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EYITEMI POPO, H’18

Breaking Stereotypes and Creating Business Opportunities in Africa
In recent years, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and travelers have become increasingly interested in exploring business opportunities in Africa, as well as frequenting many African countries as top tourist destinations. Woman entrepreneur Eyitemi Rachael Popo knew that in order to build harmonious relationships between foreigners and locals, African stories needed to be portrayed in a way that broke down perpetuating stereotypes of Africa and exemplified the complexity of African identity. She launched two ventures to tackle this challenge and amplify the voices of Africans.

“In my family, I have proof of what it means when they say: when you educate a girl, you educate a nation.”

Telling Africa’s Stories

THE CHALLENGE. With a relatively high growth rate since 2000, the African continent has become increasingly appealing for venture capital investors. And yet stereotypes of war, poverty, and social upheaval cause many global investors to view African businesses as high risk investments and interfere with business opportunities in Africa. Meanwhile, tourism in Africa has risen in parallel, with the tourism industry facing similar challenges of societal stereotypes. Much of these negative stereotypes are driven by media, which has a vested interest in creating sensational headlines and stories in order to attract readers and viewers. In order to further increase global investment, secure growth in African countries, and foster a sustainable tourism industry, these stereotypes needed to be debunked.

THE PROCESS. With her educational background from Mount Holyoke College, one of the Seven Sister schools (all-women universities), which boasts graduates like Hillary Clinton and Gloria Steinem, Harambean Eyitemi Rachael Popo knew that she, too, was a woman who dared greatly. She decided to tackle the challenge of African stereotypes on two fronts: the first was the creation of Ayiba Magazine, which would break down perpetuating stereotypes of Africa by telling stories that exemplify the complexity of African identity.

The second was with her venture Girls Trip, which is a travel experience focused on female empowerment in Africa. Ayiba articles inspired readers to visit Africa and approach the magazine for travel advice. This inspired Popo to take the experience offline and start Girls Trip. In 2016, 65 million people traveled to Africa. Globally, 75% of those who take cultural, adventure or nature trips are women. By connecting locals with travellers, Girls Trip created an avenue for dismantling stereotypes and cultural barriers. The combination of the two ventures, Ayiba Magazine and Girls Trip, provided platforms to amplify African voices within two overlapping sectors: business and tourism. Popo rightfully believes that The Knowledge Economy is the future, and that African women — and African women entrepreneurs in particular — cannot get left behind.

THE RESULT. Ayiba Magazine launched with the goal of providing a platform that showcased African changemakers around the world who were disrupting tired narratives through media, technology, and innovation. The magazine was started with a team of two and funds from an Indiegogo campaign. Today, the award-winning magazine has a team of eight spread across three continents, is seen by organizations like the Financial Times, and has an online readership of over 20,000 viewers each month. The success of Ayiba Magazine created a launch pad for Girls Trip, which has already succeeded in building an ecosystem of local and expatriate African women who are open to hosting or being a resource for female travelers exploring their locales. The Girls Trip to Ghana in 2018 reached 22 Ghanaian girls aged 14 – 20 enrolled at the Soronko Academy: West Africa’s first coding and human-centered design school. It was through her work amplifying the African female voice in media that Popo was selected to work with Danone Paris to promote women’s leadership in Africa through their Program EVE initiative.

Soronko Academy: West Africa’s first coding and human-centered design school

LEARN MORE ABOUT AYIBA MAGAZINE & GIRLS TRIP

Ayiba Magazine provides inspiration and access to business opportunities in Africa for young African creatives, techies, and entrepreneurs. The award-winning online magazine serves as a platform to amplify African voices while simultaneously breaking down stereotypes that are a hindrance to African business growth and tourism. Through Ayiba Magazine, Eyitemi Rachael Popo has launched Girls Trip — a female-centric network focused on travel, entrepreneurship, and mentorship.

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Dare to be Great

ABOUT EYITEMI POPO

Amplifying the Voices of Women in Africa

Eyitemi Rachael Popo is the founder of Ayiba Magazine, an award-winning online platform that chronicles Africa’s Renaissance. She graduated with high honors from Mount Holyoke College, and also holds a Master’s in Digital Experience Innovation from the University of Waterloo and is certified in digital publishing from NYU. Popo comes from a lineage of barrier-breaking women; her grandmother graduated with honors from the University of St Andrew’s in Scotland and became the first Nigerian woman to serve as a permanent delegate at UNESCO in Paris. She was also the first woman to reach the highest level at the Nigerian Ministry of Education. She basically built the education system all Nigerians follow today.

With Ayiba Magazine, Popo has followed in her grandmother’s footsteps and worked to amplify the African female voice in media, as well as create business opportunities in Africa for creatives and entrepreneurs. One of the main strengths of the magazine is that their readers are also their contributors. This “by us for us” approach positions Africans to be in control of the narratives that shape their stories, reducing the risk of stereotypes becoming barriers to investment and growth.

“I want to give girls across Africa role models that will allow them to aspire beyond their circumstances and present tangible blueprints for future success — like I had. I also want to make solo travel safe for women looking to experience Africa on their own terms. Girls Trip does both.”

Girls Trip will reimagine volunteer tourism through their mentorship program. If one can only aspire to what one has seen, Girls Trip will mold a new generation of female leaders by giving them living, thriving examples of women at the helm. Popo believes that we have to prepare women for careers that might not yet exist. The Girls Trip mentorship program will focus on teaching girls the skills to thrive in a knowledge-based economy.

I AM A HARAMBEAN

As an entrepreneur, Eyitemi Rachael Popo knows one’s network matters and sees Harambe as one of the most influential networks for young Africans:

“The Alliance is of value to me because it opens doors that were previously closed. It gives me the kind of access that can change the trajectory of my projects. It presents me with a platform of power and privilege: something invaluable to a young Black African woman like myself.
Being a Harambean also reinforces that the passion and belief I have in the African continent and its people is not just a personal one, but one that is shared with a community of like-minded individuals who together will build Africa’s future.”