Anyone who’s been to Disney World may have heard a saccharine song with the refrain, “It’s a small world, after all.”
In trucking, however, it turns out to be true and genuinely sweet, especially if you’re a young woman who lives in western Ghana and likes a challenge.
Payin Marfo is that young woman, and in addition to being managing director of the trucking company Ladybird Logistics, Ltd., which employs an all-female driving force of 21 “and counting,” she’s also Women In Trucking’s January Member of the Month.
Marfo got into trucking purely by accident. Some might say by divine appointment.
Holding an MBA in international management and certified as a project management professional, Marfo previously worked in the oil and gas industry and the only time she was around trucks was when she went on field visits as a staff member for Shell Oil.
Then in November 2017 she bumped into an old Shell colleague, Douglas McArthur, who introduced her to William Tewiah, CEO of Zen Petroleum Limited.
Tewiah and his friend Yaw Koduah Sarpon had the dream of starting an all-female logistics company in the oil sector and believed Marfo was the one to head up such a company.
They were right — Marfo was up for a challenge and hungry for a change.
“To be successful you need God and people around to help,” she said, and help was closer than she imagined.
After advertising for female truck drivers and only getting one taker, Marfo’s mother got in touch with a male bus driver she went to church with who got Marfo in touch with some female bus drivers who were ready to make the switch driving a truck.
“The idea of driving trucks appealed to most of them and they were willing to make the Ladybird dream a reality,” Marfo said, adding that although she knew “next to nothing about trucks or the logistics industry,” she has “a passion for empowering women. This opportunity appealed to me purely because the idea was radical and challenging.”
She’s quick to add that it also took the help of numerous individuals and organizations including the Ghana Armed Forces Mechanical Transport Academy, who helped with training, truck maker Scania, which helped on a number of fronts including advertising for female truck drivers, the West Africa Training Academy, and members of the Zen Petroleum team.
Numerous women who drove for Metro Mass, a Ghana bus company, proved to be interested in hauling petroleum, but they had a lot of questions going forward.
“This is when I realized the need for me personally to engage and convince the ladies,” said Marfo, who met personally with prospective drivers in March 2018 along with Tewiah.
She also searched online for information on female truck drivers and best practices for logistics carriers, and saw information about Women In Trucking.
She emailed WIT President and CEO Ellen Voie and said Ladybird has been a WIT member since April 2018. She also went to WIT’s Accelerate conference last year in Dallas. “She heard about us on the internet and she attended our conference in November; she is amazing,” Voie said.
Ladybird Logistics operates in the city of Takoradi, in western Ghana and Marfo said they also have office space in Accra, Ghana’s capitol.
CNN got wind of Ladybird because the news organization heard the carrier had drastically cut down on the amount of fuel theft in Ghana, which had been running a half million dollars in losses a year.
They interviewed Marfo, who said the women drivers had been instilled with “professionalism, integrity and teamwork” and received training from Ghana’s Army.
Ghana, Marfo told The Trucker, is the 13th largest oil producer in Africa and the 47th largest oil producer in the world. The Jubilee oil field, which was discovered in 2007, came on line in 2010. Ghana now produces 59,000 barrels a day from Jubilee field, which has about 3 billion barrels of reserves, she said.
Although driving a truck is a new experience for Ladybird’s team, “they feel good to be part of the team of female drivers charting a new path for others,” Marfo said, adding that Ladybird pays its drivers well and a little over the industry standard.
Currently, she said the women are only hauling oil in western Ghana but “our growth plans include other regions.”
“Always remember you are making history, she says to her drivers. “You have a responsibility not to disappoint all who believed in you as well as the future generation of female truck drivers looking up to you to change the status quo,” she told WIT, adding that “The future just started, and by God’s grace we shall shape it nicely for future generations of females who love trucks, logistics, driving, challenges and the joy of delivering good quality products to clients on time and with a smile.”
She told The Trucker that rather being daunted by the prospect of starting a company of all-female truck drivers, “I approached this as I will any other project: I start knowing that with God all things are possible, and I follow through with hard work, determination and passion.”