Africa is home to numerous beauties and wonders centuries old and encapsulating a divine heritage and history in its landscape. Journeying through the continents cardinal points immerses you in its majestic wonder. In the “Ventures Travel Interviews,” Vénicia Guinot follows the trail of international globetrotting artists, entrepreneurs, chefs, CEOs and designers, who share their most memorable travel experiences with our readers.

In this interview, Fashion Designer Akosua Afriyie-Kumi shares her view on African tourism. Her brand A A K S produces raffia bags handmade by a women’s cooperative in Bolgatanga, northern Ghana. The brand produces luxurious handmade accessories using ethical processes and age-old craft traditions, are not often seen beyond the borders of Ghana. However Ghanaian Fashion designer Akosua Afriyie-Kumi wants the world to see how luxury and quality can grow from traditional designs and is using A A K S to change perceptions of Africa through fashion.

Welcome and thank you for granting us this interview. Please introduce yourself to our readers…

I am Akosua Afriyie-Kumi a fashion accessories designer from Ghana. Having graduated with a BA Honours Fashion Degree from Kingston University in London, I embarked on a journey to Ghana to start my own business before I turned 30!

My brand is A A K S, I design raffia hand-woven bags in exuberant colours and styles which are handcrafted by a women’s cooperative team in the northern Region of Ghana. Each collection silhouette is unique and tells a different story through detail, colour and shape.

A A K S is a brand that is truly African in origin, nature and tradition. My main aim for my brand is to capture true African luxury as well as preserve and promote African weaving and its heritage by revising the skills and craftsmanship. I have been working on A A K S for a year now and we launched 4 months ago, we are relatively new on the market and doing great! When I am not working on my brand collections, I enjoy reading, photography, travel, yoga and playing golf!

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Which country do you come from/call home? All in one, what is your heritage?

Ghana is my home. I was born and raised here till I was 19.

Are you a backpacker/long term traveller/business traveller/live and work abroad?

I am a long term traveller, I love to take my time and explore every city and that I visit to be able to live it to the fullest.

How do you fund your travel (savings/work whilst travelling/other)? Please take us through this experience…

I save up in the year by budgeting an amount to explore a country as I feel it’s important to see what’s outside your comfort zone. I normally visit places that I have read good reviews of, great food, sunshine is a must and a decent amount if shopping is a must! I always try and buy something to remind me of the place to bring back home with.

What is the first trip you remember taking in Africa and what are your favourite memories?

My first trip in Africa was to Morocco, Marrakech; I loved the weather as it had an autumnal feel to it even though quite warm. The city was pulsating with so much energy and the kaleidoscope of colours be it reds, blues or oranges was simply breathtaking. It also served as an inspirational trip as I loved the architecture and patterns which I could correlate with and tied in with my design aesthetic. To see the time and effort Moroccans put into detailed decorations of patterns, colour and paintings to beautify their homes and public spaces was an eye opener!


Have you been anywhere which turned out to be totally different to how you imagined? If so, how?

Cape Town, it was more beautiful than I expected. This was the only city I visited without reading much and it lived up to expectation and even more!

Have you had any bad experiences whilst travelling the African continent? 

No, not yet. It has been a surprisingly pleasant experience so far. I always take my time during my trips around Africa and plan in advance by reading guide books and online community forums before i embark on my journey. This is not to say that’s why I haven’t had any bad experiences could be just down to luck. Also I am a very chilled out traveller so I tend to take things in my stride and enjoy whatever shows up on the trip.

Do you have any funny/interesting travel stories to share with our readers?

My sister and I were acting bravado on a tour around the West Coast of America (US) in 2008 as we had been warned that there could be bears on the loose in some areas around our hotel. We went out looking for a bear for fun thinking there was no chance we would encounter this episode.

5 minutes later we had run more than a mile after being chased by a bear. It was the most scariest experience yet the funniest! We came out alive, we out run a bear!


The media portrays the African continent as a no-g-zone. How do you feel about this label and how will you rate the African tourism system based on your personal experiences?

There is so much beauty in Africa and it’s definitely a one sided story what you see on your television screens especially in the west. Africa is a wonderful expanse of land with an unparalleled landscape, cities, villages, people, culture, customs, and animals to discover. It’s not always the easiest place to travel to but as long as you have that thirst and desire to explore a lot of the logistical handicaps can be overcome with some careful planning. African Tourism in certain parts of the continent it’s still in its infancy and a lot can be done in terms of hotel quality and services, accessibility, and also making travel more affordable.  One needs to be travel savvy regardless of where in the world they decide to go so it’s rather unfortunate that Africa is still seen as the so called Dark Continent.

Where is your favourite place in the world and what makes it so interesting for other visitors to discover?

Rome, the scenery, architecture and the food on every street corner is delightful, it was also very inspiring for me to research ideas for work.


Do you have a bucket list? If so what is on it?

-To start my fashion business before I am 30. This happened already!

-To sky dive

-To volunteer (I volunteered at the London 2012 Paralympics Games)

-To fly on top of the Grand Canyon in a helicopter (It happened already in 2008)

-To see all the wonders of the world before I die.

-To go up in a hot air balloon possibly over the Namib Desert.

-To explore the Australian outback on a horse!

If you were not travelling, what would you be doing instead?

I would be working on my new seasonal collections and also making a start on productions of bags for my clients and stockists around the world.

Take us through your daily activities and let us know how you still find time to juggle your professional career and travelling?

My day starts with a good healthy breakfast (oat porridge) around 8am then whilst checking email and responding to them I have a huge bowl of fruit salad!  I then speak to my production team who are 12 hours away to check on progress of items and if we are in schedule to meet deadlines etc. I also then have a chat with my assistant who works with me in my studio about tasks for the day.

Mostly I research new seasonal shapes and ideas through drawing; I take my design sheets with spec measurements, colour ways and finishes to my weavers every 2 months, I fly to the Northern Region of Ghana where I brief weavers about my inspirations and ideas for the season. Since my work is all handmade there are bound to be a lot of mistakes so every day I am rectifying delays and checking quality control problems. My studio which is located in Kumasi is where I do all the finishing touches to the bags which are then finalized and presented to stores and clients around the world.

My work involves a lot of travelling and living out of my suitcase so when I do take a holiday I plan it for a much longer period to allow me to take the much needed rest and gather my creative thoughts and also staying longer on holidays makes me feel and live like a local which is important just in case i want to relocate one day in the future i would have had taste of the country already!

If you could be transported to one day/place in Africa, what would it be and what mode of transport would you prefer to use to get there?

A helicopter ride will be fabulous to head to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe!

Do you have any advice or tips for aspiring travellers and/or Government officials?

To be open minded about places and read a few guide books but do not be a slave to them. Speak to locals when you get there and immerse yourself as much as you can into the city or wherever you find yourself and do trust your instincts.

What has travel taught you?

To explore and take the beauty in my own stride.

Quick fire questions:

Favourite airline company? British Airways and South African Airways; they have the best customer services!

Favourite African city/country? Cape Town, South Africa. It felt like my second home.

Favourite beach? Glen Beach in Cape Town. I had the pleasure of staying in a villa right on the beach during Christmas and it was beautiful the sunsets were spectacular!

Favourite food? Fried Plantain with beans stew from Ghana and a new discovery in South Africa called Brie.

Favourite language/dialect? English spoken like the Queen is an audible delight and “Twi” which is my local dialect from Ghana.

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