International Women’s Day - Portrait of Mrs. Joyce Owusu, CEO of custom house agency Akwaaba Assist Ltd.
The logistics sector has been and is still dominated by men. While there has been much advancement in getting women involved in the industry – 20% of logistics professionals are women – progress is still to be made.
That is why at Bifasor we want to do our part to encourage and promote the place of women in all of the critical and fascinating jobs that freight logistics has to offer! Women’s Day is an opportunity to highlight women who have been successful in this sector.
Tell us about your career path - how did you become an entrepreneur in the logisitcs sector?
I worked with the World Bank in Accra and Washington from 1986 to 1999 when my husband retired from the World Bank and I resigned to come home in 1999. We had served in Washington, Brazil and Angola. In 2004, a freight forwarder who knew me personally approached me to open an office in Accra to handle their exports from England because they were not happy with their partner in Ghana.
I just thought “that’s a challenge I can deal with”. I enquired, read a little about freight forwarding and immediately signed up for a Customs House Agents course. Surprisingly, I enjoyed it immensely and in 2005, Akwaaba Assist Ltd. was established and up and running.
Of course, there were challenges since I had to employ workers with the knowledge in the business to learn the ropes. With a roll-up-sleeve, all hands-on deck attitude I was at every point on the field for two years till I could handle imports and exports personally.
Akwaaba Assist was based in Tema and in 2010 we opened the airport branch to handle airfreight. The airport is licensed to handle courier services.
Our combined offices have worked for manufacturing companies, construction companies, health sector, project cargo handling and consolidation with Chinese businesses on the Africa and Far East trade lanes.
We are affiliated with Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders (GIFF) and the International Federation of Freight Forwarders (FIATA).
How do you feel working in a male dominated sector? Do you meet particular challenges being a woman in this sector?
Being a woman to me has its advantage. Women are known to be efficient and trustworthy and that’s what Akwaaba Assist Ltd is known for by its corporate partners. Women tend to communicate better, have empathy and also emotional intelligence -the key pillars of conscious capitalism.
Another advantage to being a woman is because we work better in a team than our male counterparts. With experiences gathered working with different nationals and cultures I have been able to nurture a talent work force that are cohesive and ensure that each department augments the other, making it a seemless flow of the supply chain.
Although Logistics and Transport from our side of the world is complicated at times, it needs lots of planning and coordination to effectively meet your customers demand.
You can either get pre alerts from clients early or sometimes late and you are expected to do your magic to get these equipment or items customs cleared and transported to final destination on time. You cannot rule out the delays of the softwares that were used to process the documentations, the unavailability of customs officials and even delays from the shipping lines. But these obstacles are overcome when you have an effective and efficient communication system, where you educate your customers to send documentations far advance to ensure that they are free of errors and also to start the import process on time. Process improvement mechanisms and efficient communication, coupled with the right staff with the right attitude has accounted for the success of Akwaaba Assist.
Akwaaba Assist is registered with the Petroleum Commission of Ghana and ready to partner any international organization as a JV partner in the Oil and Gas industry.