For the past few years Nana Boa Amponsem has been a key point of information for Africans in the uk and the diaspora, he is the founder of Maarifa Circle. Since launching Maarifa Circle in 2014, he’s gone on to be a brand that is recognised in the black community. Most recently Nana became a part of the tech world by creating the Maarifa Hub app, which connects customers with black owned businesses seamlessly. We sat down with the entrepreneur to learn about his journey so far.
What is the meaning of Maarifa Circle?
Maarifa means knowledge in Swahili, and ‘circle’ represents everyone sharing knowledge so that we can reach our goals at the same time.
Why did you start Maarifa Circle?
A few years ago a work colleague made a post on Facebook about ‘pie and mash’, and I replied in jest, “that’s the most interesting thing I’ve read all year” her husband replied to my comment “just as interesting as you speaking about slavery all year.” His response took me by surprise, as I thought we were friends. He deleted the comment but went on to say that ‘slavery just like the holocaust was a bad part of our history, we should forget about the past and move on.’ I didn’t respond to his comment, nor speak to him again.
Everything reached boiling point for me when I took my niece to a swimming pool. She recently had her hair braided, so she had to wear a shower cap. I noticed that she was gazing in awe, at another little girl of mixed heritage with flowing hair, who was not wearing a cap. My niece kept taking off her cap, displaying dissatisfaction. I could relate to what she felt, as I had self love issues growing up. I understand what that feels like. I wanted to ensure that the younger generation would see positive images of themselves. I wanted them to learn to love their blackness from day one.
What’s keeps you going?
A desire to see a United Africa that deals with the rest of the world from a position of power, restored to a level of greatness where its descendants in the diaspora can walk with their heads high, command respect and not beg for it. The work I do at the moment consists of reminding people of how we got in this predicament, the mistakes we made, as well as the solutions that were made by our ancestors and heroes.
How successful are you in getting your message across?
Presently, Maarifa Circle has a combined following of nearly 180,000 followers via Instagram, Facebook & Twitter. Our platforms are always busy with users who engage in solution focused discussions.
For us, getting the message out is only the starting point. We want to give people the power of knowledge so that they can take action and deal with racism in a positive way. This would define “success” in the long run for me.
How’s your app Maarifa Hub being used?
We have several features on our app such as: a UK Black Business directory, Maarifa Speaks which features articles from our contributing writers, a self study section which is the most popular feature and a feed to African news to keep the connection to the motherland.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
I see myself travelling between the UK, Africa and many other locations where Africans reside, working on grassroots initiatives that can bring about real change.
I believe Maarifa Circle will be in a position to challenge the status quo, directly tackling many of the societal issues that plague our communities especially with our youth. It will not be easy but it is necessary work.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Find a purpose that’s bigger than money, so that when you hit a roadblock, you will be able to plough through any issues that come your way.