The long awaited TEDxAccra 2016, finally took place at the National Theatre this past Saturday 23rd April 2016. As part of the activities to mark the event, a week long program was lined up which started with the African Innovations Demonstration talk at Lancaster University on Tuesday 19th April and followed by the ‘AHA’spora vs. Diaspora discussions at the British Council. Masterclass with Africa’s investigative Journalist ‘Anas Aremeyaw Anas, came off on Wednesday 20th April at the Kempinski Hotel Gold Coast City- Accra. The “Unplugged” Arts & Culture Showcase was held at the Netherlands Embassy and on Friday WOMENOMICS, a gathering of Ghanaian Women in Business and Leadership took place at the Netherlands Residence near the Cantonment Post Office.
To climax it all, on Saturday, April 23, over 1500 of Africa’s most curious and creative, interesting and interested, positive and progressive thinkers and doers gathered at the Accra National Theatre to be inspired by visionaries sharing their unique stories and valuable perspectives on the stage at TEDxAccra2016, which was themed ‘Re-Think’.
The event kick started with a welcome address by Mr. Charles Buckman (Chairman of TEDxAccra) and Hon. Dzifa Gomashie (Minister of Tourism, Creative Arts and Culture). Naa Akokarley Mettle and Mr. Pratt were at the helm of Emceeing. The event commenced with a cultural dance and a Poetic delivery by Chief Moomen.
The first session was Re-think in Business and Education.
Emmanuel Awumee- SESIL Consult Limited
Mr. Emmanuel Awumee was the first speaker to give his talk. He is a car care consultant and the CEO of SESIL Consult Limited, a car care company that provides car detailing services in Accra. His message was hinged on “An Alternative solution To Graduate Unemployment”.
He started his message emphasizing on the need for people to Re-think their priorities in life in order to unlock their potential based on five cardinal principles, i.e excellence, quality service, good customer service, good packaging of products and brands, branding and good marketing of businesses. Mr. Awumee revealed that when these principles are applied it could transform the informal sector by adding value to them and would attract university graduates. He pointed out that, there is some sort of stigmatization associated with graduates who venture into the informal sector and if the standard of work is improved it would create the attraction for graduates to be able to work in this sector. He made reference to developing countries and their high premium and value on the informal sector thus creating a positive perception of their work.
Mr. Awumee went further and made reference to the 2010 population and housing census statistics which showed that only 6.3% of the total workforce in Ghana is employed by the public sector, a whopping 93.1% is absorbed by the private sector. Out of the 93.1%, 7% form the formal sector within the private sector and 86.1% form the informal sector within the private sector. He revealed that, from these statistics, there is a vast job opportunity within the informal sector but the only impediment is that, it is low standard and not marketable.
He talked about how some waste management companies and beverage producing companies have been able to lift the standard in the informal sector thereby making it attractive to university graduates.
He started his “Car Wash” business by going to homes and offices of individuals and companies to clean their cars with diligence and consistency. Within the phase of eight years, he was able to open five washing bays in Accra with a high standard of operation.
It was refreshing and realistic, to have him share his story of failure with the audience. Mr. Emmanuel Awumee talked about closing down his business as a result of his inability to keep up with the high cost of rent and his inability to pay his workers due to bankruptcy. He decided to go back to school to upgrade his knowledge and skills. After graduating he was able to revive his company within five years and gained international recognition by Total Petroleum Ghana Limited. They later went into a partnership where his company was required to upgrade the washing bays within the filling stations owned by Total Petroleum Ghana Limited.
He revealed that, as a result of the high standard he placed on his car washing company, he’s had the privilege of detailing the official vehicle of a former ambassador to the United States of America. He’s also had the privilege of detailing the Ghana@50 presidential vehicle and the vehicles of former Presidents of Ghana John Agyekum Kufuor and the Late Prof John Evans Atta Mills.
In his concluding remarks, Mr. Emmanuel Awumee stressed on the need for graduates to apply the knowledge they’ve acquired from school. He stated, “If the System does not work for you, you need to work for yourself. The system will forever live for the next generation to come.”
Winnifred Selby- The Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative
Winnifred Selby was the next speaker to grace the stage. She is the youngest thus far to participate in TedxAccra. Winnifred is a 21-year-old entrepreneur and a change-maker who started her
entrepreneurial journey at the age of 15. She is the co-founder and CEO of the Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative, and Afrocentric Bamboo Limited. She talked about the challenge she faced when she was about to register her company at the Registrar General’s department. When she got to the Registrar general’s department, she was directed to a gentleman to help her go through the necessary procedures. She was expecting the gentleman to be fascinated by her bold initiative and encourage her but to her disappointment, the gentleman questioned whether she was in her right frame of mind to embark on such an initiative. She was unperturbed by the gentleman’s remarks and was even more determined because she had a vision.
At that moment, Winnifred realized that in life “No one would understand your journey because it isn’t theirs to understand”. Winnifred shared her challenges with the audience. She recounted how at the age of six there was no money to pay her school fees. There were times when she had to sell things during vacations in order to get money to cater for herself. People mocked her and never believed she could make it. She slept in shops without electricity and toilet facilities. One thing that kept her going was her burning desire to make an impact and change the world.
Selby referred to the youth as the hope of the nation. She went further to say that, one doesn’t need huge sums of money to make an impact. One can make an impact through the little that one has. She recounted how she had nothing when she started her initiative, but years on, she can proudly say that she is the first to manufacture a bamboo bike for the United Nations Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki Moon to ride on. Selby pointed out that, no matter the challenges that one face in life, nothing is impossible. She stressed the need for young people to arise and make an impact.
Winnifred touched on the need for people to Re-think and stop relying on the government to solve every problem. She pointed out that, complaining wouldn’t solve our problems but rather, the talents and wonderful ideas God has imbibed in us are the solutions to our problems.
Rev. Alex Gyasi- The Kingdom Lifestyle Mission (KLM)
Rev Alex Gyasi took his turn to also give a talk. He began by asking participants how they’d create aspiration in deprived young people and engender empathy with the poor among the privileged in order to bridge the gap between them. He told participants about how he was able to bridge that gap with a life story.
He was born and bred in a deprived part of Accra called Accra New Town where his mother was a trader and the father a driver. At the age of 14, he lost his mother and three sisters in a very short space of time which plunged his family into a state of devastation. He had to go live with relatives in different parts of the country. His hope of furthering his education was doused. He was able to further his education by kind courtesy of a scholarship awarded to him by the Standard Chartered bank where his father was a driver. He later moved to London where he lived in an estate called “Broadwater Farm”. It was an estate plagued with a lot of challenges like juvenile delinquency, hard drugs, and violence, making it difficult for children to gain an education.
Knowing the importance of education, he started a supplementary school to help the children in the estate. He did this by teaching the children Mathematics and Science every Saturday and during holidays for 15 years. He revealed that, some of the children he taught have grown up to obtain Bachelor’s Degrees and Master’s Degrees. His own daughter, who was a part, graduated with a law degree three years ago.
He decided to bring this initiative to Africa which he named “The Kingdom Lifestyle Mission” (KLM). Their aim is to encourage university students and professionals to visit deprived communities and teach young children by volunteering their time and helping in their academics. KLM has been of help to children in Sudan, Ethiopia, and Bulgaria and currently have about 500 children they cater for.
Rev Alex Gyasi encouraged university students and professionals to volunteer and sacrifice their time to help children in deprived communities so that they can have a chance at a brighter future and become global change agents.
Madam Edem Adzaho– Global Graduate Academy
Madam Edem Adzaho also took her turn to inspire. She is an International Training Consultant, Graduate Coach and Author of two books. She founded the Global Graduate Academy and still manages the award winning Human Capacity Development Company, SPEC Consult Limited where she has coached and trained over 5,000 young Ghanaians and others on world-class employability skills, and accessing scholarship opportunities. She is also an Intercultural Fluency Master Trainer, an External Consultant for the British Council and on the board for the Tullow Group Scholarship scheme since 2012. She is currently listed as the 17th Most Influential Young Ghanaian and Change Maker Under 40.
Madam Adzaho began her talk by asking four key questions:
- What career path are you on?
- Did you choose it yourself?
- Are you happy with it?
- What did you want to be when you grow up?
She recounted her childhood and how she was very playful and would climb her neighbor’s mango tree. She always got stuck up in the tree at the mercy of her neighbor’s dog. Little did she know, that these experiences were teaching her leadership skills. I am sure you are all wondering how. She also recounted how she read a lot and secretly wanted to be a writer. However, she always told people she wanted to be a doctor whenever she was asked about her future aspirations. As a child, she was obsessed with maps, globes, and geography. She had no idea that, her obsession would lead her to set up a global graduate academy. An organization where she feels committed to inspiring the next generation of business minds, leaders, and entrepreneurs for the African continent. She revealed that passion and opportunities would always cause one to Re-think his or her career path. Also, that there were consequences, instances where you will lose friends and relatives but ironically in the midst of losing friends and relatives, one ends up building connections with like-minded people who will nurture and challenge you to a place of greatness.
Madam Adzaho encouraged participants to follow their own path because someone’s destiny is connected to it. She also encouraged them to kill the spirit of fear and replace it with faith.
Lucy Quist– Managing Director of Airtel Ghana
Lucy Quist is the Managing Director of Airtel Ghana. She is a passionate believer in excellence, integrity, and generosity. She successfully transitioned from a core engineering background to become one of Africa’s leading telecommunication business leaders. She is also the Co-founder of Executive Women Network, a non-profit organization of women in senior management and executive positions in private organizations and women entrepreneurs of well-established businesses in Ghana. Their aim is to inspire, empower, and support women executives to be successful and influential both at the local and international level.
She commenced her talk by recounting a trip she embarked on to Dubai where she came across a waitress and engaged her in a conversation. During their conversation, the waitress asked her where she lived and she told her she lived in Ghana. The waitress didn’t really know where Ghana was so Lucy had to describe to her where Ghana was in Africa. And the lady exclaimed, “Ooh Africa” she’d loved to go on a safari in Africa one day. Madam Quist remarked that “Africa is the only continent that is still talked of in the image of its resources and wildlife. A continent where its people are not viewed as their most treasured and prized assets. She added that this perception had to change. She made reference to a statement made by Henry Ford which is “If you ask people what they wanted, they’d have said; faster horses”. Madam Quist added that Henry Ford believed that it was possible for everyone in his country to own a vehicle and not just a wealthy few, as it was at the time, and he was willing to live through and deliver on that dream.
Lucy stressed on the need for Africa to have a vision that defines it beyond its natural resources. She also made reference to how Ghana attained independence before Singapore but Singapore has been able to transform itself into a global powerhouse. She attributed this feat to the power of vision. She then went on to share an inspirational life story about two families.
- One family lived in the Ashanti Region and was led by a Matriarch called Afia who was a farmer. She decided to send her younger children to school because she needed the older ones on the farm. This matriarch had a son who was very bright intellectually and she believed her son could be anything he wanted to. She made sure her son attained the highest level of education and he later grew up to become an engineer.
- The other family who was led by a wealthy patriarch lived in the Greater Accra Region. He too decided that his grandchildren should go to school. At a point in time, his granddaughter got tired of the routine of always walking to school and told her grandfather she wanted to quit school. The grandfather said to her that if she doesn’t go to school who would buy tobacco for his pipe? He convinced the granddaughter to go back to school and she went on to become an administrator at the meteorological services department.
The young engineer and young administrator met at the meteorological service department, later, got married, and gave birth to a number of children. One of them being Madam Lucy Quist. She revealed that none of her grandparents ever attained formal education, they were just people who believed in the potential of members of their family and not in the wealth they can amass through their family. She added that her grandparent’s belief in the potential of her parents made it possible for them to give birth to her and, therefore, believe in her potential as well, which is a great inspiration to her.
Madam Lucy Quist concluded by saying “We can Rethink Africa and transform it when everybody realizes their potential. Let’s be the generation that makes it happen”.
Frederick Amissah- Country Director of Herbalife-Africa
He is a Ghanaian Corporate Business Executive with over thirteen years extensive corporate/business experience in sales, marketing, commercial and general management across English Africa, Europe and the United States of America. Having worked with global multinational brands, he has won several nominations and awards including the CEO magazine’s Titans Building Nation’s awards sweeping both the country and West African Regional Awards for Business and Professional Services for 2014 and two awards at the West African Regional magazine Achievers Awards in Lagos-Nigeria with Herbalife, which includes Marketing Person of the year. He is the country director of Herbalife-Africa.
Mr. Amissah narrated a story about how he wanted to read social science and become a lawyer but his parents thought it wise for him to become a doctor. He agreed to his parents wish and pursued science in school. However, he always found himself reading history and literature books while chemistry lessons were in session. He excelled in his final examinations and gained admission to the university but unfortunately, his parents dream of him becoming a doctor didn’t come to fruition.
He was offered Agriculture to pursue an undergraduate program. After graduation, as is the usual norm, everybody was in a hurry to do their national service in plush offices in Accra but he decided to do his national service in a typical remote district called Adensi West. At a tender age of twenty during national service, he was given a portfolio of about 500,000 Ghana Cedis to manage. He worked hard and got a recommendation for his excellence. He later got contacted by a fortune 500 company and they offered him an enrollment into a management training program. After going through all the assessment processes, he was selected and posted to Afram plains to manage a plantation. He went to the Afram plains, a town deprived of electricity and efficient water supply. His hard work yielded good results as he was able to accrue for the company over 5million dollars in export.
Another multinational company contacted him to help revive their sales which had plummeted in Wa, Bolgatanga, and Tamale. Within six months he was able to change the fortunes of the company in the Northern Region. Mr. Amissah then proceeded to make a profound statement in relation to his story, “It is always good and better to get the spotlight on you when you are not in a place where everyone wants to be”. He advised delegates present at the National Theatre to learn to make sacrifices and go places nobody wants to go.
Mr. Amissah attributed his success to the passion and the will to learn. Some years later, he became the leader of a global multinational company at the age of 35. He pointed out that in order to be successful one must have a vision, good values, creativity, consistency, and energy. He also stressed the importance of getting the tenet of delivering excellence in our daily lives.
Mr. Frederick Amissah concluded his session with a Quote from Aristotle “EXCELLENCE IS NEVER AN ACCIDENT. IT IS ALWAYS THE RESULT OF HIGH INTENTION, SINCERE EFFORT, AND INTELLIGENT EXECUTION. IT REPRESENTS THE WISE CHOICE OF MANY ALTERNATIVES. CHOICE AND NOT CHANCE DETERMINES YOUR DESTINY”
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Author: Desmond ‘Pappy’, threesixtyGh