Vanessa Adams leaves role as Director of West Africa Trade Hub
This August, Vanessa Adams will be leaving the West Africa Trade Hub in Accra, Ghana, where she has served as Director for the last eight years. A project of USAID, the Trade Hub has been a key partner and an important driving force behind the ACA since its founding.
During her time at the Trade Hub, Vanessa oversaw the expansion of many West African export industries. Her work in business development was instrumental in producing competitive products, including cashew, apparel, shea, home décor, and specialty foods. Although the ACA is now one of the most established organizations born out of the Trade Hub, Vanessa’s unfamiliarity with cashew made her initially doubtful of the industry’s potential.
“When I started, I was told, ‘we’re going to work on cashews, because there are lots of cashews in West Africa,’” she recalled. “That was in 2005, when I had Technoserve do an assessment of West African cashews and comparing what’s known about cashew in East Africa.”
Vanessa used the results of this research as a model for revival of the West African cashew industry - an essential act of leadership that jumpstarted the process of creating a continental industry alliance. She cites the 2007 Annual Conference in Mozambique as a marker of when she became confident in ACA’s future success.
“Alliances are not easy, and it can be difficult to achieve self-sustainabiilty,” Vanessa noted. Once cashew caught Vanessa’s attention, however, failure was not an option. With her guidance, the ACA transformed from a project under the wing of the Trade Hub, to an independent organization with its own full-fledged management team, including the Executive Committee and Advisory Board. “The organization of ACA was really foundational and has been a model for other projects at the Trade Hub like the Global Shea Alliance.”
While shaping the West Africa Trade Hub into the model for international trade and development that it is today, Vanessa developed a detailed understanding and appreciation for the complex processes behind goods consumed around the world. “One thing I’ve learned by working here is how international trade affects everything you eat,” she remarked. This knowledge will no doubt continue to inform her efforts working on food-related projects in the next phase of her career.
“Vanessa has done some outstanding work with amazing achievements for the cashew industry in Africa,” remarked ACA Managing Director Christian Dahm, who worked closely with Vanessa at the Trade Hub ACA’s formative years. “She has been a source of inspiration for so many of us, her energy, her vision and her ability to mobilize and grow support have made the ACA’s success possible.” Cashew business people across Africa will agree that Vanessa’s departure is a huge loss for the industry but that they can also look confidently into the future thanks to what Vanessa has achieved.