#Baobab2020 Day 3


Mastercard Foundation Scholars, Sandra Kalua and Mahmoud Kanso, as well as Mastercard Foundation Scholar Alumni, Joseph Yaw Akyin, are reporting from this year’s Baobab Summit, highlights from each day. You can also follow along on our Facebook and Instagram channels where they will be sharing their thoughts and experiences at #Baobab2020.

Plenary Session – Unleashing Africa’s People: Leveraging Markets, Innovation and Grit

Speaker: Valerie Labi is a Ghana-based social innovator who is committed to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Moderator: Georgie Ndirangu is a Kenya-multimedia broadcast journalist with BBC Africa.

Overview: Valerie talks about her return to Ghana, how she’s leveraged her business background to launch three social enterprises and the role we each have to play in building the Africa that our generation desires.

“I believe that the Africa our generation desires, it is real, and it exists, and it’s within our reach.”

On returning to Ghana in 2008:

“Someone asked my what Africa was like and I didn’t know… it was about finding my identify, knowing more about where I’m from.”

On ‘grit’:

“I had to find my purpose. I had to dig my heels in and really work to understand and create opportunities for myself.”

On the three things that helped her access her ‘grit’:

  1. Refusing to be labelled. Often society has a way of trying to restrict you from pursuing your dreams… As a woman in business, I’ve often heard the phrase too bossy.
  2. Take time to define yourself and do what you love.
  3. Being prepared to work… it takes hard work and that effort is really the heart of resilience.

On doing what you love and planning:

“I always thought I would do what I am good at. But now I do what I love! The essence of working towards that is resilience…  I did not have a plan, but I would advise that you have a plan! I had a conviction of what I was coming to do. I would advise you do it young. They always used to say you are in London you know your trajectory, but I have never regretted following my heart and my passion.”

“…it is important to recognize what is important to you as individual. I like entrepreneurship and managing time, that is why I hired a manager and then I had the time to support other businesses.”

On founding Sama Sama:

“2.6 billion people don’t have access to toilets… Ghana ranked 2nd in Africa for open defecation.”

“I spent 1 year planning and researching why people don’t have toilets in their homes in Ghana. “Why don’t you have a toilet?” It is amazing to take time to listen to people. This is when I started Sama Sama venture.”

“Designing something people valued helped me get attracted to my journey. If you are building any project, I would say stop and build something with value.

“It took us 3 months to sell the first toilet. That day was amazing. Waiting and patience is part of resilience journey… Now 50,000 people using our toilets in 9 regions of Ghana. It’s a sanitation revolution.”

On the importance on networks:

“Across the continent there are so many of us who are innovating… if you find you’re always the smartest person in the room, be meaningful about building your network, find people who inspire you. Look people within your network for people who inspire you, and they can be your mentors.”

“You’ll go further faster, if you find the right partner.”

“Networking is about planning relationships. It’s also about, to lead others you must also lead yourself… you have make sure that you’re bringing something meaningful to that partnership.”

On Africa and its future:

“There is an opportunity to see the challenges as windows for innovation in Africa.”

“I surround myself with dreamers, doers, believers.”

“You have to train yourself to be able to say, I’m scared to try, I might fail. But what is the worse that could happen.”

“No one can value you more than you can value yourself. And as a continent that wants to drive its own future, we need to have a vision… so I would encourage people, where possible, start early.”

Breakout Session: Climate Change and Building Resilient Communities

Climate change poses a great challenge to the sustainable development of our respective countries, often undermining socio-economic progress that has been made. This panel discussion will explore the landscape, trends and innovative solutions being used to build resilient companies, communities and environments.


  • Alloysius Attah is the CEO and Co-Founder of Farmerline.
  • Karina Poveda Coto is an agronomist and Project Manager at EARTH Futures in Costa Rica.
  • Sanda Ojiambo is the new Executive Director of the UN Global Compact, the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative.


  • Gogontlejang Phaladi is a Pan-Africanist, social activist, feminist, and philanthropist based in Botswana.

“There’s some fantastic young African climate activists…. There’s a great pool of youth activism who are doing really great stuff… and they will ultimately change how we look at the challenge of climate.” – Sanda Ojiambo

“We have to test new approaches, more participatory approaches. We are trying to rescue the local knowledge. We have to rescue the traditional knowledge and include it other professions. Climate change is a complex problem, it will require a complex solution.” – Karena Poveda Coto

“Sometimes when we have this conversation we say either or – tradition is better than technology, technology is better than tradition… when what we need to do is look at how to integrate this know with technology.” – Gogontlejang Phaladi

“As academics we have to help make farming profitable. Creating more information about the resources they have. We have to help farmers understand the soil they have and the water and how they connect to markets.  As young people, as leaders, this is responsible. With more information farmers can make better decisions.” – Karena Poveda Coto

“The biggest challenge is ensuring that building back forward is better and inclusive. We need to rebuild together and make sure that’s it’s inclusive. Forge better for the goodness of humanity. Building back forward.”  – Sanda Ojiambo

“One of the things we have to hold very dear… is your knowledge of how your community works. What works and what doesn’t, and your ability to adjust quickly.” – Alloysius Attah

“My advice is if you want to change ‘s mind, you have to reach their hearts. We must be more empathetic in the developing of solutions and stay optimistic with a contstructive attitude.” – Karena Poveda Coto

“I think now more than ever as a Scholar you have a unique voice. Don’t let the challenges of the world – systemic racism, discrimination – don’t let them silence you. Now more than ever you have unique voice and use your skills to make an impact everywhere.” – Alloysius Attah

Day 3 Round Up from Sandra Kalua