by Ismail Akwei, at 12:51 pm, December 28, 2017, Business

Face2Face Africa’s new CEO shares vision, plans to take the pan-African narrative mainstream

The premier pan-African media company Face2Face Africa (owned by Babu Global), has expanded its presence in Africa with the establishment of a new headquarters based in Ghana, West Africa.

Managed by the 28-year-old co-founder and newly appointed CEO Sandra Appiah, the new office – opened in December 2017 – hosts a team of writers and content creators who are working alongside the staff of its New York office to bring the African narrative to global audiences.

Born in Ghana, Sandra Appiah moved to the U.S. with her family at the age of 8. Daunted by experiences growing up African in New York, she joined forces with partner Isaac O. Babu-Boateng, and together they established Face2face Africa, which for the past 6 years has been at the forefront of re-branding and promoting Africa to the world.

In addition to its growing online presence, Face2face Africa is distinguished for its world-class events that inform, celebrate, and connect the pan-African community. The company hosts the IAAPA Networking Mixer, the longest running networking event series for pan-African professionals in New York City.

However, the company’s staple event is the annual Pan-African Weekend, a three-day fest in New York City featuring forums, networking events, and a closing gala- the FACE List Awards–  that honors icons and trailblazers within the pan-African community. Personalities such as Dr. Mo Ibrahim, Alek Wek, Rev. Al Sharpton, Serge Ibaka, Mimi Alemayehou, Rosa Whitaker, Boris Kodjoe, Marcus Samuelsson, Wyclef Jean, and more have all been honored at the FACE List Awards gala.

I sat down with Sandra Appiah to understand Face2Face Africa’s journey and her vision as the new CEO of the company. Here is how the conversation went:

Editor: So here we are. Congratulations on the new Africa office. What inspired this significant move and why now?

Thank you. This Africa expansion has definitely been a long-time coming. As we expanded our footprint in the U.S. over the years, we always felt incomplete without a physical presence in Africa. For us, this was a necessary stepping stone to bringing our vision of a truly authentic pan-African media company to fruition. We really want to raise the bar in African media, particularly on the digital side,  and help take the pan-African narrative mainstream.

Editor: When you say you want to take the pan-African narrative mainstream, what do you mean?

Digital media is one of the most revolutionary industries to emerge in the last decade, and when you look at the size of the world’s black population, we should have a much more stronger voice than we currently have. That’s because our voices and agendas are not unified. Although we are all Black people, there are barriers and institutions established for the sole purposes of keeping us divided, even amongst ourselves. But I see a unique opportunity to bridge the gap within black communities through digital media. That’s why at Face2Face Africa we always emphasize on “pan-African” because we truly believe that the unification of black people is the first step to solving a lot of the issues that are plaguing our communities today. Once we become unified in voice and purpose, we will be positioned to impact and influence world affairs in a way that will make our communities better. So I am excited to see Face2Face Africa growing and continuing to lead the way in creating a strong presence for the pan-African community through new media.

Editor: Give us a little background on Face2Face Africa’s Journey, highlighting some of the milestones and achievements you are most proud of.

We’ve come a long way indeed. We officially launched in 2011, and since then have been providing premium content to audiences all over the world. We are very proud of how diverse our audience is, and one of the things that I personally love seeing is when our content connects people who would have otherwise not met. Recently someone from Curacao reached out to us because of a story they saw on our platform that positively impacted them. Things like that serve as validation that we are doing something right and it makes me very proud.  Critically significant as our content is our events. A lot of people say there is no event like a Face2Face Africa event [laughs], and that’s true because we pour our hearts into every production. For us, our work is a reflection of how we want people to see Africa. We see it as PR for the continent, which is much needed, so we always put our best foot forward. And sure enough, that is gaining recognition in the U.S. as we are probably the first African company to attract partnership from multinational brands for our events. Businesses are now beginning to see Africa in a different light, and I am proud of the small role we are playing in that.

Editor: What is your vision for the “new” Face2Face Africa?

It’s simple; to continue to be the premier pan-African voice feeding the hearts and minds of our audiences and providing more opportunity for engagement and connections through events and partnerships. I want Face2Face Africa to remain on the cutting-edge of technology in achieving our mission and leveraging the immense potential that exists within the pan-African media space.

Editor: I know one of the things you are very passionate about is women issues. Is it safe to say that the “new” Face2Face Africa will start having a much more feminine touch?

Absolutely! And I think people can already tell with some of the content we’ve been doing lately. I wanted to start delving a lot more into women issues last year because I began to realize just how marginalized we are, so we launched the Pan-African Women Forum earlier this year and it was a huge success. You should definitely be seeing more events geared towards women, and more women-focused initiatives coming from us in the near future.

Editor: The feedback has been very positive concerning the new look of the website. Tell us a little bit about that.

Yes, we wanted to shy away from the old format which was more text-based, and move towards a direction that was more visual-based. Images are so powerful and can impact a person even before they read a story. I am really glad that the response has been positive. Face2Face Africa is also a technology company so it is important that we remain on the cutting edge of technology at all times, while at the same time, finding unique ways to set ourselves apart, and I believe we’ve accomplished both with the website.

Editor: Face2face Africa is distinguished for its world-class events that promote and celebrate Africa. What can we expect from your events division moving forward?

You are definitely going to be seeing a lot more from our events division, both nationally in the U.S., and internationally. We’ve realized that nothing fosters creativity and action more than getting a bunch of talented people in a room, and we honestly love the important connections, conversations, and the impact we’ve been able to make through our events. So definitely expect more from us in this area.

Editor: A lot of people may not know that Face2Face Africa has a parent company called Babu Global, which is really an interesting extension of  Face2face Africa’s work. So tell us a little bit about Babu Global and its core mission.

Yes, so we launched Babu Global earlier this year, which is our parent company, but we also offer marketing, branding and business consulting to companies who want to leverage the power of the pan-African market. We are totally underestimated, but that’s because of the lack of information and data on this market. Africans, for example, are the most educated immigrant group in the U.S., however, we receive little to no notice from the mainstream media or marketers. That’s a huge mistake. The pan-African community truly embodies the reality of the American dream of educational attainment and upward economic mobility in a way that no other group does. So Babu is coming in as experts on this market, with nearly a decade of experience and a deep understanding of the needs and preferences of this unique market to help brands develop and implement the right pan-African strategy.

Check out highlights from the 2017 Ghana Legacy Honors, produced by Babu Global:

Editor: You were featured in Forbes Magazine in 2o13 as two of Africa’s Most Promising Young Entrepreneurs, and I read somewhere that you felt that was a big responsibility more than anything else. I must say that it’s great to see you living up to that responsibility and making us proud. But I’m curious to know, what else can we expect from you two?

I still feel like we’ve barely scratched the surface when considering the opportunities and the impact that is still yet to be made. As Fred Swaniker mentioned recently, Africa is a fertile ground for young entrepreneurs so I am personally looking forward to exploring more opportunities on the continent and just making a bigger impact overall. I feel a huge burden and responsibility to help improve the lives of young people and women in Africa. I’m not sure where that will lead me to, but it is something I am passionately exploring.

Editor: At only 28, you are a very young CEO. How do you feel about that? Does that put pressure on you at all?

Not at all. Age is only a number. I always say I feel like I’m 28 going on 38. [laughs] But to me that’s a huge opportunity. I started this whole entrepreneurship journey very young, and I have learned so much over the past few years. So its time to put that experience into action and break glass ceilings for other African girls. And I have to say that I am really blessed to have the support of so many incredible women that I look up to. So I say: Bring it on! It’s the BlackGirlMagic thing!

Sandra (L) poses with 3 of her mentors at the FACE List Awards Gala (L-R): Adenah Bayoh, CEO of Adenah Bayoh and Co., Rosa Whitaker, CEO of The Whitaker Group and first lady of Action Chapel Int., and Mimi Alemayehou, Managing Director at Black Rhino

Editor: Sandra, I can’t let you go without asking you to share some words of encouragement with other entrepreneurs out there, particularly young women. What can you leave us with?

To young women out there, I mean it when I say this world is yours. The only thing I wish I had more of each day is TIME! Make the best use of your time, and don’t get caught up in all the irrelevant things that add no value to your life. Be intentional about the time you have here on earth and make it your mission to make every second count.

Editor: Fantastic! It’s been a great pleasure catching up with you Sandra. 

Thank you Ismail. Keep up the great work!

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