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 globe-trotting artists, entrepreneurs, chefs, CEOs and designers, who share their most memorable travel experiences with our readers.

Ronke Lawal is a serial business owner who embodies the African entrepreneurial spirit. Since launching her first business 10 years ago, she has not looked back. Ronke Lawal is the Founder of RSL Management services, a London-based Marketing, PR and brand development firm. In 2006 she became a partner at the Simone Williams fashion label. In addition to running two businesses, she was appointed Chief Executive of the Islington Chamber of Commerce in 2010 where she was in post for 3 years. In this interview, Ronke Lawal shares her passion for African tourism with our readers.

Ronke shoot 1-3
Ronke Lawal embodies the entrepreneurial spirit, the flesh of which is her deep love and intense passion for Africa.

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

I was born in Hackney, East London of Nigerian parentage. I graduated with honours from Lancaster University and the University of Richmond Virginia (USA) with a degree in International Business (Economics), and started my own business in 2004. In 2011 I was honoured to receive a Precious Award for Inspirational Leadership. In January 2010, I became the Chief Executive of the Islington Chamber of Commerce where I remained until the end of 2012 and was a non-executive director of The Hoxton Apprentice in 2011 for 2 years. I joined the board of Trustees of Voluntary Action Islington in 2012 where I’m also a Director of The Voluntary Action Academy, an online learning platform. I am currently on The Employers Panel for the National Employment Savings Trust and a Mentor for The Cherie Blair Foundation and for The Elevation Networks Start Ups Initiative. Apart from my active and involved business interests, my varied passions outside the business world include food (through an increasingly popular food blog, travel, music, literature and most importantly living a life that I genuinely love.


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

Nigeria and how I love it!

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

Long term traveller; I am not a fan of the concept of backpacking. I enjoy my creature comforts. I also have clients abroad.

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

I work whilst travelling and use my own personal savings. When I make up my mind to travel/visit a country I start drawing up my budget and financial outline. As I am self-employed and usually work from home I am able to continue earning money whilst I travel which is great.

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

Ronke loves the heat of Lagos than the cold of Britain even though she was born in the latter. Perhaps that’s because there’s no place like home.

The first trip that I can remember (I had been as a baby and toddler) was probably when I was around six (6) years old, when my family and I went to Lagos. It was wonderful, we spent 6 weeks or so, that was usually our average holiday span. We would basically go to Nigeria for my school summer holidays every 3-4 years for 6 weeks. I enjoyed it and can recall feeling at home, although very much aware of how different Nigeria is to England. The heat was the main difference, despite being born in Britain I can NEVER get used to the cold temperatures. I love heat and I recall just basking in the “Lagosian” heat, I recall the smells and the food which I could not get enough of.

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

Cape Town, South Africa. It is a stunning and beautiful region but quite honestly at times I felt like I was in a European country. It was different from how I imagined it to be but, then again, I went just after the World Cup had taken place in South Africa so perhaps that had a major impact on the area. It was so much different from my experience of other African cities.

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

I can honestly say that I have never had truly terrible experiences. A few times I’ve had to “grease the palms” of airport officials i.e. give them a bit of money/tip for work they’re already doing. I’ve had a mobile phone stolen, but that could happen anywhere. I’ve probably had worst experiences as a black tourist in Europe to be honest… which is a shame because I love to travel around the world.

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

There are so many! Where does one start?

I was in Accra, Ghana for at the end of 2012 which also happened to be when the election results were announced. A friend took me for a drive around the district that I was staying and I have never seen so many mini-street parties in one place. When it was announced that John Mahama had won, a man who must have been drinking since dawn started dancing like he was on stage, think Fela Kuti meets Michael Jackson… His dance moves were unbelievable all because he was happy with the result or just happy.

Whilst in Agadir, Morocco my sister and I went on a day excursion to Marrakesh with a group of other tourists, it was all going well until the tour guide wanted to provide us with an in-depth insight into the spice history of Morocco. Initially we were all keen until we realised that we were being dumped in his brother/cousin’s food store for an hour in an attempt to make us spend money. An entire hour looking at spices…it was annoying then but funny now.

Finally in Cape Town, a homeless man started following me and my friend around asking for money. We gave him some change and kept going until about an hour later he magically appeared in a totally different part of town and proclaimed “Oui! Oui! It’s ME again!”… I don’t think I have ever laughed so hard especially when my friend, who happens to be African-American, reacted!

Cape Town
African travel excursions are more than “charity drives” and “safari trips”, Ronke attests.

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

It is a real pity that many people still have this view of Africa. I still see so many travel excursions advertised as “charity drives” or “safari trips.” There are issues that need to be dealt with when it comes to infrastructure and customer service in some countries on the continent but these can be managed through strong leadership. The Tourism system in countries like Gambia, South Africa, Kenya, Morocco to name but a few should be an example for other nations. Africa is a rich and diverse continent, with so many different terrains and landscapes, there is so much beauty. I hope that tourism bosses from various countries are given the platform they need in order to encourage people to visit African countries for more than just the animals and charity.

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

I have a wish list and it is to visit every single country in Africa before I die.

Eating! I just love love love food. I might have to eat my way around Africa one day.

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

Reviewing all my messages via email, managing my social media platforms, meeting with clients, assessing press coverage, checking strategic outputs/goals for each client, liaising with press teams/journalists and staying focused. Time is what we make it, I do the best I can with the time I have.

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?

Mozambique and I would fly. I love airplanes so flying is always going to be my first choice.

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

Be daring and bold, try new things and make friends wherever you find yourself. Home can be wherever you end up; you just need to be willing to make a place home, if only for a short while. For government officials, be aware of those who seek to tarnish your regions reputation through poor customer services, poor time-management and corruption. It can turn people off enjoying a nation.

What has travel taught you?

Travel has taught me that the world is filled with so much beauty. It has taught me to be brave and to seek more than I can see.It has taught me to be understanding and compassionate.

Quick fire questions:

GhanaFavourite Airline Company? Singapore Airline (random I know but I just love it!)

Favourite African city/country? I haven’t been to enough to know yet! Let me complete my bucket list and come back to you!

Favourite beach? Lekki beach – Lagos, Nigeria. There are some beautiful ones in Accra too.

Favourite food? Beans and Plantain with Suya.

Favourite language/dialect? I know I should say Yoruba (for obvious reasons) but I really love the sound of Portuguese, particularly Afro-Portuguese dialects!


Let’s stay in touch:


Twitter handle: @ronkelawal

Interview conducted by Vénicia Guinot in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Elsewhere on Ventures

Triangle arrow