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In reality, we are in a very high political environment in Ghana… Mr. Eric Seddy Kutortse – Executive Chairman, First Sky Group

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His determination and absolute trust in God, coupled with the abiding principles of integrity, honesty and quality, have made him one of Ghana’s iconic figures in the world of entrepreneurship.

He holds a stainless record on corruption and firmly believes in a philosophy of not robbing the poor to reward them with same. He started his entrepreneurial career with designing and printing of business cards but today his business has transformed into a conglomerate employing over 1800 Ghanaians and counting.

From humble beginnings with construction, the company has moved firmly into hospitality, finance, commodities, bitumen processing and other fields all assembled under the First Sky Group.

His philanthropic gestures, love for humanity and most importantly for God is beyond comprehension. He currently holds an Honorary Professorship degree from one of the world’s most prestigious institutions, Academic Union, Oxford.

In an epic interview with Team Vaultz, Mr. Eric Seddy Kutortse, the Executive Chairman of First Sky Group unravels his journey to the top. Take a seat and enjoy.

Economy/ Industry Focus

TVM: What is your view of Ghana’s economy currently?

ESK: To be able to assess the economy of any country, it’s either back to back or year to year. When I consider the year to year review of Ghana’s economy, I can say the economy is doing very well. This is premised on the macroeconomic indicators of the country. When we consider the various indicators such as inflation, interest rate, GDP etc., we’ll realize that the economy is getting better.

As of 2016, the GDP growth of the economy was 3.6% as compared to 8.5% in 2017 and that made it one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Also, when it comes to inflation, in 2016 it was about 15.4% but today we’re experiencing single-digit inflation of about 9.6% which is good for business. Interest rate in 2016 was almost 26% but today, we are experiencing between 17 to 20%. All these indicators prove that the economy is doing well; the right measures are being put in place.

But then, the most important thing for us is: “how sustainable are these economic indicators having experienced such in 2013 with growth rate of 7.6% and it declining to 5.6% in 2014 and down to 4.8% in 2015 and further to 3.6% in 2016?” How sustainable will this growth be under the new government? You realize that critically the government is not spending on infrastructure. It’s putting the structures in place; it’s discipline in its expenditure with prudent management of the economy.

The question now is: how would this be sustained throughout the four years especially during the election year? For this to be sustained, the government has to undertake massive production and industrialization as a way of injecting into the economy. That is why I’m sure the government has rolled out those commendable programs like ‘Planting for Food and Jobs; One District One Factory; One Village One Dam’.

The ‘One Village One Dam’ will enhance the ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’ and this will also be a facilitator to ‘One District One Factory’. Currently, Ghana imports about US$2.4 billion worth of food annually. So if this ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’ is sustained it will reduce these expenditures and allow government to transfer those resources into other areas such as infrastructure. To drive infrastructure, there must be an investment but the funds are unavailable so we need to drive other productive sectors to raise the capital required for infrastructural development.

People see these policies as political policies but as an entrepreneur I see them as economic policies. Currently, Ghana experiences almost 42% of postharvest losses. If these factories are in place to add value to all these goods for export, we shall be earning foreign exchange.

These policies will create jobs, expand our exports, impact our foreign reserves positively since we’re producing locally, cut down on foreign exchange and the currency will become stable. But for this to succeed, Ghanaians must create the habit and appetite for locally manufactured goods and services. In all these, the critical success factor is: government must begin to conscientize and sensitize Ghanaians to embrace the locally made goods and services.

TVM: As an industry player, what are your thoughts on the current Ghana-Sinohydro infrastructure agreement that the government has signed and how is local content entrenched for its take off?

ESK: Let’s first consider the overview of the infrastructure industry as it stands now in Ghana. As far as the road sector is concerned, Ghana has almost 72,000 km of roads and out of these only 39% is either having the asphalt or the bitumen. 61% as of today are in a very deplorable or poor state and the government needs almost 600 million to 1 billion US$ annually for 10 years to be able to attain 70% of good roads in the country.

Thus, government going to look for US$2 billion for infrastructural development is a welcome news. This will go a long way to improve upon the country’s infrastructure deficit. As far as I know, it’s a barter arrangement for Ghana’s refined bauxite and Sinohydro Group Limited of China will come and construct the roads themselves. We are told, which is not finalized yet, that the local content participation of that project is 30%.

This simply means government is bringing in US$2 billion and 70% of that would be taken by the Chinese company and the rest 30% for local companies. I believe that a lot of critical projects will be covered under this arrangement and that would go a long way to improve the infrastructure of the country.

TVM: Are local contractors covered at the frontier side or on the outsourcing side?

ESK: As far as that project is concerned, it has not been finalized yet. But I’m sure we would be covered on the frontier side.

TVM: You are one of the few successful entrepreneurs in the civil engineering and construction industry in Ghana. Is the industry making progress as expected?

ESK: Yes and no. As it stands, there are a lot of bottlenecks in the industry. The major one is the lack of funds. This eventually leads to lack of capacity on behalf of contractors. Currently, there are lots of backlogs of projects that are not paid for.

This is not an issue of this new government, it has been the issue since Nkrumah’s time. For instance, a project can be completed and after 2 years payment would still be pending. As soon as the payment is made you go back and repeat the same process. Funding is one of the few challenges the industry is engrossed with.

TVM: There are those who argue that the big-ticket transactions are driven by foreign companies and for the locals, it’s a big issue. Do we have the capacity issue with the local contractors?

ESK: This is not an issue of capacity. The issue is that most of these projects are driven by concessionary loans. As part of the agreement on this concessionary loans, it comes with the package that the home where the loan is sourced, that country’s contractor undertakes such projects. Hence, it’s rather the issue of the government taking it or not. The government on the other hand also wants the infrastructure so goes for such an agreement and the funds are released with their contractors undertaking the projects.

That leaves local contractors at the mercies of government-funded projects where funds are also not available. Until such a time where donor countries will relax on some of these conditions to allow fair and free participation in the bidding process by the local contractors, we’ll still be having problems like this. Therefore, for local contractors to participate maximally, we need to raise the funds ourselves as a country.

TVM: Looking at the opportunities that abound, does this mean contractors are having a field day?

ESK: Of course you can be right to conclude as such considering the very many works to be done and a lot being in our hands to do. But the problem is after executing the project, payment then becomes a problem. So, we may have a field day of getting the project but are strangulated by payment.

TVM: Many Ghanaians complain about the quality of roads constructed and the high costs associated with them. Are there checks and balances to address these problems?

ESK: Let’s consider the project lifecycle. It starts with the initiation of the project, then to the planning and designing stage, then to the execution, and then to monitoring and evaluation and then closure. Let’s go through the processes to appreciate the operations and understand how the shoddy work comes about and know who to hold responsible.

The government initiates the project then the planning and designing is undertaken by engineers who take inventories to access the type of road that will be suitable for the area by doing traffic counts and considering the axle load. They normally need to be on the site for at least three months to assess the type of vehicles that ply that road. That will determine the type of design that would be done on that particular corridor. In some cases, especially in high traffic areas, one needs to do the crash-rock base.

After the crash-rock base, comes in the asphalt. Such a project when well monitored can last for almost 30 years.  That design would then be given to the contractor and the contractor based on what has been designed only executes according to the specifications and design of the engineer. During the execution process, there is a monitoring and evaluation by the engineers who are supposed to be with the contractor throughout the execution process.

After that, it goes to closure, where the initiator, the one who designed, the one who monitored and the one who executed the project come together to inspect the work (road). When the initiator is satisfied, he takes over and closes the contract. If after one year the road goes bad who do you think should be held responsible?

TVM: Have you ever been blamed?

ESK: Yes, I have. For instance, there was a project funded by the World Bank. It was initiated by the government. The engineers went there to design the road. At the time they were on the road, they saw only bicycles, motorbikes and the only heavy vehicle they saw was an Urvan bus (trotro) and that even plied once every market day. So the project was designed for that particular type of vehicle whose base needed a natural ground of only about 250 in the bitumen surface.

The project was executed and monitored very closely because it was a World Bank project that had a consultant. The project was officially closed. After one week of closure, Adomi Bridge was also closed for renovation. Diamond Cement in Aflao afterwards located a clinker at the Somanya rocks so the new road became the shortest route for the company’s trucks to load the clinker from Somanya to Aflao. But the road was not designed for such vehicles.

Within the shortest time the road experienced wear and tear. The community petitioned the president and minister and a committee was set up with the World Bank involved. They went in to assess and the blame was placed on the designing and not execution. Sometimes, in my case for instance, the design was proper but nobody foresaw such an incident. Government at that point should have stopped those vehicles from plying that road because it wasn’t designed for such vehicles.

Sometimes too execution can be a problem; I’m not holding brief for contractors. But design is a major problem in most road failures in this country. Monitoring too can be a problem. For instance, under the Department of Feeder Roads which is having about 8 engineers and handling about 30 projects, supervision will be stretched. When monitoring and evaluation are not done properly that’s when unscrupulous contractors take advantage and do shoddy jobs.

TVM: From all you have said, it can be summarized that there’s a funding challenge, design challenge, construction challenge and also a monitoring and evaluation challenge. But all these are fixable. What is the industry as a whole doing to avoid or mitigate these challenges?

ESK: This is what contractors are pushing with the support of the World Bank, of which I’m one of the advocates, that the road after the initiation stage the one executing, the contractor, must be involved in the designing to execution, monitoring and evaluation and if there’s any failure he’ll be held responsible for it.

BUSINESS FOCUS

TVM: You started off your entrepreneurial journey with the First Sky Construction Ltd. Was there any business before that? How did you come about the idea for the First Sky Construction Ltd.?

ESK: Just after completing the university, I convinced myself not to work for anybody; I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I got those ideas from books I had read and they challenged me a lot. I refused to compile my CV in other not to have a second thought of looking for a job. I started business with call card design and printing. This came as a result of attending programs and meeting key personalities including Ministers.

I took their complimentary cards and redesigned them and went back to show them and they preferred mine. So they gave me that as a business. From there, I realized the business was not sustainable and engaged in prayers and searching through the word of God for what to do. One day, I chanced upon James 1: 5 which paraphrases wisdom comes from above, so if you lack it ask God for it. Then I began to ask God for wisdom on what to do.

From there I ventured into medical disposables. I wrote to a lot of companies across the globe and had a company in India which I represented as the local agent for West Africa. The business was okay. At a point I went for a tender and after the tender opening I realized that people were quoting lower prices than my ex-warehouse price in India. They were saying they would supply from India and I was surprised as to how that was possible. Again I realized that wasn’t sustainable as well so I had to do something that was challenging and had fewer competitors.

Sometime in 2001 during the change of Government, I was going through the dailies when I saw a lot of advertisements on road contracts and applied. I was asked if I had a company and I responded no. I was asked again if I had a road certificate and I answered no.  So, they enquired how I was going to go about the project and I answered saying “I just want a project.” They directed me on how to go about all the things and I did.

I bided for the project and fortunately a lot of people did not because the government was new and had not established relationship with contractors. I won and was called to come for my award letter. The biggest challenge was how I was going to start and execute the project. I held the contract for 2 weeks going around. One day I saw one of the equipment I needed in Dzworwulu for rental. I passed by and during all those 2 weeks it was still lying there. I called the contact and requested for a meeting. I informed him about the contract and requested he gave me his equipment to use and afterwards I would pay him but he blatantly refused.

So I picked his number and persisted. On the third day I went to his office and he consented to it. He requested for a bank guarantee and I told him if I had the money I wouldn’t have been troubling him all those while. As a result, he suggested I got a lawyer for us to sign an agreement. Fortunately, I had a lawyer friend so we went and signed the agreement and the equipment was released to me. It was also left with the fueling of the equipment.

I engaged a fuel station and I was turned down. I went to the head office of the fuel company and I was considered but was expected to make payment after one month. Truthfully, after two weeks I completed the project and after two weeks I was paid. With integrity and honesty I went to pay off the equipment and paid off the fuel and gave them the profit I made and requested we continued the relationship on to the second project. After we executed the second project, I had little more to pay as balance and had the rest as my start-up capital. After my projects, there were almost about 20 projects that had not been started by the people who bided for them so I was called upon to execute them one after the other.

I was very judicious in my work and served in all capacities. After three years, I was noted for my aggressiveness, timely and quality delivery of work; they were my hallmark and that impressed the people, the engineers and the politicians. I had to do things differently considering the big players who were dominating the industry and that was my only ticket for sustainability. Subsequently, whenever there was a project, the first person that came to mind was I.

TVM: The First Sky Construction Ltd. that started with just about 5 people has grown to assume a conglomerate status having a construction firm, hospitality firm, commodities firm, financial institutions under its belt with over 1700 employees. How did the businesses all build up?

ESK: The whole idea started with the construction company as mentioned earlier and we’ve expanded. Normally after elections, there is a down slope of business as far as infrastructure is concerned because government does not undertake infrastructural projects immediately. During the down slope, contractors go on recess and during this period, at times, I had a lot of resources at my disposal as a firm and the idea came to mop up the resources to construct the hotel.

Almost all our projects in the construction business depend on government and as such any shock in the system affects everything. We decided to do something that would be slightly independent of government. That was where the idea came for the Volta Serene Hotel. As a contractor, constructing a hotel was not of any difficult issue.

TVM: You just mentioned ‘shock’ and during your 14th anniversary celebration, Rev. Dr. Paul Frimpong Manso disclosed that “… First Sky Group survived the many machinations of the ‘enemy’”. What do you think he meant by the statement?

ESK: Rev. Dr. Paul Frimpong Manso happens to be my spiritual leader. He is the Superintendent of the Assemblies of God where I have my faith and he is my prayer warrior. He might have been speaking from the spiritual point of view because I’m somebody who has devoted all his life to ensuring God’s kingdom is expanded using all available resources to build churches and engage in all forms of humanitarian activities.

He might have said those depending on what he sees when praying. In reality, we are in a very high political environment in Ghana and our democracy is still very fragile and young. So as entrepreneurs we must be very careful and politically neutral. When I was awarded the Youngest Entrepreneur in West Africa in 2015, in my acceptance remarks I made a profound statement that is much related to this discussion. I admonished entrepreneurs and colleague businessmen to try as much as possible to separate their businesses from active politics.

I advised that only their thumbs should decide the political destiny of their respective countries but not their voices on radios or televisions because our democratic environment was fragile. Anything can happen to your business when you combine the two and as a matter of fact, it’s the truth. As a businessman to contest an election, I don’t see it to be right. I strongly believe there should be a fourth arm of government and I propose that should be entrepreneurs and there must be separation of powers among these four arms and this is very important. As far as Africa’s democracy is concerned, entrepreneurs must separate themselves from politics.

The fourth arm of government I propose should be entrepreneurs and not be blended. That is the only way we can see this country growing and individual businesses growing without interruptions. There were instances where people had grown to certain levels and were back tracked for 8 years and had to begin from the scratch again; who loses? It is the country that loses and not that individual. I have not actually experienced that because I stay in business and I do my business.

I don’t meddle in politics. I have never contributed on any political platform. I have never worn any political paraphernalia in my life as a businessman, I use only my thumb to determine the political direction of this country.

TVM: The plush Volta Serene Hotel is a luxurious 4-Star Hotel at the heart of the capital town of Volta Region, Ho. Why did you choose to situate it there and not in the capital city, Accra?

ESK: Well, as a businessman every business endeavor comes in as a solution to a problem. First, I realized that four star hotel was a problem in the Volta Region and also in the regional capital. To develop this country we should not be skewed to one side because it comes with all the social problems such as over centralization. I noticed that a lot of people who visited Ho at the time for programs did not get the type of facility they wanted so had to joggle between Akosombo and Ho for their programs. Consequently, I considered to tap into the available market.

TVM: In the near future should we expect the replication of ‘Volta Serene’ in other regions?

ESK: Of course. As far as Volta Serene is concerned we have the idea of replicating it, first of all, in the Central Region. A land has already been acquired in Kakum where we’re building the same facility, four-star, to also provide for those who would like to come to the Kakum National Park or the Central Region. The facility is for a unique market and those are the people we’re targeting. The idea is therefore to replicate Volta Serene across the country.

TVM: The name Serene seems to be very synonymous to you. What’s your affection for the word serene?

ESK: Serene simply means calm, unperturbed. It can also mean untroubled. These are some of the meanings. In any business endeavor, troubles will come but your name will signify what you stand for. In my case, the name tells me to calm down, not be troubled, not be perturbed, and that it’ll all fade away. That kind of a name reminds and gives the sort of calmness required at any point in time when troubles come.

The name goes into my system and soothes me to make the right decisions at any point in time. That is how I came by the name ‘Serene’ to remind me when all the troubles and problems come, which will surely come.

TVM: Problems may come, accidents will come, fire will come, burglary will come but with Serene Insurance you are covered. Tell us about Serene Insurance?

ESK: As a man who has journeyed far and wide, I identify opportunities everywhere I go. Serene Insurance was borne out of such expeditions. After being to Kenya, South Africa and reading business bulletins, I realized insurance penetration was still low more especially in Ghana with a penetration of about 2%. I realized there are a lot of opportunities that could be exploited in the insurance market that were not taking advantage of.

I asked myself “why can’t I take this up and bring a difference into the industry,” and that’s why our slogan says “Serene Insurance, the new face of insurance.” We are coming in with a new face of insurance to take advantages of all the grey areas that have not been exploited or have been left unattended to in the insurance industry.

TVM: Considering the crisis in the banking industry which is a larger part of the financial sector where you’re venturing. Are you concerned in any way with the happenings?

ESK: Yes, I’m concerned. In life whatever happens to your friend has the tendency of happening to you. With all these things happening in the banking sector, the underlining factor is: Good Corporate Governance. Things must be done in an orderly manner. If you look at the board constituted for Serene Insurance, it tells you that indeed it’s coming in with a difference. The board members are people with proven integrity and are industry experts.

The board constitutes 9 members and I’m not the chair neither is any family member nor a friend on it. About 7 of the 9 board members are all former MDs of insurance companies. The board is chaired by a professor who has almost 54 years in Actuarial Science and retired. He is also a Reverend Pastor. With these caliber of persons, they are in control. Whatever comes to me is at the end of the year when the dividend is shared and that is where my interest in the business must be concerned.

If we understand it this way, I think what is happening right now in the banking sector could have been avoided and that is what I’m bringing on board. When it comes to the management team nobody has been poached, nobody came into the company upon someone’s recommendation. We advertised and had about 4000 applicants. It was short listed to almost 24 and the checks and balances by the HR short listed them to 12 before placing them before a competent interview panel. With all these I’m sure that Serene Insurance is going to be a new face in the insurance industry.

TVM: In your bid to diversify and expand the First Sky Group, you have established a lot of companies. What should Ghanaians be looking forward from you next?

ESK: There is nothing for now. All I have laid on the table I think it’s time to nurture them, look at them very well that they impact the economy positively. For now, I have no intention of any new project apart from these ones.

TVM: Any intentions of the group going global?

ESK: We are already global.

TVM: First Sky Group also plays in the Commodities Market and Bitumen Processing Factory. Where specifically are you playing and why are you there?

ESK: We are actually an LBC company (Licensed Buying Company). We buy the cocoa and then supply it to the government for onward export. This idea came whiles undertaking one of the projects in the Volta Region where I saw throngs of people carrying bags of cocoa on their head to cross the border into Togo to sell.

I intercepted and asked them where they were going with the cocoa and made them understand the illegality of transporting the cocoa across the border and asked how they expected roads and hospitals to be built. To my surprise they told me the cocoa was available and nobody was coming to buy so if I was interested I should pay them and take the cocoa else they would continue to Togo where they had the only available market. I came back to Accra and picked up the matter and went to COCOBOD to meet with the Chief Executive and I told him about the situation.

That year Ghana was unable to achieve its target of 900,000 tons that they had promised the international market. I questioned what he was doing as the Chief Executive to ensure that people were all over the area to buy the cocoa for the country. He was shocked at my utterance. I brought to his attention that I am a Ghanaian and the country needed the resources to develop and that the resources should not be sent outside and he being the Chief Executive must act.

He looked into my face and saw the passion with which I spoke and told me he needed me to do the work for him. I quickly responded that I had no knowledge on it unless I researched and conducted feasibility studies and that it would take three months before I could get back to him. I never accepted the offer straight away.

I went back and did the feasibility study and read extensively about it. At the point when I was convinced, I went back and applied for the license, had it, took it up and registered the company as First Sky Commodities. For the very first year, we bought more than 1200 tons and as we speak we are almost close to 5000 tons within 3 years in the industry.

For the bitumen processing factory which started operations some few months ago has the capacity to produce 2,000,000 litres annually for the Ghanaian and sub regional construction industry.

PERSONALITY PROFILE

TVM: When your name is mentioned, people refer to you as a ‘businessman-cum-philanthropist’. But beyond this, what sort of a person are you?

ESK: I’m a social entrepreneur. As a social entrepreneur, I’m not so much focused on profit making. I’m only concerned about human beings; the welfare of human beings. This stems from my upbringing. I have not been exposed to luxury living. I quite remember a point in time when I was sent off from the dining hall for none payment of school fees. Since then my concern has been on what I can do to improve the life of mankind and to expand the kingdom of God. These are the only focuses I have and work for.

TVM: As a philanthropist, are your early childhood challenges part of the reasons why you do good?

ESK: I didn’t experience so much challenges in my upbringing but the only thing is that it’s biblical. The resources of this world belong to the Almighty God and He says in His word that He gives the power and strength to amass wealth. Without the strength, the power and the blessings of the Lord, there is no way man can make wealth and sustain it for the next generation. Therefore, anytime you make wealth you must understand that that wealth does not belong to you; it belongs to God; for He gives the wisdom and the strength.

The resources belong to God so when they come, I go back to Him and ask what He wants me to do with the resources. I’m on record that the company does not belong to me but to God. So God gives me the idea on what to use the resources for and He directs me on how to expand the business for others to get jobs, to support people who are suffering, to build churches for God’s people, buy instruments for God’s people, worship Him; that’s what I’m concerned about, but not for my personal lifestyle.

As I speak I have only two cars and one house that I live in because it does not make sense to me to have fleet of cars and many houses whiles people around me are suffering. They are in the hospitals dying because they cannot afford to pay their bills. Moreover, I cannot also think that I’m investing for my children because what that means is that I’m telling God that my children are incapable of doing it for themselves and as such I need to do it for them. I don’t see why I should amass wealth in this country.

I sleep on one bed in one house and so who should occupy the second house? My children should also grow and do it for themselves. I tell my children it is by grace that I have made it and that God will help them do it better. The leverage I’m giving to them is the education and that is all. All other resources I have does not belong to them; it belongs to the people, it belongs to God, God’s work, to bring relief to mankind. That is what I stand for.

TVM: What did you study for your undergraduate?

ESK: I studied Philosophy and Political Science combined at the University of Ghana.

TVM: What’s the correlation between what you studied for your undergraduate program and the career path you’re treading?

ESK: One thing about University of Ghana by its old status is to train people to be Genocrats, to acquire general knowledge in everything. KNUST to train people to be technocrats i.e. technology oriented, and UCC trains people to train others. I went to school to be trained as a genocrat; I have been trained to be able to do everything. My mind is generally opened to everything. Therefore, what I need to do is to put bits and pieces of my ideas together to get things done. Based on the training as a genocrat, when undertaking any discipline by way of personal study or by way of improving knowledge it’s very fast. When I engage engineers, they all think I hold an MSc in engineering but it’s all the basis and the ability to learn.

TVM: You averred “we have a stainless record” during your 14th anniversary and annual thanksgiving service. It’s difficult in a terrain like ours to grow in power and influence and not be tagged as corrupt. How have you survived this whole murky business-government relationship and still have your head high?

ESK: It all depends on the word of God. I am a deacon and I preach the word of God to people. So I must be seen doing the right thing before even preaching to the people. Now, the modern way of evangelism is when you talk the talk and walk the walk. Yes, I made that statement that “we have a stainless record” because I have never been involved in any form of corruption or undercutting or shortchanging this country in my 17 years of business willfully.

It is my conviction not to do it because it does not make sense to me to pose as a humanitarian and then shortchange the people and give it back to them. Then, I’m better off keeping and using it for myself. It was a challenge and I threw it to the public. Just after that challenge was thrown, one of the anticorruption agencies invited me and investigated my business for the past 5years. At the end of it I was congratulated. After that, one of the revenue agencies also came in to investigate my businesses for the past 5years and at the end of it all they couldn’t find anything.

At the end of it, that convinced everybody that truly I have a stainless record. I believe any ill-gotten wealth will be ill spent and cannot be passed to the next generation and I give the glory and honor in all this to God.

TVM: You have won for yourself very admirable and prestigious awards both in the local and intentional arenas. Did you expect these achievements when venturing into your entrepreneurial endeavor?

ESK: At a point, I saw them coming because of my conviction about quality and doing the right things at the right times. Some of the awards citations really amazes me. They reveal that the people really investigated almost all my projects and made reference to those projects that they have gone through and have seen that it had stood the test of time, and that was why some of the awards were actually given. It’s a motivation and also saying that whatever thing you are doing people are watching.

That is the one thing that I have picked from these awards. When you are doing the right thing the reward will come, when you are also doing the wrong thing too, its consequences will also follow suit.

TVM: What are your ideals, what do you stand for?

ESK: My ideals are honesty, integrity and quality.

TVM: Who has been your greatest inspiration in your journey of entrepreneurship?

ESK: Books are my greatest inspiration. I can mention a few of such authors as Napoleon Hill, Goldman Sachs and Benjamin Graham. Those are some of the books that really motivated and streamlined me and above all is the Holy Bible.

TVM: If you had a chance, what one major thing would you change in Ghana?

ESK: This is a difficult one. But the one thing I’ll like to change is the separation of the executive and legislature. There must be a strict separation of powers of the first and second arm of government to be able to deal with issues thoroughly and allow the country to be run smoothly.

But if we still want to go with the hybrid system, then we should have somebody who will oversee the second arm of government because you realize that the legislature is just a conduit of the executive and they have their way through things so easily but I’ll prefer that separation to be done.

TVM: If you had the chance to start your career all over, what would you have done differently?

ESK: Not anything different. I cannot imagine what I would have done differently except that I wished I knew God earlier than I did.

TVM: When all is over with work, how would you want to be remembered?

ESK: I want to be remembered for the number of peoples’ lives I’ve impacted.

TVM: What is your hobby?

ESK: I play long tennis. I play it very well and I’m very good at it.

TVM: What makes you stay up at night?

ESK: What makes me stay up at night is what I can do differently to impact the lives of people and also expand God’s kingdom. These two keep me awake at night.

TVM: What’s your favorite meal and wine?

ESK: I like fufu with dried fish light soup. Nonalcoholic wine like Hallelujah wine is my favorite wine.

TVM: What genre of music do you love and listen to most?

ESK: I love Reggae.

TVM: What’s your advice for the government?

ESK: The government should strengthen the anticorruption agencies well enough to bring corruption to the barest minimum because it is estimated that this country loses about 3 billion dollars to corruption and that is far more than what we receive in form of aid. So for ‘Ghana beyond Aid’ to be a reality, the first point is to tighten corruption and block all the leakages in the system and that will let this country get to where God has really destined it to be.

TVM: What’s your advice to your mentees?

ESK: To my mentees, in all things you do put God first. Integrity and honesty; these will take you far in life.

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  • I strongly believe if the government pay a close attention to this great entrepreneur Mr Eric I think we can go far, one thing I can say about Mr Eric is is God fearing and empathy for human kind, he was once my Sunday school teacher in church, he make time for God, and every aspects of life, uncle Eric as I call him. Uncle God bless you again and again

  • I really I’m inspired by the story of Sir. Eric, a humble and persistent heart. I’m challenged to do great things and to draw my strength from God.

Profiles

“Technology, though very important, thrives on distinguished Customer Service” Mrs. Marufatu Abiola Bawuah (Regional CEO, West Africa 1, UBA )

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Coming from “not a best of background”, experiencing diverse adversities, selling toffees just to make ends meet greeted her whiles growing up but today, she has weathered the storms to become a regional CEO of a prestigious bank and the first indigenous CEO of a Pan-African bank as well as the first female to be appointed CEO of a bank in Ghana. Under her supervision as the Regional CEO for UBA West Africa 1 are six countries namely Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire, Benin and Burkina Faso.

Her story is a true reflection of “from grass to grace” and she’s always quick to be grateful to God for bringing her this far.  Coming from an upbringing that birth a resilient achieving spirit in her to a place that gives her the opportunity to rope and encourage others into her success story, Mrs Marufatu Abiola Bawuah (MAB) believes that “whatever we go through in life, good or bad, is usually a platform for tomorrow”.

As the Regional CEO for UBA West Africa 1, she reveals “Banking is borderless and that banking is no longer beautiful walls with paintings”.

Now, forging forward to move her bank to greater heights she embodies a ‘people first rule’ where she strongly has confidence in ensuring that, her customers are topmost priority and her staff are entwined with the vision of the company to give their utmost performance.

Industry (Economy) Focus

TVM: With your vast experience in banking on the continent. What is your overview of Ghana’s banking industry compared to other African countries?

MAB: Unfortunately, I’ve not been to all the African countries. However, the banking sector as far as I know has developed. Today, we have a lot of foreign banks in the country and looking at the various interventions of Bank of Ghana, I think Ghana is among those recognised to have a very sanitised environment if I must put it that way. There’s been clearing of a lot of banks and other things, the balance sheets are stronger and so gradually we are getting a lot of foreign investors who are interested in participating in our market. So, in all, I think it’s good.

TVM: As you rightly said, the banking industry has been sanitised and currently left with only 24 of them. The utmost consideration of the sanitisation process was to boost the minimum capital in order to make the banking industry bigger and better. How has this new minimum capital impacted on the operations of the banking industry?

MAB: Of course, positively! What has happened now is that banks’ capacity is bigger; shareholders have been forced or asked to increase their base. For instance, if the banks’ working capital was GH₵2, now it’s GH₵4. With that increase in Balance Sheet, a bank can now lend more and do more. Prior to that recapitalisation, banks could only do GH₵15 million but now can do GH₵30 million. Before this, when people came for loans to the tune of GH₵20 million, banks declined because there was a ratio of the capital that one could lend to just one person called the single obligor limit. Currently, however, bank’s single obligor limit has become bigger and as such can only get better.

TVM: Now that banks have become bigger and better with higher single obligor limit, how is the industry curtailing the issue of Non-Performing Loans as single individuals’ can now have access to higher facilities and higher tendency to default?

MAB:  There’s been a lot of development in that respect. Currently, there’s the XDX Data that collates information on customers that banks are lending to and Bank of Ghana is monitoring that. Also, banks are collaborating more with one another; can write and can find out about one another. As a result, it’s working better and hardly can any one person owe all the banks because information is available and every bank is expected to feed into that data. So, Non-Performing Loans can only reduce in the books of banks.

TVM: A lot of the people have lost confidence in the banking industry as a result of the crisis experienced between the 2-year period. How is the “new crop of banks” managing this challenge in order to restore confidence in the people?

MAB: I think otherwise. Rather, more people are getting into banking. Today, we have a lot of online products; a lot of digital products. People who prior to now may not want to come to banking halls for one reason or the other now bank on their phones, bank on their tablets or their computers. So banking rather, has expanded and instilled more confidence in the people. For instance, in our banking halls, you won’t find queues but that doesn’t mean we are not transacting businesses every day. Today, one can open account without entering a bank and this simply signifies that banks have come of age and financial inclusion has come to life.

TVM: Currently, there are about 7 Pan-African Banks operating across the continent and UBA happens to be one of them. How has these PABs contributed to the course of banking and the various economies they operate in on the continent?

MAB: In Ghana, for instance, UBA was the first Pan African Bank (PAB) to enter the market and that was the first time Ghana had what we call revolutionary banking. It was UBA that introduced it. It was the first time we witnessed banking moving to customers; usually it was customers that came to banks. So, Pan-Africanism of banking started in Ghana with UBA. It was the first bank to implement accounts opening without any money (deposit). Prior to that, accounts opening required GH₵50 to GH₵100 (₵500, 000 to ₵1, 000, 000 in the old currency). It was during UBA’s entering strategy that the bank said no, one did not need money to open an account; if one didn’t have money but wanted to open an account, one could still go ahead. And the bank opened accounts for huge number of people without initial deposits. The Pan-African Banks that also came afterwards are banks that have strong “parents”, so whenever there were transactions that ordinarily a PAB could not handle as a “local branch bank”, its parent bank came to its support.

On contribution to the various economies, UBA for instance, has supported governments in a number of ways and also the Central Banks. In Ghana, for instance, the bank has supported a number of projects including road constructions. There was a time the bank gave the government of Ghana an amount of 350 million dollars for road network; one can’t discount that. The minimum anyone of these Pan-African Banks have employed is 600 Ghanaians in each of their institutions and that also one can’t ignore. These staff are paid, their families are taken care off and just imagine the ripple effect. So, I think that PABs have done a yeoman’s job and should be encouraged.

TVM: You mentioned earlier that presently the banking system is expanding as a result of the introduction of technology and other innovative mediums that allow people to easily transact their banking activities. Contrary to that, it is evident that the rate of banking in Africa remains extremely low, with only 43 per cent of adults having a bank account according to AfDB and even more worsening in Ghana. How does the banking industry, especially in Ghana, intend to address this worrying trend of banking among the populace?

MAB: Today, banking is not coming to banks because it’s gone beyond that. There are a lot of people who use digital banking and have their accounts on their phones. One can’t tell me that is not banking. So, if a farmer has all his money on his bank card or his phone; that is not banking? Banking is no longer account opening, cheque book, savings book; no! Banking is borderless! In fact, banks are looking at ways of not even opening branches. So, one can be in Wa and be a bank’s customer without the bank not necessarily positioned in Wa; one can also be in Brong Ahafo as well and so on. UBA banks so many people in regions that it’s not present physically. At UBA, we can credit any customer anytime anywhere and the customer can spend the money in his or her account whiles in south Africa, in Holland and so on. That is what UBA has brought; digitalization of banking. Banking is no longer beautiful walls with paintings; no! In fact, banks are trying to break down those walls, so the figures may not be the correct reflection of what is on the ground.

Business Focus

TVM: When UBA initially incorporated in 2014, it was known as Standard Trust Bank. When did the change of name take place, and how has the bank performed over the years, since its incorporation?

MAB: Standard Trust Bank became UBA simply because the latter acquired the former in 2005; it’s as simple as that. I think the bank has done relatively well; we’ve done very well I must say. The bank has remained very relevant to the economy of Ghana; supported the government in various sectors, employed numerous Ghanaians, supported a lot of businesses, and among its peers the bank stands tall. Above all, Bank of Ghana has always rated the bank as stable for a very long time. So, the bank has no problem with stability. The bank had met its capital long before the deadline and it’s poised to do more. UBA Ghana is poised for growth and it seriously believes that, in the next few years it should be strategically very important to the Ghanaian economy.

TVM: The business strategy of the bank is built on being the bank of choice for businesses across the African continent. How has the bank been able to achieve this over the period or how does it intend to continue to achieve this?

MAB: We will continue to achieve. The Group just opened Mali last year and so today UBA Bank outside of Nigeria is in 19 countries. The Bank has presence in the UK, US, France, among others and it will continue its expansion works. Moreover, the bank’s strategy is to become a top three bank in every country it operates in. That’s what we are all working at and we will get there.

TVM: In 2014, UBA Cameroun launched the ‘UBA Connect’ in the CEMAC region for customers in that region. Currently, the idea of the single currency for the West African region which is moored to the single European currency is expected to be operationalized in 2020. In your opinion, what will be its impact on the banking sector in the sub-region?

MAB: I don’t foresee this to be negative because today I manage three francophone countries that use the same currency and have the same central bank in Senegal and there’s no problem on their economy. So, I don’t foresee the introduction of the “ECO” as collapsing economies; it can only make the sub region stronger. I anticipate growth in trade across the region, easy movement across the region and once there is growth in trade and easy movements, its banks that will thrive. So, for me, I look forward to a positive impact.

TVM: “Our people remain our most valuable assets” states the Bank. Why are people the most valuable assets and not anything else such as technology?

MAB: Can machines work without people? Can technology function without people? Can customers be served effectively and efficiently without people? All these place people as premium and the most valuable assets at UBA. Once you get the people right, technology that has been implemented will function. If the person in charge of that technology decides not to do what he or she is expected, the machine is useless! You will invest so much and the customers will still not be happy. But when your staff is happy and you have good technology, your customer will be happy. Technology, though very important, thrives on distinguished Customer Service. So, I think that the fundamental of everything is the people. That’s why at UBA, we think our people should come first.

PERSONALITY PROFILE

TVM: There’s a description of your journey in life that states “from a table-top groundnut seller to a regional CEO of the prestigious bank and the first indigenous CEO of a Pan-African bank as well as the first female to be appointed CEO of a bank”. Beyond all this, who is Marufatu Abiola Bawuah?

MAB: Marafatu Abiola Bawuah is a lady. I started primary school in Aflao and progressed to Datus International School, then proceeded to Achimota School. I read Actuarial Science at the University of Lagos, and had my MBA from University of Ghana. I started banking in 2001 and UBA Bank is my fourth bank. I initially traded on Ghana Stock Exchange briefly before joining the banking industry. I’m married with three kids. I joined UBA Ghana as the Deputy Managing Director in 2013 and later became the MD/ CEO in 2014. Sometime last year, I became the Regional CEO for UBA West Africa 1 and presently manage six countries namely Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire, Benin and Burkina Faso.

TVM: Sources have it that you underwent a lot of challenges whiles growing up. How were you able to weather the storms you experienced in your growing up moments?

MAB: Determination and Grace! Because, there are times when I look back I can’t understand why I took some decisions or how I survived such decisions; some of them are difficult to explain. But, I think generally, I’m a very determined person. In life, if you don’t know where you are going, you must know where you’re coming from. I do acknowledge I don’t have the best of background and so whatever I do now is a privilege. I keep saying that whatever one finds to do, one must do it well because one just never knows the outcome. One’s work must surely announce him or her no matter what. Thus, whatever I find my fingers doing, I do it well to my satisfaction as if there couldn’t have been any better opportunity.

TVM: As a result of your upbringing, do you reminisce any fondest childhood memory?

MAB: I didn’t enjoy my growing up because I had to sell and look after my siblings and such I was too serious minded. I didn’t know how to have fun. I couldn’t think of anything other than work and school. If there was anything fun, maybe after I had passed my common entrance. Even that, I will still decline. At form 1, I had to sell toffees, had to pay school fees; just too busy to make ends meet. I didn’t attend any entertainment program while in school. But, I’m grateful to God for bringing me this far. The sweetest memory I can recall in my life was the day I graduated from the university with a second class upper. Most of my mates thought I wasn’t going to graduate because of the challenges I was going through and moreover, the difficulty of the course but I ended up the best in class. It’s worth mentioning.

TVM: Can you briefly share one significant childhood experience that has contributed immensely to the woman you are today?

MAB: I think whatever we go through in life, good or bad, is usually a platform for tomorrow. When I look back, the resilience I developed through the sales I undertook whiles growing up has contributed to what I am now; definitely! As a result, I love marketing; I love to sell, I love to achieve, I love to conquer and I love customer service. It’s not something I joke with and I think it has taken me from one level to another. In terms of also being frugal; I think that those upbringings have helped me to manage myself as far as finance is concerned; I don’t strive for what I don’t need. I have learnt to stay where I am. Truly, they have helped me.

TVM: Growing up in a rather challenging environment where the only person ‘the community’ saw as a role model was a messenger. What was your aspiration for the future in those moments?

MAB: Well, the community then just saw a smart guy who was well dressed, walking smart, moving every morning and the women wanted to greet him. They referred to him as “the most learned” but when I got to form 4, I realised the man was a messenger. By then I was enlightened and more educated.As a result of my education I then knew the difference between good and bad so I was already on that pedestal to go forward.

At Achimota, I had gained more exposure after mingling with the children of the affluent and elite. But there was still a pull and push effect between myself, the elite and my background. Fortunately, my friends’ mothers stood in and encouraged me to stay and spend time with them. Despite the force of home pulling me, they tried to pull me also though they didn’t know what I was going through. I started observing their ways of life. As children, we were all thinking of hotel management, air hostess because we wanted to be in the air. Then along the line, I realised I had more flair for Mathematics so I wanted to do Actuarial Science, Mathematics or any of the mathematics related courses. Thus, I ended up studying Actuarial Science in the University.

TVM: So, when did the thought of coming into the banking industry come in?

MAB: It was by default. After graduating, I tried getting employment with the insurance companies but to no avail. I tried other avenues including SSNIT but also to no avail. Then a friend revealed to me that government was recruiting for NADMO to undertake a survey; so I started with NADMO. I performed my task diligently as expected and presented my findings. After presenting my results, I was invited and asked what I studied. I responded and that was my first job breakthrough that earned me an accountant and investment officer with a law firm. From there, I moved on to a stock exchange company where I traded on the stock exchange as an Authorized Dealing Officer or Broker. After a while, for personal reasons, my boss disclosed he didn’t need my services any longer. So, I had to hit the streets again sharing my CVs. Whiles sharing my CVs, then fortune smiled on me and CAL Bank employed me. So, it was by default that I joined the banking industry.

TVM: When people acknowledge you to be successful, you decline by saying “no, I am a product of grace”. Referencing your memoir “Chosen from Darkness”; Why do you see your success as a product of grace and not a dint of your hard work?

MAB: Success is not a lift that one stands in and gets to the top and says I am done. It’s a step by step event and I think I’m still en route, climbing and hoping that grace will take me there. Since, I haven’t gotten there I will not assume I have arrived so I need more grace. Truly, one needs to work hard for grace to beautify it but there are people who also work harder than I and they are not where I am and also there are people who are not working as hard as I am, but are in higher heights. So, it is a combination of the two; you do your part and leave the rest to divinity. I just don’t want to put myself in such an assumption. It’s not as if I don’t appreciate such comments, I really do. I think that, even if I’m not where I’m supposed to be; I’m en routing and I know I’m on the right path and I’m working at it every day. Consequently, I don’t want to pollute my system and get that into me and think that, after all, I’m the first woman here; No! I don’t want that. I’m still moving.

TVM: Your book, “Chosen from Darkness”. What informed your decision to put together this book?

MAB: The reason is simple: To put my story out there to encourage a lot of young girls. It has encouraged a lot of men, a lot of boys, and a lot of women also. It highlights four things everyone needs to understand about life. Firstly, it talks about one not needing to have a good background to be where he or she wants to be. Secondly, it reveals everybody needs to hold somebody’s hand. I wouldn’t have been here just because my parents wanted me to be here but because people lent a helping hand. So, in this our ecosystem, especially women, look around and you will find a lot of people you can hold their hands. If everybody can hold everybody’s hand, we will have a very developed country. Thirdly, one doesn’t need to bend his or her values or principles in life to be able to make it. One doesn’t have to do that! And finally, people must know that the road to the top can be rough, and the fact that you are in a valley today, does not in any way make you a failure. These are the simple messages I tried to put across in the book.

TVM: You are so passionate about girl-child education and that has led to the establishment of the Abiola Bawuah Foundation. How is the foundation helping to change the girl-child education challenges in the most deprived communities?

MAB: We are in the deprived communities and I have people all over the places: villages, deprived communities, rural settlements and so on across the country trying to identify such girls. We have a lot of girls in our books now that we are supporting. I don’t know them from anywhere. We support also people in the hospitals, helped some to go back to school, supplied books, paying school fees, buying wheels, buying chairs; doing everything for them to make sure they are in school. Unfortunately, the resources are limited. The only one who is paid is the young lady who is running the errand; I am not paid and I don’t take money from the NGO. I strongly believe that if I get more support, I will be able to do more than I’m doing currently.

TVM: Being at the helm of affairs and having oversight on UBA Plc West Africa 1, your transformational leadership style is expected to come to the fore. What do you hope to achieve in this new position?

MAB: With this new position, we will take over the West African market; we will become the strongest bank!

TVM: How?

MAB: To become the most systemic and important bank in all my jurisdictions. So, for any decision to be made in any of those countries, we would have to discuss it first.And it will happen. I’m embarking on that.

TVM: In a previous interview you said “When I focus on the people and I show interest in the people and they connect to my vision, while I’m sleeping they’re working”. Can you explain what you meant by the statement?

MAB: Once you get your people right, they dream about your vision. As a leader, part of my responsibility is to make sure that those who work with me buy into my vision and when they do, their energy levels go up. Hence, they are willing to go the extra miles; they want the vision to come life, they want to replicate what you do. Therefore, beyond believe– conviction is what a leader needs to get his or her people to go the extreme to actualise a dream. It is when you move your staff to have conviction that they go to work when they should be resting. They will be willing to go the extra mile; they don’t have a closing time, they don’t have weekends; you didn’t ask them to do it; you don’t need to tell them; if you start asking them, then you don’t have them. So that’s what I mean by that statement.

TVM: There’s nothing on leadership journey that can be attributed to only the leader” you averred; how will you describe your leadership style?

MAB: I’m not permissive. I am a disciplinarian but also believes in reward system. I am an amiable leader as well and have an opened door policy but at the same time what binds my colleagues and I or what is common to us is the institution. So, I would not allow one to destroy what he or she finds in the organization. One must do his or her work. But in doing his or her work, I shouldn’t abuse him or her, I shouldn’t misuse him or her, I shouldn’t destroy him or her; He or she should grow in his or her own personal life. Thus, I show interest in them and they must also go the extra mile for the job. We should not compromise on the work that binds the two of us. And so far, it has worked.

TVM: What is your management philosophy? 

MAB: Reward the people! Reward what you want. What gets measured is what is done. If somebody has done something, reward the person; if someone has done it wrongly, punish the person. In all, my philosophy is “what gets measured gets done”. Most often leaders are quick to punish but slow to say thank you. We need to reward what we want. If it is coming early, reward those who come early and all the others will follow. If it’s sales, or whatever you seek to get into your staff, you need to reward for it.

TVM: Growing up, did you have any mentor or mentors that influenced your thinking in life?

MAB: I once worked with a boss called Andy OJ; he was my MD at Zenith Bank Ghana where I worked some years back. He was a fantastic boss and in my dealings today, I try to put myself in his shoes and try to imagine how he will deal with situations and I think he is one of my mentors. Another is my current Chairman, Tony Elumelu. He is outstanding; his leadership qualities are wow! He’s a realist; one just knows where he or she belongs and he tells one exactly how he feels. He celebrates everyone, and so if there’s anybody who has tapped the apex of my energy, he is the one; so he is my foremost and priceless mentor.

TVM: What enduring principle(s) guide you in all facets of your life?

MAB: Hard work works! One may not reward me today but I believe somebody is looking at what I am doing and at the right time, he or she will reward me. All the cheatings I have suffered from my previous boss(es) or firms, the new person or company will recompense me for them.

TVM: What do you do outside of work to release the stress you experience at work?

MAB: I love to watch crime documentaries. I watch TV a lot also and I love to be with my children and my family. I love to be with my kids at home so I do a lot of ‘sit home’ when I’m not travelling or not working. I love to be home and want my family around me. I like cooking as well.

TVM: What kind of books do you read; is there any particular book that has significantly shaped or influenced your life?

MAB: I love reading leadership books. One book I read and continue to read is a book written by Bill George; it’s about authentic leadership. I just love reading leadership books.

TVM: What is your favourite meal??

MAB: I like the swallows; Tuo Zaafi, a meal mostly known to the northerners in Ghana, Banku, fufu. I love my banku with okro soup. I also love fresh tomato jollof rice.

TVM: What genre of music do you listen to?

MAB: I’m a lover of jazz.

TVM: What kind of sports do you love?

MAB: Football

TVM: Which team is your favourite?

MAB: Arsenal.

TVM: When it’s all over in your working career, how do you want to be remembered?

MAB: I wish to do hundred girls a year. I wish to go to the most deprived, poverty stricken areas, bring people without hope and give them hope and long after I’m gone, some of them will be Managing Directors, others too will be top government officials; positions they wouldn’t have been able to attain but for that education; that seed sewn, they were. That is what I want to be remembered for. They will be able to tell my children “oh your mother found me”. Ghana will reap the benefits afterwards and say “we have 90% of our ladies in schools” because I believe those girls will also cater for some others, and as such we’ll be able to say that majority of girls are graduates; that is my dream!

TVM: What does the future hold for you beyond UBA and banking?

MAB: Beyond UBA and banking, I want to focus on my NGO. I want to concentrate on that when I leave banking.

TVM: What advice would you give to banking industry players?

MAB: Whatever they are doing, they should do it well. Well, there is still a lot of collaborations to be done among banks. Banks need to come together instead of fighting one another in order to manage the loop holes’ customers capitalize on. Banks still need to be able to share information and continue to support government’s initiatives, especially the plan to have an all inclusion system and to continue to reach out to the local communities. Banks also need to continue to come out with products that will serve humanity and cause the banking space to become more relevant than it is now. But above all, banks should find a way of stamping out the unhealthy competition where when a staff commits crime in one bank, goes to the other bank and is accepted. I look forward to healthy competition among the banks.

TVM: You once said “failing is part of the story”. As a mentor to many young women and girls, how would you advise them to cope and deal with challenges and failures in life?

MAB: Accept it and take responsibility. It’s not about crying; it’s not about condemning oneself. Yes, some are mistakes; purely one’s mistake and so must take full responsibilities for them. It should not be about anybody or a blame game. One needs to ask questions and see how he or she can move forward. Therefore, the most important thing is to take yourself less seriously, take responsibility, and always look for that small light in that darkness and move towards that direction. In a short while, one will find fulfilment.With failing, those who condemn themselves will never be able to get up. That’s my story!

TVM: What is your advice to the current youth of Ghana?

MAB: Hard work works; there’s reward in hardwork so work hard.

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