Thoughts from Our Founder: The Story of the Golden Baobab

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My name is Deborah Ahenkorah, co-founder and president of the Golden Baobab, and I would like to officially, and warmly, welcome you to our blog! The Golden Baobab is a not-for-profit social enterprise dedicated to ensuring that young people across Africa have access to a consistent supply of quality children’s stories that reflect their own experiences and inspire their imaginations.

As a child, I loved to read. On weekend afternoons I could be found buried with a book in a library built by a Canadian woman, Kathy Knowles, in Accra. When I went to University in the US, I founded a club to collect book donations and help stock libraries similar to the one in which I learned to read. Late one night, as I was boxing the donations, I found one book with a picture of a little black girl on the cover. It dawned on me that of the over 8,000 books I had boxed and shipped, this was the first I had seen with a protagonist that resembled the children these books were going to. It was in that moment that I decided that I wanted to take my work a step further. I wanted children across the vast African continent to be have books that reflected their realities and inspired their imaginations. I developed a Prize awarded for excellence in children’s writing. I hoped the Prize would impact the children’s literature industry in Africa, acting as an incentive for writers to focus their talent on young people. Little did I know that the Prize was just the beginning. 

In 2011, Golden Baobab helped me to achieve the honor of being named one of today’s boldest social change visionaries by Echoing Green. This honor dared me to think harder and dream bigger. Through the invaluable support of Echoing Green, and our other funders such as Reach for Change, the Global Fund for Children and the African Library Project, Golden Baobab has experienced a year of rapid expansion. What was once me in an Internet café in Ghana is now a strong-willed team, both in our office in Accra and around the world, dedicated to seeing our mission through to fruition.

In the past year, Golden Baobab has built a stellar team working out of our office in Accra. Submissions to the Prize nearly tripled. We have brought on board a staff member whose sole purpose is to see the winning and shortlisted manuscripts through to publication. This year, our goal is to get as many books as possible published in top-quality fashion and into the hands of children throughout Africa. I want to think creatively about how the children’s literature landscape differs in Africa from other regions and target methods for distribution that truly reflect the culture and values of the industry around them.

Monkey Bread is the name of the fruit that grows from the Baobab tree. I found the concept extremely appropriate to represent our blog, where we share the fruits of our labor and knowledge here at the Golden Baobab. We hope to engage you, our readers, at the heart of the discussion on children’s literature in Africa. Posts will be published regularly to address some of the most pressing issues facing Africa’s children’s book industry. We look forward to your readership and active participation as we engage in the critical conversation surrounding the state, and future, of children’s literature in Africa. Please don’t hesitate to reach out, whether as a commentator, a volunteer, or a supporter. There are so many ways to get involved!