They were told that they are the leaders of tomorrow, they believed, but instead of waiting for tomorrow; the proposed time for their manifestation, they took charge of today; stood on its wings, looked into tomorrow and stepped in to take their place.
They are a crop of young Africa Enthusiasts and determined change makers who have compelled the world to stand and take notice.
Winifred Selby is one in the group; a relentless and fiercely ambitious teenager who has taken the world without warning.
At 15, she had a clear vision of her calling, time and space; and with courage and hope she approached the waters, stood firm against the tides and pulled other young people in her wake, to stand and see the sunshine.
Growing up, Winifred knew what options she had; to either fight to liberate her family and indeed her community from the searing shackles of poverty or remain a helpless and unconcerned child.
“When I was six, things were so tight that we sometimes had to sell [items] during [school] vacations, because where are the school fees going to come from?”
Had she decided on the latter option, no one would expect more from her; especially since it would be clear that “she is just a child.” an excuse that would sell anytime.
Instead, Winifred courageously took the rough road, ready to face whatever challenge each day presented. She began selling toffee and a few other items to raise money for her family. As the years went by, she grew, not only in years but also in wisdom. And like light bulbs, business ideas sparked up in her head.
In 2009 and at the age of 15, she founded Ghana Bamboo Bikes, a business that took off immediately. Her aim was to start up a venture to cater for the needs of her family and community, protect the environment and also create job opportunities that would help other young Ghanaians escape poverty.
Ghana Bamboo Bikes is a green initiative that makes quality, sustainable bikes, and is committed to fair labor practices, profit-sharing and environmental consciousness.
When compared to the production process of traditional metal bicycles, bamboo bikes require less electricity and no hazardous chemicals. This reduces the level of carbon emission in the atmosphere.
A leading bamboo bike maker, Winifred co-founded the Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative with her friends from school, Kwame Kyei and Bernice Dapaah.
She’s now on a mission to help other young women like herself go through the same training. Her company also donates bikes to young people who walk long miles to school in other parts of the country.
“There are no jobs here and most of the girls and young boys leave the community to Accra and Kumasi to do menial jobs after school. Some of them don’t even have good education. We want to change that with this initiative,” she tells Justice Baidoo of Graphic online.
The company currently employs 35 girls and earns about $10,000 USD per month from export. Winifred and her team now have to work round the clock to meet the increasing demands.
“Currently, we have a lot of pressure on us because of the demand. If we are able to produce a thousand bicycles a month, there is a ready market for it but we are struggling to do that,” says Bernice Dapaah, now in her mid twenties.
“Most of the orders we are receiving are from the United Kingdom where people use the bikes as a means of transport to tour Holland, where even politicians ride them to work and the US where they’re popular in shops and exhibition stands because people love to look at them,” she stated.
Winifred is a graduate of the Joy Standard College, a 2014 Anzisha Prize Fellow and also a 2014 Set Africa Fellow.