The Majesty Within

Sarah Mills
Class of 2007 BA

‘It is 8:45 pm and I’m still here. My only companions are the sounds of the air conditioner and my heartbeat. It has been a hectic day and I am totally drained. Somehow, I seem to want more of “this” life because I still look forward to coming to work everyday…or maybe it’s because of the sense of fulfillment that comes with the knowledge that the very little I do contributes to the greatness of Africa. I’m thinking about Africa in a more passionate way now.'

The West Africa Trade Hub (WATH) is a USAID funded trade development project that seeks to boost exports and help countries take advantage of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). It is based in Accra and supports efforts to make trade systems more efficient in the twenty-one (21) countries it operates. WATH specializes in technical assistance and training to businesses, connecting people to information resources and co-coordinating multilateral projects to increase trade. It specializes in five (5) growth industries- fish and seafood, shea butter, handicrafts, processed cashews and manufactured apparel.

It also sponsors select businesses to participate in US trade shows and provides preparatory training and detailed technical assistance. WATH’s clients by mid-2006 had secured more than $3.7 million in sales to the United States of America alone.

Critics argue that Africa has the right to accept the “gifts” of the West with caution but WATH is the trigger of a dream and Africans now have the knowledge to feel confident to export to the United States.

As a communications and outreach assistant at WATH, I researched and wrote stories on business trends and profiles for the monthly e-newsletter which goes out in three (3) languages- French, English and Portuguese. I publicized the activities of WATH to a global audience through the print and web-based media and I interviewed entrepreneurs for WATH success stories. Improving the look and content of the project’s website, editing and organization of the photo database and updating mailing lists in an electronic database were part of my job description.

My ability to communicate ideas in speech and writing was greatly tested and as my boss had promised at my interview, I find myself a better writer now. The WATH environment opened me up to different perspectives as I worked with people from diverse backgrounds.

It was a fast-paced and multi-cultural world where I came to learn to tolerate the views and values of others.

I would walk into my office at 7:00am each morning and my first task would be to check for leads, export-ready quizzes and bounce backs from our electronic mailing database. I would then check my on-the-go-schedule which is a database I created to record upcoming events and travel schedules of consultants and advisors. The database I created gave me an idea of how many publicity packets and in what language to make ready.

Communications also involved attending workshops, trainings and seminars WATH organized so we could keep our audience in tune with WATH’s activities. I had to provide write-ups on the programs I attended for the purposes of maintenance and evaluation, materials for our e-newsletter and the website as well.

The work environment of WATH was a fun one- I interacted with men and women who are passionate about what they do and want to see great things happen. Everyday was a leaning experience. I had to learn to use other applications such as Photoshop, publisher and Joomla which helped with work on the website. I was also given an orientation in photography- identification of great pictures and angles from which one could take them to get the needed effect and tell a story as well.

The WATH experience was one I greatly resonated with because it is about the passion for Africa. Every act I performed was done in great spirit and with the knowledge that the men and women in my environment do not settle for mediocrity. Each moment at WATH was inspiring and fulfilling.

An event that struck me the most was the preparation for the 2006 AGOA workshop. I remember the three consecutive nights Leah Quin, my boss, Julia White, our editor and my humble self worked till 3:00 am getting materials (workbooks of over 21 presentations) in the three different languages ready for the AGOA workshop. What was interesting about this experience was the fact that we were all very exhausted but no one complained. Prior to this, Leah and I together with the logistics manager had been planning the event. We had had to get the venue ready, book hotels for experts and consultants coming in from Europe and America and organize one of West Africa’s biggest fashion shows ever and in the midst of the entire craze, no one complained.

One reason I believe I fit perfectly in the WATH team was my work ethic. I went to WATH with a focus. I wanted to work hard because my school, my reputation and my future was at stake. I worked as if my life depended on each passing second. I remember having to go to work on Sundays a number of times and for me, it was all connected to the greater goal- to the majesty within and to the woman I was gradually becoming.