days it will be exactly 12 months since I woke up to my mother feeling weak and short of breathe and by 8am that morning he was dead, she had passed on.
Her death in the last 11 months was not only difficult, it, triggered in me the thinking around legacy and what we as humans should strive and leave as our legacy.
SO today I will tell my story through the lens of not only my mother Hillary but my Grand Mother Theresa.
Theresa my grandma, as I remember can only be described as the most tenacious woman I have ever met, during her lifetime, she run 10-15 business.
She run a meat retail business, when that failed she started transporting Yam, all the way from Northern Ghana to the south to sell. My mother tells a story of a Christmas where they were not quite sure where their mother Theresa was, and she turns up back in the village on top of a huge van carrying hundreds of tubers of Yam for sale.
She failed at many businesses but she succeeded at many more and she kept on going. She passed away just as I was about to graduate university and even I could not make it to her funeral because of that , when I woke up one day , turned in my resignation and left my well-paying job in the UK to move to Ghana to start my business , she was on my mind
Because you see, that business I left the UK to start in Ghana, the one I took all my savings and took a monumental risk with my career to start, that business failed. I was at that point a “techy”, I knew how to code, I knew how to build technology solutions, but that is not how you build a business; failed business, equals broke. I went back into the job market and learnt the lessons, I travelled Africa working in different roles that taught me, how to pitch, how to sell and more importantly how to lead. My last job was as Commercial Solutions Manager at Vodafone Ghana then I made the jump again.
Today EDEL Tech has been nominated multiple times as IT consulting firm of the year and when Ghana Vice President was looking to companies to support innovation in Ghana, we were invited to the table.
I did not just stop, I started Women in Tech Africa, from 70 women in Ghana.
Women in Tech Africa (WiTA) is an organization with a focus on growth expansion and multiplying the numbers of females in technology especially in Africa. We believe that women are equally capable of being at the forefront of technological development and advancement in Africa and the world at large. Over the years, WiTA has strategically focused on enabling women to drive Africa’s growth story and create impact on personal life through technology through career leadership and entrepreneurship
Women in Tech Africa is the largest group on the continent with membership across 30 countries globally with 12 Physical chapter in Ghana, Nigeria, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Somalia, Germany, Ireland, Britain, Kenya, Tanzania, Mauritius, and Cape Verde
Women in Tech Africa is also the 2018 recipient if the United Nations Equals Award for Leadership in the Women and Technology Space
I did not stop there I kept going …
Women in Tech Week (WiTW): I worked with my team to create a digital festival that brings women in tech globally together to celebrate success and impact through leadership training, peer learning, and workshops. The focus topics are related to Technology, Entrepreneurship, Work-life balance, and Leadership. The audience for these events generally comprises of women tech entrepreneurs, girls aspiring for stem careers and C level executive women.
WiTW has reached 10,000 women in 2016/2017 and increased to 12,000 in 2017 and a target of 20,000 in 2018 through its virtual and physical events across Mauritius, Tanzania, Ghana, Dr. Congo, Nigeria (Lagos and Port Harcourt), The Gambia, Kenya Malawi, Ethiopia, Belgium, Cape Verde, Mauritius, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ireland, France and Germany.
My mother Hillary taught me about identity, I remember around Christmas, we would make everything from scratch, cakes, food and everything, hours of hours of labor, one day she turned to us and dad and said ‘I am done’, and this is the story of how my Dad became responsible for making sure there were baked goods in the house every Christmas, she was not afraid to stand in her identity.
I also remember when her job transferred her outside of the city of Accra and she came under intense pressure to abandon her job, something she loved intensely, but again stood strong.
Every day when I am told by culture and society to be a little less driven, a little less ambitious, I stand in my identity unphased by the curveballs life throws at me
Lastly both women were my insight into what strong capable African women looked like, I progress because I stand on the shoulders of my ancestors. I am mother’s legacy but more importantly I have taken that mantle and run with it , my legacy will not only be my daughters but for every woman in tech we have supported with training and opened doors , for every speech I have given on an international stage standing as an important person ( I just got back Nairobi Kenya , advocating for the regulation of fintechs across the continent alongside the Secretary General of UNCTAD and The Vice President of European Commission) and if that inspires more girls and women to take up leadership , my legacy would have been triple fold the ancestors on whose shoulders I stand on .
Today I ask you to ponder a simple question, ‘what is your legacy? What change will you make in the world?’