Philanthropist Bisila Bokoko on Life in and out of the Boardroom
By Ijinle Africa
Bisila Bokoko is not only fierce and fabulous, she is a lady with a big heart and a passion for the African continent. She is a business woman who wears many hats, but close to her heart is her organization that promotes literacy and knowledge on the continent.
Where are you currently located?
My residence and headquarters are in New York City. I also spend quite a long time traveling between Europe and Africa.
Where are you from originally?
I was born in Valencia, Spain. My country of origin is Equatorial Guinea; both of my parents are from the country.
I studied Law in Spain (J.D equivalent). I have an MBA and a Master’s in International Relations.
Please provide a brief description of the Bisila Bokoko African Literacy Project (BBALP)
BBALP is a non-profit, non-partisan international organization headquartered in New York with subsidiaries in Ghana, France, and Spain. The BBALP’s mission is to promote literacy among the African people building well equipped, modern and sustainable efficient libraries with the aim to share the gift of ideas and education with Africa.
Describe your role as the project’s founder and operator
We initially identify locations where we can build each library and then we design the whole project from the scratch or look for partnerships in the different countries we visit. I make sure that the communities are involved and understand that the library is for them. We help to build the library and provide the funds to get the shelves, painting, among other things. We train the librarians, and after three years, we expect the community to embrace the library as theirs and have it up and running. We also create strong relationships with the schools, the education administration and ministers who have always been very supportive of our work. We find the project managers to supervise the whole process and we have had successful outcomes to date.
The Bisila Bokoko African Literacy Project is well known for its sustainable practices. What originally sparked this idea?
The idea of building libraries came to life after a trip I made in 2010 to the continent when I realized how much potential our African communities have, and how difficult it was to access books and proper education. It is true that education is not accessible to everyone in Africa; my view is that through books, we all receive knowledge to educate ourselves and be inspired. We also know that when we provide a library to the community, it shouldn’t be seen purely as a charitable effort. We see it as something that we build together and we help finance at the early stages. We organize each project with the aim that the community will understand its value, take care of it and make it grow. This is our purpose and philosophy.
Which countries can your operations be found?
We have libraries in Ghana, Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe. We also have corporate partnerships in Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Rwanda, Cameroon and South Africa.
What were you doing before the Bisila Bokoko African Literacy Project?
I always worked as a trade specialist and international business consultant linked to different government agencies in Spain.
What does a typical day running the Bisila Bokoko African Literacy Project look like?
I devote my time running BBALP and BBES (Bisila Bokoko Embassy Services International). Thirty percent of my time goes to BBALP, since with the resources from my work at BBES I allocate funding to my dream, which is my foundation. Part of the work we do involves networking, research, budget revision, strategic planning, all to ensure that we successfully reach our goal of building one library a year (which we have been able to achieve to date).
When you travel to the continent on assignment, how do you typically dress?
I like to dress comfortably and fashionably, promoting African designers when possible. I love Africa fashion and I like to wear clothes by up and coming African designers since I like to help make them known.
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