“Take one step toward your goal, it does not matter how big the step” _ Bisila Bokoko
There are very few women who can straddle several different types of industries at the same time and make it look effortless. Bisila Bokoko, a businesswoman, award-winning entrepreneur, philanthropist and global brand ambassador, is one of those women. She is rated as one of the most inspirational women, alongside Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Lupita Nyongo. Bokoko is one of Africa’s humanitarians who are breaking new grounds – not just for her, but for millions of people worldwide.
As a Spanish-American with African roots in Equatorial Guinea, what does Africa mean to you?
Africa for me is my heart; it is a part of me. I was born in Spain and grew up in the USA but Africa is my identity, my roots and it is where I really find myself. For many years I was not connected to the continent mainly because I was not born there, but through books I have always been connected to Africa.
What do you see being the role of the African diaspora?
The African diaspora is taking a leading role in Africa by contributing knowledge. If Africans from the continent and Africans from the diaspora work together closely, leaving behind our prejudice and differences, we could create a better and stronger Africa. We have to look at each other not as a threat but as a way of cooperation. This is the kind of Africa I really want to see. Africans in the diaspora should also refrain from coming to the African continent to make money and not leave a legacy for the people in the continent. What are all these companies coming to ‘invest’ in Africa, leaving behind? It is time all Africans in the continent reflect on this question.
BBALP (Bisila Bokoko African Literacy Project) is a non-profit organization committed to opening libraries throughout Africa with current presence in Ghana, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Uganda. What ignited the spark to start BBALP?
The key to my success in life is through books. When I turned 35 I realised I am an African who has never been to Africa and I needed to connect with my roots. I had always had this vision of the United States of Africa, but I had never set foot on the continent, so as my birthday gift I took a trip to Ghana. The Chief of Kokofu, a little village in Ghana, granted me with the title of ‘Queen Development Mother’ and gave me a piece of land. On this land, I built a library and decided to give it to the people of the village as my contribution for their development and that is when BBALP was born. So far, we have built four libraries and we are busy building the 5th one in Senegal. We also partnered with libraries in Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon feeding books to the children.
What feeds your passion for promoting literacy across Africa?
What feeds my passion is to see Africa rising, I believe in a promising future for us. I want to be a part of this new trend of Afro-optimism. I want to be a part of the change. It is my passion that we could be as strong as USA if not bigger, we have all the potential.
As an award-winning businesswoman, what books are on your reading list?
Reading played a pivotal role in shaping who I am and building my self-confidence. When you read a self-development book, it’s as though the author becomes your best friend and available to you anytime.
What one book do you recommend to inspire young African women?
To inspire young African women I would recommend Oprah Winfrey’s Biography. I feel that she is a great role model. Her life is exactly the kind of life that everybody could connect to. Most black women have gone through poverty, abuse, lack of self-confidence and conflicts at one point in time in their lives.
The 10 Books on Bisila Bokoko’s Reading List:
- Bhagavad Gita (a 200 verse Hindu scripture)
- The Secret written by Rhonda Byrne
- Real Magic written by Wayne Dyer
- One Hundred years of Solitude written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
- Pride And Prejudice written by Jane Austen
- Little Women written by Louisa May Alcott
- 7 Habits of Highly Effective People written by Stephen Covey
- The Alchemist written by Paulo Coelho
- The Diary of a Young Girl written by Anne Frank
- The Dynamic laws of Prosperity written by Catherine Ponder
What other projects are you involved in?
There are 3 new projects that I am involved in at the moment: finally I am writing a book which will inspire everyone in Africa who wants to build a dream because that is exactly what I did.
Bisila Bokoko Foods is a project that aims to feed the young kids in Africa. There is no nutritional value in the foods that are provided in schools especially in villages. We have partnered with a company in Brazil to be able to feed these kids with food rich in vitamins. We have already done a trial in Uganda, Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria and it was a great success.
Bring more art to Africa – We want to host a beautiful art exhibition and host a workshop for creatives across Africa, particularly women who can express their feelings through art.
What is your message to people wanting to make a difference, but are not sure where to start?
Well, ‘Just do it’, there is no better moment than now. People always have excuses, such as lack of money and experience and to be honest these people are their own worst enemies. When I started my projects I had nothing to start with, but I just did it. Ask for help if you need to.
Final thoughts you would like to share with our readers?
Overcome your fears and have faith in yourself because you must believe that you can achieve your dream. Surround yourself with people who inspire you.