This Female Founder is Changing Africa’s Story
Moky Makura is taking sacred cows head-on and plans to completely rewrite the continent’s narrative.
A successful entrepreneur in her own right, Makura has been an actress, a journalist, a television presenter, a producer, an author and a publisher. Now, through Africa No Filter, she wants to use those skills to shift stereotypical and harmful narratives within and about Africa.
Throughout her career, she has believed in the value of integrity and of doing what you promise to do while also being honest and direct about what you can achieve. “I’m very careful about what I say because then I have to make it happen and that’s a lot of pressure,” she says.
A different lens
Her mission now is to change the way the world sees Africa as well as how Africa sees itself. Instead of portraying the continent as broken, dependent on rich countries and lacking the agency to make the change, her goal is to share both the good and the bad.
“I feel like we have become a single story and I want to show the world that there’s a lot of good that’s coming out of Africa,” she says. Many stories about the continent are centred on corruption, poverty and poor leadership. But she wants to share the experiences of the people behind the stories along with those other issues.
“The impact we want to have is to create an ecosystem where people are naturally telling balanced stories about Africa, their country or their community. That’s the kind of legacy that Africa No Filter is trying to leave,” explains Makura.
But a mission so wide-ranging and ambitious doesn’t come without its challenges, and she was happy to share hers. Firstly, the timing was, to put it mildly, problematic.
Africa No Filter was established during Covid, which made it difficult to have an office space and hire people from one area. Indeed, there are still team members she hasn’t met face-to-face due to the pandemic restrictions.
But, every cloud has a silver lining, and the pandemic provided the freedom to recruit people from all over Africa. Of course, as with any startup, funding is key and, luckily, that journey has proceeded better than may have been expected.
For context, it is well-known that female-led African startups get very little funding, as my colleague Abraham Augustine wrote. Indeed, Makura is part of a Women in Marketing Africa panel of female founders that will be tackling this funding issue and other challenges faced by women in business. The virtual event is on Tuesday next week, and registration is free-of-charge.
But Makura admits that her organisation was fortunate in this regard, although, like all entrepreneurs, she still felt the pressure to prove that the investors had made the right decision. And this kept motivating her.
She makes an interesting observation about funding and explains getting donor funding is easier than getting investor funding. “That’s because more people have the perception that Africa needs help so they’re prepared to give you money. And that’s why I know a lot of organisations and businesses are trying to put the social impact into their businesses.”
Another issue that keeps inserting itself into the conversation is gender. She speaks about how it impacted how people viewed and treated her, which allowed her to gain a deeper understanding of how culture intertwines with gender.
During one meeting, where she was the only female on the board, the chair asked her to take notes.
He claimed that he asked her because she was a writer and had written a book. But the underlying issue was that he felt comfortable enough to ask the only female in the room to take notes.
However, gender roles and biases are complex and must be dealt with carefully.
“The patriarchal system affects you when dealing with an African man, even to this day. If they are older than me, I’m a little bit submissive. You don’t want to be too aggressive, but that’s the way I have been raised. So it’s very difficult to break away from your culture.
“When you’re in the workplace, it’s not so straightforward. But I think increasingly, people are realising, men included, that the work is an equal space and when you step in, it’s about your ability to do the job,” she states.
This also speaks to addressing equity in your work environment to slowly progress to a place where it can be resolved. And there is also a distinct financial imperative to embracing diversity.
From one female to another
Makura has learnt several lessons along the way and is eager to share them, particularly with other female entrepreneurs. She encourages women to step forward more, expand their reach, brand and message, and be more persistent about it.
But it doesn’t stop there. She is also trying to give back – particularly to younger women entering the business world. She does so through a podcast she produces and presents called Women on Top – the Africa Edition.
In it, she regularly shares stories of women who have made it to the top and provides insights, data, her favourite things, and advice on how to navigate the world of work.
Additionally, she advises entrepreneurs to know how to sell, discover what their customers need and mould their products accordingly. But it’s not only about knowing what your customers want but also understanding your self-worth, especially when it comes to money.
“We need to be serious about money, negotiate a salary and ask for a fee. If you go somewhere to speak on a panel, ask for a fee. Let people know that your time is valuable.
“Just because you’re passionate about something, it doesn’t mean that you need to do it for free. If I speak at something, I research, I prepare, I make notes. It takes time and that is what you are charging for,” she explains.
Shifting Africa’s narrative is not an easy task, but it is not impossible either. It all starts with sharing our stories objectively, and Africa No Filter couldn’t have summarised it better in its mission: “Words matter. Stories matter. Narrative matters.”
Source: CHARISSA CASSELS | Incafrica.com