From mobile airtime to payments, pan-African startup explores wider ambitions…
‘Ashesi’ is a name that evokes respect and the immediate sense of reassured quality in education whenever it is mentioned.
The prestigious institution’s story began in 2002, in a rented home with just 30 pioneer students. Today, Ashesi has over 1,200 alumni impacting change in different fields all around the world.
Its founder, Dr Patrick Awuah (below), is one of Africa’s most respected and awarded educationists. A former Microsoft executive, he was recently announced as the keynote speaker for SXSW Edu 2019, which will take place in March next year in Austin,Texas.
Patrick’s vision, backed by a very dedicated staff, the school has produced entrepreneurial students who are leading conversations in tech, business, agriculture and financial payments all over the world.
The price of an Ashesi education is clearly priceless. Its unique blend of liberal subjects that is supported by a strong technical drive delivers the kind of student who is a critical thinker with a consistent drive to solve problems.
To understand the present, it is often wise to look at the past. So more than a decade after its inception, we’ve highlighted five alumni who attended the prestigious institution and are now working in business and tech in Africa.
Derrydean Dadzie obtained his Bachelor of Computer Science in 2006 from Ashesi, which makes him one of the university’s earliest graduates. The articulate leader formerly led DreamOval Limited, a company he led for close to 12 years. Under his guidance, they released one of the most popular products in the West African fintech space – Slydepay, an all-in-one money app which serves as mobile and electronic wallet to facilitate and simplify everyday payments.
Under his leadership, the payment provider has dominated thought leadership on fintech. A regular on the speaker circuit, Derrydean shares his knowledge on digital payments and financial technologies freely.
Derrydean on Ashesi: ‘At Ashesi, you have this environment that enables the unwrapping of a person’s unique attributes. It is a space of discovery as it offers the structures and intangible elements that shape the experiences and outcomes of people. The academic dynamic has an internal rigor to it that is comparable to some of the global-greats as it enkindles a students’ innate desire to break new ground. Ashesi has evolved a certain cultural nuance that has become a motivation for students to excel and be social differentiators.’
Another early Ashesi graduate (2005), Regina Honu is a social entrepreneur, software developer and founder of Soronko Solutions. She is a highly decorated educationist and seasoned business executive who also started Tech Needs Girls Ghana, a movement which aims to train and educate more Ghanaian girls into studying technology-related courses. As the founder of The Soronko Foundation she has impacted over 5815 people across the eight regions of Ghana. Soronko Academy is the first human-centred and coding school for children and young adults; a disruption in traditional education.
Regina on Ashesi: ‘The first thing that helped shaped my career as an entrepreneur was [Ashesi’s] liberal arts program. This gave me the opportunity to study programs other than my major, which was Computer Science. I learnt critical thinking, how to question information and not just take things at face value. All these courses taught me sales, proposal writing, marketing and negotiation. Another important thing I learnt was how to be an ethical leader. I even took a course in African studies that gave me a better understanding of our history and culture, and helped me understand how to chart our future. Finally, I took a course in entrepreneurship.’
Kofi is a serial entrepreneur who has been in business since 2013 when he started a company with co-founder Nii Osae Dade. An established entrepreneur before he attended Ashesi a few years ago, 2018 has been a year of scaling new heights with their parent company Cyst Solutions. In three years, Kofi and his co-founder have created Mazzuma, a product that is revolutionising cryptocurrency by using AI and Blockchain to enable instant payments between two parties. As of August 2018, their platform had 26,000 accounts, and processed transactions worth over $1.5 million. They recently concluded a token offering in September 2018, and have been highlighted by Forbes in the technology sector in Africa.
Kofi on Ashesi: ‘[Ashesi] makes one an effective generalist as it gives you a broad base of knowledge, widens your mind and then zones your focus back in the final year by giving you an option to specialise in a particular field. Ashesi’s faculty also constantly encourage you to remain in Africa and make a contribution to the ecosystem even if salary expectations abroad are higher. Since they have a strong alumni network, an Ashesi grad has a wide pool of resources, mentors and leaders to tap into.’
Andrew Bimpong & Richard Bempong
Andrew Bimpong graduated from Ashesi in 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Business Administration. He immediately put his qualification to good use at Petra where he functioned as an Operations Analyst. On the other hand, Richard graduated with a Bachelors in Management Information Systems the same year. The well-matched pair first thought of pursuing a fashion venture, but abandoned the idea because they identified a more pressing problem.
Barely three years later, these two are the owners of one of the hottest co-working spaces in the Accra – Workshed Africa, located in Spintex. WorkShed has housed the likes of enterprising brand agency BrandMeister, led by Bernard Kafui Sokpe.
Workshed is more than just a coworking space though. It’s an ecosystem of services and resources designed to help one achieve business success. Thoughtfully designed to function as shared office and working space, it helps to reduce costs for entrepreneurs starting out.
Richard on Ashesi: ‘I left Ashesi with an enquiring mind and insatiable appetite to understand how the world around me works. I wanted to understand deeper what causes people, societies, markets, industries, and economies to tick. Ashesi set me up for a life of enquiry. And that has been a great asset to me as a young entrepreneur.’
Derick Omari’s entrepreneurship journey is quite unique. The current senior is completing his last year at Ashesi. He began all of his businesses while studying at Ashesi – a place where entrepreneurial dreams are nurtured and supported. Derick is a recent recipient of one of Ashesi highest awards, ‘The Presidential Award for Scholarship, Leadership, and Citizenship’. The current senior was this year named a recipient of the 2018 Queen’s Young Leaders Award for his work in boosting IT literacy in Ghana. The award was conferred on him for his work with Tech Era, an organisation he founded in 2015 during his second year at Ashesi. The community engagement initiative equips underprivileged children with IT skills while training adults from underprivileged communities with IT skills. Out of 4,000 finalists, he was one of 60 awardees that travelled to London to receive the honour from the Queen.
At 22, Derick is already creating a whole new world for those who have lacked the same opportunities that he had. At the end of this year, he will complete a Bachelors in Business Administration with Ashesi.
Derick on Ashesi: ‘Ashesi created the right environment that helped me to become the entrepreneur I am today. They made it easy to talk to faculty, gain access to resources, try things and learn from them. I think you do not get this environment easily in other institutions.’