Rewriting Africa’s Future : CANOE

10 Sep

In the last decades Africa has been depicted by the cruel candid expression of media as the forgotten continent branded with the stigma of poverty, strife and disease. Through the lenses of media, audiences have learnt of the darkened alleys and destitute slums that tell a tale of lost hope and stolen pride. Nevertheless, the dawn of a new era is upon us and we, as an empowered generation, are employing the same candid expression of media to tell of a different story: a story of renewed strength, promise, potential wealth and economic prosperity. In recent times, we are using media – print, publication, literature, music, television, radio – to speak of our successes, showcase our culture and tell of our history.

The CANOE Quarterly Magazine is one of these fine art forms retelling our African story in a more positive light. With conception in Ghana, CANOE Quarterly is now widely distributed in Botswana, Ghana, Liberia, Namibia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa and Zambia, with additional distribution in Egypt, Kenya and Mozambique with its upcoming edition. It also has a subscription base in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe.

Up close and personal with Miss Sefa Ewurama Gohoho, Business Director, Canoe Quarterly Magazine 

 “Africa is a wonderful place with a lot of potential wealth…we know we have challenges to overcome as a continent, but those days of colonialism are over, and the days of neo-colonialism and neo-apartheid are N-U-M-B-E-R-E-D. Africa has reached a new era, and the African Renaissance is here… CANOE is here to help enlighten.”Sefa Ewurama Gohoho

AJ:  What was the inspiration behind Canoe?

SEG: We were inspired by Africa. Canoe is a quarterly luxury lifestyle magazine directed at middle to upper class Africans; it is an aspiring magazine for the upwardly mobile African. It aims to celebrate Africa and its unique people in a deserving manner, with the purpose to correct the distorted international media image and perceptions of Africa. Aren’t you sick and tired of turning on CNN or BBC and seeing starving kids, or poor people? Is that all there is of the Africa that YOU know?

AJ: Starting out, what did you envision Canoe as being or becoming?

SEG: While CANOE is a luxury brand, the magazine moves beyond mere consumerism: CANOE Quarterly is rather meant to be a guide to accumulating real wealth for Africa, preserving capital and building legacies that can be passed on from generation to generation. It is targeted at those interested in the culturally rich African Lifestyle: from Africans living in the Diaspora, to foreign investors, to those curious about modern Africa. We seek to inspire a new generation of Africans with style, intelligence and creativity. CANOE emerged as a result of the sheer desire to portray Africa in another light. Having traveled widely, I have encountered all sorts of misconceptions about Africa and Africans. Yes, there is poverty. Yes, there is war, but Africa has so much positivity as well. CANOE was a medium to dispel a lot of negative misconceptions; we seek to inspire a new generation of Africans through positive means. Every season, the magazine showcases stories on fashion, beauty, home, lifestyle, sports and business; essentially shedding light on the various dimensions of Africa’s progress, whilst simultaneously paying homage to our strong African heritage. We are as interested in the history as we are in the future.

AJ: Why the name Canoe…any significance there?

SEG: ‘CANOE’ was the colonial era vessel used to trade and transport precious stones and metals, guns, alcohol, wax prints and human beings; it is now a vessel [CANOE the MAGAZINE] responsible for the exhibition of a New Africa, no longer wishing to be led by an image of abject poverty and dysfunction but by its successes and potential often ignored by international media; to inspire and accelerate development and growth through positivity.

AJ: What is your educational background and how would you say it prepared you for your current line of work?

SEG: I started out as an Economist. The most experience I had in the industry was working in Business Development in High School for Ghana International School’s Vibes Newspaper, and our Yearbook. Being an international school, the motto was “Understanding of Each other” and so I learned how to relate to many different cultures and nationalities. I studied English Literature, so I suppose that must have helped, and then my first degree at the London School of Economics in Economics and Philosophy. I would say however, that a knowledge of and/or concentration in Business, Communications and Marketing are imperative.

AJ: What is a day like in your world as a business director?

SEG: My roles in my organization comprise HR, financial, corporate responsibility, business planning and development, market research, sales and marketing and organizational development. Various departments like Advertising, Accounts and Marketing report to me. A usual day for me is spent mostly out of the office, having meetings with clients or prospective clients. When I’m in the office, I usually have brainstorming meetings with the CEO and rest of the team.

AJ: As one of the pioneer magazines in the publication/ media industry in Ghana, what were some of the main challenges you encountered?

SEG: The main challenges were keeping positive, and not letting anyone or anything deter us from our goals.

AJ: In Africa, funding new concepts/projects tends to be a very important yet difficult aspect of turning a dream into reality. Did you encounter such a problem and how did you overcome this hurdle?

SEG: Well, Africa seems yet to understand the power of the media. Where I come from, much more money is dedicated to tangible goods like commodities. But the media is not trusted as a moneymaker. Therefore, not much money has been pumped into it, however that is steadily changing. So for a new publication like ours, it was difficult in the beginning to attract new clients. Fortunately for us, We started out as an Advertising agency, so some of our clients who already knew the quality of our work were more comfortable backing us, right from the beginning (Eg, Coca-cola, Bank and Olufsen, Johnny Walker, Virgin Nigeria).Furthermore, the challenges really only served to teach us, and to push us harder!

“There’s no place like home. I knew this was where I eventually wanted to settle, so once that decision was made there was no reason not to come back and start laying those foundations for my future in a place where the future looks bright. Besides, something in the West was just, I don’t know, lacking.”

AJ: In recent times we are seeing a revolutionary upstart of a new breed of young African entrepreneurs changing the economic fabric of Africa, you included. How well do you think your trades/messages are being received locally and internationally?

 SEG: I actually don’t think I’m doing anything that special. There are a lot of young Africans out there, doing greater things and not receiving any pats on the back for it. I believe what I’m doing is just another piece in the plan for the true liberation of Africa. Until we come to realize and discover and appreciate our homegrown talents, there will still be a massive “brain-drain”. I’m only doing what I believe is my responsibility towards Africa. I love Africa, and I am learning so much from this continent. I do feel our message is being overwhelmingly received in the most surprising ways; and sometimes, in the least expected circles. I’ve really woken up to the fact that there are forward thinking individuals across the world who believe that Africa has the potential to really look after its own. I also think our message is being well received because we’re showing people an Africa many didn’t know existed! For example, they may not have known of Phillipe Lenoir, the young man who has built a business empire building buses in Africa, or of the $400,000,000 self -sustaining energy deal done in west Africa, or of the fact that many African women, wear permanent beads around their waist. Communication is so important, and that’s all we’re doing at Canoe, trying to communicate with you.

AJ: What does the crystal ball show for CANOE’s future?

SEG: The future is potentially VERY exciting! Apart from the obvious world domination, in the following year, CANOE AFRICA has a number of projects we’re working on:

a. A 3-day Pan-African festival scheduled for December 17Th To 19th 2010 at the Elimina Castle in Ghana, offering its audience a unique cultural experience. It will bring together a premium selection of craftsmanship, musicians, entertainers, designers, jewelers, and visitors to produce a seamlessly choreographed masterpiece of theatrical drama, poetry, music, fashion, fine arts and cuisine.

b. In our desire to inspire a new caliber of visionaries, CANOE Africa will create an Educational Assistance Programme – funding educational projects in select higher institutions across Africa.

c. CANOE will soon launch a website called FLOW (Future Leaders Of the World) – a Business Incubator Network (BIN), which will be supported by FLOW Noir – a new quarterly Magazine. While FLOW’s main purpose is to link professionals to incubate projects that will build the African continent, the magazine covers the policies, works and philosophies of past and present leaders of Africa. It also illustrates the aspirations and propositions of Africa’s younger and emerging protégées – the next wave of leadership.

“Apart from the usual social sciences, I wish there were more financial education from a younger age. I also think that the young could be supported more with grants and scholarships. But then again, there’s nothing stopping a philanthropic individual from deciding to donate to a university for research, or sets up a scholarship fund. We shouldn’t ALWAYS wait on political leaders to take steps. In many ways, they exist as policy makers, but we can all be leaders in our own, small way.”

AJ: Any inspiring words for the aspiring entrepreneurs looking to establish their own media publications – Yes, some advice to your future competitors…

SEG: Five recommendations to entrepreneurs seeking to establish their own media publications

1. Things sometimes don’t go according to plan, but sometimes, it’s ok…kind of a blessing in disguise.

2. People don’t always see your vision, so when discussing it, you not only have to be resolute in your conviction, but this process of discussing it out loud also helps you fine-tune what the brand’s goals are.

3. Africa is one inspirational place! There are so many success stories and so many wonders that make my work easy. Äll we have to do is look around for inspiration.

4. IT IS POSSIBLE TO TALK ABOUT AFRICA WITHOUT ANY NEGATIVES…The one thing you will NEVER see in CANOE Magazine is sob stories of children starving, AIDS patients feeling sorry for themselves…Yes, we have a heart. I even do my own private Charity work, and at CANOE, we dedicate pages to raising awareness about these issues by celebrating those who are making a difference (e.g. Breast Cancer Awareness). We believe that eradicating these problems comes from acknowledging that they exist, but we also see the bigger picture and focus on the most tangible solutions without being too emotional. Because sometimes, being too emotional can hold you back from doing what you have to.

5. There is a lot of opportunities in Africa that can be gained through communication across borders, which would spearhead our continent moving towards a blissful future. There is a lot of power in the Media, and those in it have a real role to play.

“Africa has reached its next era of growth, and many African’s do not as yet realize the enormity of this. So it becomes the responsibility of those of us who might have a slightly more educated/global perspective to raise this awareness in order that Africans can protect themselves and not sell themselves short. We exist in the times of Neo-Colonialism where there is still an opportunity for us to be out-manoevered for the benefit of other nations. People must look out for themselves, because that is all other nations are doing…the only way to fully do that in this day and age, is to have a more global perspective, so you can absorb what will be beneficial to your country and continent, whilst protecting your rich cultural heritage.”


2 Responses to “Rewriting Africa’s Future : CANOE”

  1. Richard September 12, 2010 at 9:55 am #

    Canoe is fully African owned. This is what makees it truly special. This is an inspiring article. Wish Canoe all the best, and hope they become available in even more countries!

  2. Nana Karina November 9, 2010 at 10:30 am #

    I think the Canoe team have dome a fantastic Job. they’re the first magazine to have come out, and they have paved the way for magazines such as Arise, Dust, etc. Well done to them. I like this article. Well done AJ

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