Why the Youth Unemployment Crisis in Ghana is a Global Challenge

By Jeph Acheampong, ZNews Africa Contributor

In a bid to escape the awkward silences at a friend’s birthday dinner, a plethora of topics was consistently juggled in the span of two hours. However, the one topic that sparked the most excitement for me was Uber’s penetration in the African market. This meant I wouldn’t be quoted an out-of-range price by taxi drivers once they hear my “non-Ghanaian” accent or wouldn’t have to bargain with multiple taxi drivers before gauging the actual estimated cost of a trip.

In July 2017, I had arrived in Ghana hopping from one venue to the next. My goal was to connect with as many people as possible and yet had somehow forgotten all about Uber’s expansion. Only two days in, my physical cash was quickly depleting from transportation costs alone.

There’s a Warren Buffett rule I have always abided by; “rule #1: Don’t lose money and rule #2: Never forget rule #1.” It didn’t take long for Uber to come to mind.

Now let’s divert slightly. According to the segmented labor market theory, there exists a primary labor market (high-skilled), and a secondary labor market (low-skilled). Most well-educated young adults from Ghana who find it difficult to secure a career obtain a visa from a family member or friend and migrate abroad to find employment.

According to Quartz, Ghanaian citizens are the world’s leading applicants for US green cards with around 7% of Ghana’s 27 million populations applying to win the US visa lottery in 2015.

Since a college degree from most African countries does not hold much weight in most countries abroad, young Africans work in the secondary labor market in industries such as retail and fast food restaurants. All the while, they balance these long working hours while paying to attend late-night classes for the purposes of securing job placement in an industry of interest.

Uber is an ephemeral solution for many young adults who are striving to migrate as a result of the high unemployment rate. However, it also comes with challenges. In Lagos-Nigeria, for example, Uber drivers went on strike in April 2017 after fares were slashed by 40%. Drivers responded by asking passengers to take the trip offline so that it would appear as if the ride was canceled and Uber will not be collecting any commission from the cash payment the driver would receive. (Source: Quartz)

Based on observations as such, the youth unemployment crisis has commonly been attributed to bad attitude and a lack of professional etiquette by most. In fact, Kusi Consulting – a Ghanaian consulting and service providing company, assisting businesses to gain a competitive advantage in their respective industry – recently shared a very solid infographic which confirmed and highlighted the two aforementioned attributions.

However, I also do believe the additional challenges contributing to the youth unemployment crisis in Ghana are even direr. Two of these challenges can be categorized as;

Lack of Preparation for Employment:

Students in many colleges and universities throughout Ghana are being primed solely for scholarly development. The lack of focus on students’ development of technical skills and real-world experience means that many students graduate ill-prepared to meet the demands of the labor market.

This is similar to the educational system in the United States where a student may excel academically yet find it difficult to secure a job post-graduation due to the lack of sufficient career development opportunities available to him/her throughout his/her undergraduate career.

While this reality confronts a host of young adults in Ghana, those from low-income families are impacted most, as they do not have the same opportunity to procure additional education and training abroad like their wealthier counterparts. So long as schools continue to lack a focus on career development, students will continue to struggle to make themselves marketable and employable.

Obsolescence of Native Workers in the Job Market:

In Ghana, there has been a recent influx of foreigners who invest in the abundance of resources ranging from infrastructure development, retail services, and agricultural production. Unfortunately, Ghanaians are unable to take part in their endeavors because of their limited knowledge and skill sets in comparison to their foreign counterparts.

Foreign investors have compensated for this by bringing thousands of their own laborers and businessmen; this group represents a new face of globalization in Africa. While foreigners are able to benefit from these emerging industries, young adults in Ghana still remain disadvantaged, with the unemployment rate at double for the 25-44 age demographic and triple for those aged 45-65.

Another reason for the high unemployment rate amongst young adults is the evolution of technology in Ghana. Many Ghanaians are now being replaced by equipment that performs quicker, better, and of utmost importance to stakeholders, at less cost. Unless one has a specialized skill in great demand, making a decent living proves extremely challenging.

Unfortunately, only a select few are openly discussing ways and processes to adequately address the rationale above. On every trip I partake in, I serve as an entrepreneurial tourist. This puts me in a position to connect with citizens and subconsciously do a ton of market research about the innovations currently occurring in the city or country. On this trip to Ghana, my conversation with Uber drivers was the better part of my entire experience.

In one particular conversation with an Uber driver (let’s assume his name is Peter), a summary of our conversation went as follows;

Peter was born and raised in Kumasi-Ghana, where he graduated honors three years ago with a concentration in Oil & Energy. Since graduation, he has lost count of the number of interviews he has been to. Thrilled to pacify my curiosity, Peter shared that the jobs exist, however; nepotism plays an integral role in deciding who would be employed after attaining a degree. As he said and I paraphrase, “there are last names in the Ghanaian system that will just never disappear. If you are born into a family with such name, you will encounter no or minimal financial challenges. However, if you aren’t in that position, it’s going to be very difficult to climb up the ladder of prosperity.” Frustrated after two years of searching, Peter enrolled in a Ghanaian University (name undisclosed) training program where he paid thousands of dollars for a certificate to garner skill sets ranging from fire safety, swimming, and teaching. Yet, still nothing. When Uber came into the picture, he then gave all hope in potentially securing employment and settled to be a driver. Through Uber, Peter makes on average 500 – 700 Ghana Cedis a month (~$110 – $160). After spending 150 Ghana Cedis (~$30) on rent, he scrapes to barely sustain himself.

Coincidentally (or not), three additional Uber drivers echoed Peter’s story. As a result, I invited them to Anansi Digital’s First Annual Social Gathering. None of them showed up.

This is when it all made sense. Every minute for the unemployed young adult counts as it determines whether she has enough money to sustain herself tomorrow. Secondly, a number of unemployed college graduates who have been out of school for at least a year have gone on to explore countless training programs without receiving job placement. Thirdly, they are just fed up.

During a 2015 service trip to Ghana to hold a youth diaspora initiative for orphans and neglected youth (picture to the left), I witnessed many hardworking young adults squander their talents at virtually no fault of their own. No matter how much they strived to change their situation, they inevitably succumbed to the forces of their environment — the single most damning factor is the lack of employment opportunities. Lack of clear choices, educational opportunities, and role models also have long-lasting negative effects on their careers and overall quality of life.

Frustrated by this reality, my impeccable team and I outlined ways to tackle the over 40% youth unemployment rate in Ghana. Backed by resources from the Clinton Foundation and New York University, our mission was (and still is) to launch a talent accelerator that equips recent college graduates with the skills and experience needed to secure employment in leading companies across Ghana. However, there was a slight hesitation then. Unlike most talent accelerators, we had no interest in launching a program that may disappoint our fellows in the long run.

This hesitation is what sparked the idea of organizing a social gathering where recent college graduates could cultivate genuine relationships with human resource professionals across Ghana. In turn, it also afforded us the opportunity to conduct a very solid market research amongst our target demographic and has better equipped us with palpable insights for our go-to-market strategy.

With limited time to plan, we successfully attracted over 60 recent college graduates and human resource professionals (at peak) to connect and to learn about the importance of digital marketing for African businesses.

Barbara Mettle-Olympio of B Branding Solutions has strategically categorized the importance of digital marketing for African Businesses into three points;

(1) Low barrier to entry – Traditional marketing activities can be expensive. Digital marketing is scalable and can be utilized to reach target audience,

(2)67% mobile penetration – Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to add more than 100 million unique subscribers to surpass a half billion mark by 2020, according to a report by the GSM Association, and

(3) Reach larger audience – Traditional marketing activities can be limited to a particular geographic area. With digital marketing, you can reach an international audience.

Our reputable speakers included Rita Kusi (CEO at Kusi Consulting & 360 Ghana), Barbara Mettle-Olympio (Founder/Director of Client Services at B Branding Solutions), Nana Boatemaa Amoah (Marketer/Blogger at, Jeffrey Opoku (Founder/CEO at Sidekick Social Media), Simon W. Alangde (Managing Partner/Co-Founder at Wineloya), and Prince Adu-Appiah (Founder & CEO of 1Billion Africa).

Aligning their respective presentations with our mission, their insights included the positive effects viral content can have on African businesses, the importance of cultivating an employable skill set outside class lectures, and the outstanding impact interning, volunteering, and/or networking has on potential job placement. From conversations had with our participants, it was also evident another critical challenge most new graduates face is an inability to express their skills and experience on their CV or resumes. We will cultivate partnerships to address this moving forward.

Since the social gathering, we have received a number of requests to organize a similar experience that explores a different theme. Such recommendation and feedback is not taken lightly however, we were even more thrilled to be informed about these following outcomes; A social entrepreneur in the recycling space secured an outstanding project opportunity at an elementary school

–A social entrepreneur in the recycling space secured an outstanding project opportunity at an elementary school

–One of our speakers extended an internship opportunity to the developers under the Tech2Orphans initiative. Tech2Orphans is a subset of 1Billion Africa that gives orphans 21st Century ICT and Coding Skills. This should be in operation by October this year (2017)

–A number of recent college graduates have directly inquired about ways to expand their skill sets in online marketing. A recommendation from one of the participants resulted in our newly formed Digital Services Awareness Facebook group. All are welcomeA number of the participants have gone on to create LinkedIn accounts and are eager to cultivate a strong personal and professional brand

–A number of the participants have gone on to create LinkedIn accounts and are eager to cultivate a strong personal and professional brand

–Our closing performer – who used Facebook Live as her digital marketing strategy – has secured another opportunity to perform at the opening of an even bigger social gathering!

Margaret Mead once shared, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” We – at Anansi Digital – may have no interest in changing Ghana or its economic landscape.

Yet we understand the unemployment crisis amongst Ghanaian youth is a global challenge, it’s our challenge. The African continent boasts 1.2 billion people of which 200 million are aged between 15 and 24. This makes Africa the continent with the youngest population in the world. Whether it be the mining industry, the agricultural sector, or the fashion industry, our African youth will play an integral role in its development. And whether we choose to see the indirect link or not, their success is our success too. Henceforth, just like a drop of water in the vastness of the ocean, we are confident our little contribution to the employment ecosystem will spark the human capital present to expand their skill sets and channel their inner potential to catapult the economic growth of our great nation, Ghana and ultimately, our continent Mama Africa.

***To be informed on our next social gathering, kindly share your email here. To learn more about our work, please send a note to personal email,

For Editorial Inquires:

Jeph Acheampong writes as a millennial voice on a wide range of topics including business, entrepreneurship, and philosophy. Jeph is a contributor for ZNews Africa, serves as founder of Anansi Digital and Head of Marketing at Esusu, which tackle the African youth unemployment and financial inclusion respectively. He is also extremely passionate about social entrepreneurship and its role in the development of the African continent.


Africa’s young entrepreneurs seek to inspire its leaders

Africa’s enterprising youth champion a new development model that will generate prosperity while fostering stability and promoting security. The ethos they embody may be the inspiration that challenges African leaders to re-discover the buccaneering zeal of their forebears who led the independence movement.

There was change in the air in the leafy suburbs of Ota, Ogun state in Nigeria a fortnight ago. The first cohort of the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurs Program gathered together to embark on one of the more exciting challenges of our times – an ‘entrepreneur-led development’ model that seeks to create sustainable businesses that will generate $10 billion in revenue and create a million jobs in Africa over the next decade, all the while addressing social issues that will foster stability and security.

I felt like a kid in a candy store listening to members of my cohort oozing with confidence and boundless energy as they begin their noble quests in using business to address pressing social issues. Some of the note worthy ventures being undertaken include ventures that deal with local issues such as waste management to the outright daring – using unmanned aircrafts to boost agricultural yields in the inhospitable Sahel region.

The journey began with a grueling application process in which 5% of applicants from 51 African countries were selected out of a pool of over 20,000 applications.

Participants have benefited from the seven pillars of this program which have included a start-up enterprise toolkit, mentoring, online resources, bootcamp and in the course of the year, an entrepreneurship forum, seed capital funding and upon completion, being part of the program’s alumni network.

The highlight of the program for me was the bootcamp. My objectives going into this event were the opportunity to meet and be inspired by business leaders and entrepreneurs, put a name to the faces that I had been in touch with over the last couple of weeks and build lasting relationships.

The occasion far exceeded my expectations. We were spoiled for choices with a list of speakers, which included leaders in business, civil society, entertainment and public officials such as the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Prime Minister of Benin and the Governor of the State of Kaduna.

Our patron, Tony Elumelu also provided us with a no holds barred opportunity to learn more about him, his successes (and failures) and his expectations from us. He made it abundantly clear that failure was not an option for us. That said, it was reassuring to note that he is willing to do what he can to ensure we succeed.

Not to be outdone, the entrepreneurs also shared their stories with each other, cross-pollinated ideas and when the time was ripe, took to the dance floor with gusto, amidst laughter, drinks and great expectations from each other.

The common themes that appeared to embody the aspirations of these inspired young men and women were a profound sense of mission, customer/people-centric approach, improvisation and tinkering, adapting best practices to local environments and more importantly, a can-do attitude.

If history is any guide, this can-do attitude may be a harbinger of a transformation that could alter the face of the continent in profound ways as was witnessed on the sunny morning of February 28th, 1948 at Christiansborg Castle in Accra, Ghana. Returning ex-servicemen from the Gold Coast Regiment who had fought alongside His Majesty’s army in Burma, emboldened by their exploits in the war, demonstrated against the colonial authorities due to unfulfilled promises.

The agitation of these men created a sense of awareness and a crescendo that emboldened “troublemakers” such as Kwame Nkrumah and his cohort of “uppity” Young Turks of their time to cause even greater mischief that eventually toppled the erstwhile British colonial regime. The rest of sub-Saharan Africa was not spared the remorseless march of this rebellion. Just three years later, another 17 countries, a stunning 40% of previously unliberated African colonies were freed, bringing down the mighty edifice of European imperial rule.

The confidence and assertiveness of the returning service men changed the face of Africa. However, it is far from complete. Almost 70 years have passed us by with very little to write home about since that fateful morning. In the intervening period, have been unfulfilled potential, false dawns and a desperate desire for the continent’s leaders to re-discover the buccaneering zeal of its forebears to lay the foundation that will bring the best out of the continent’s most valuable resource – its people – to create a virtuous path that will generate prosperity, foster stability and promote security. Thankfully in Africa’s enterprising youth, they need not look too far out for inspiration.

The author is a Tony Elumelu Entrepreneur and a Managing Partner of West Africa-focused investment funds, Diaspora Capital and The Heart of Africa Economic Empowerment Fund (HOA Fund).



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The Battle Against Skin Bleaching; African, not African-American.



Greetings ZNews Readers,

Today Google posted a new Doodle to recognize Ghanaian entrepreneur Esther Afua Ocloo. She was a force in helping millions of low-income women secure loans through Women’s World Banking, the organization she founded. She would have turned 98 years old today.

Africans leveraging our acquired skills and education deciding whether or not to passionately focus on the progress of the continent and her diaspora with its 160,000 millionaires is an issue thoughtfully covered this week by ZNews contributor Jephthah Acheampong.

ZNews is looking to grow our community of amazing storytellers. If you have something to say or a great story to share, please reach out to us. Feel free to spread the word to talented folks you believe would be interested.

My most satisfying smile this week came from viewing a NowThis feature on my friend and inspiration Erikan  Obotetukudo, founder of KIN. Check out the vid, share some love and spread the good energy.

Keep those comments and questions coming. Share your stories, comments, and suggestions with us at




I had been lured to America by the promise of the American dream. White Americans were friendly but spoke to me about African-Americans as if they were of a different species. This didn’t bother me because I considered myself African, not African-American.

The real secret to Asian American success was not education: In the 1850s, newspapers in California complained that Chinese immigrants were the dregs of the laboring class, having “most of the vices and few of the virtues of the African.” Yet by the 1960s, attitudes had completely flipped.

Uganda has thrown an academic in jail over a “buttocks” insult to president Museveni: #PairOfButtocks is trending on Ugandan Twitter, but don’t be too quick to join in. The Ugandan academic who inspired the hashtag, will be spending 14 days in a maximum security prison in Kampala.

What does it take to date a black man in India? Bryan was an international student from Nairobi, Kenya and we met seven weeks before he was to leave India. In that brief spell, I learned more about race, culture and myself in a way I could never have anticipated.

Congo opposition calls for investigation into expensive passports: Top opposition leaders in Democratic Republic of Congo called on the new prime minister on Monday to investigate revelations by Reuters last week that most of the money paid by Congolese citizens for new passports goes overseas.

“Donald Trump is going to send you and your family back to your country,” Said a woman who was caught on cellphone video threatening to call the police and falsely accuse a Muslim Uber driver of rape.

It Isn’t Just Asian Immigrants Who Thrive in the U.S.: By many measures, the most educated immigrant group in the U.S. isn’t East Asians. It’s Africans.

Youth unemployment is a problem all over Africa, except for one country: A new report by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, titled Africa at a Tipping Point, reveals reams of data that paint a dire picture for the continent’s youth, but there was one bright spot.

“Black Women at Work” Hashtag Proves Ever Present Diversity Problem: What It’s Really Like to be a Black Woman at Work. It’s not Pretty. 

How I left my consulting career behind and broke into tech: Three months ago, I moved to San Francisco — one of the most expensive cities on Earth — with no job, no housing, and barely any money. Plenty of people thought it was crazy.

What can Ghana teach South Africa about neocolonialism?: On how the man who coined the term “neocolonialism” fell victim to it and how not to repeat his mistakes.

How Liberia’s New Generation Of Female Entrepreneurs Is Revitalizing The Economy: Rebounding from a devastated economy, new businesses–powered by young self-starters–are on the rise.


(Click images to play)




2 hours, 9 minutes, 37 seconds

Geoffrey Kirui’s time winning the 121st Boston Marathon on Monday. Edna Kiplagat won the women’s race to complete the Kenyan sweep.

1.6 million

The total reach of the ZNews Africa platform last month. Here’s why this is a huge investment opportunity.


How much black men with 11-20 years of work experience earned less than their white counterparts according to researchers at EPI.


The First Africa Startup Digital Accelerator: Accelerates 100 companies to market each year. Their 2-day accelerator program is open to all small businesses, startups, and freelancers connected to Africa. Each application round is rolling admission until they select the top 100. The top 10 companies from the applicant pool pitch investors on demo day. The top 3 are announced the next day and proceed to get capital investment with their investor network.

2017 Metro NY Chapter NBMBAA Scholarship: The Official Application for the annual scholarships for Undergraduate and Graduate students is now live. Apply by May 15, 2017.

ColorComm has launched the ColorComm Fellows Program to cultivate the next generation of young leaders in communications, marketing, media, and advertising. The program will provide mentorship, training, access, and opportunity to a select group of women ages 21-26 with 1-4 years professional experience, who can demonstrate how they would like to make an impact in the industry and how they currently contribute to their community.


What Sepp Blatter and I understand about FIFA

When the corruption scandal broke, I was initially shocked that the derited States was prosecuting and the first thoughts on mind were akin to Imperialism (please read through before you judge).

I didn’t really pay much attention except to count how many times Loretta Lynch and her henchmen repeated “soccer, soccer…” at some point, it sounded like “sucker.” It was okay for me, but I could imagine watching in Nigeria and other parts of the world and wanting to tell them “no, it’s football”!

Anyway, when the facts came out, I realized that the U.S. had jurisdiction etc. And, who better to probe corruption – especially in a body like FIFA – than the U.S.? In spite of her “deflategate,” multiple steroidal Olympians, and Mayweatherisms, the U.S. is still better than most parts of the world corruption-wise. It’s like a whirlwind compared to a tornado. So I was glad that the U.S. was prosecuting, but my thoughts still lingered.

Now it is a fact that all the countries that have won the World Cup since inception have hosted it before (I realized this in the last decade when deliberations were going on about an African World Cup).

Of course, these two may not be related but I know that when you get to those heights, where preparation and talent are only basic requirements, several other factors come into play – confidence, psyche, fan clubs, referee united, winning mentality, limbs of God etc. And if you know what I know, you’ll understand that any advantage is an advantage.

So was I expectant and happy when South Africa got the nod? Of course! And to prove my point, it would have been the best outing of any African country to date except for the intervention of the Mike Tyson of football. There are several other examples to support my hypothesis (e.g. Japan/South Korea – 2002, etc.).

How To Solve The Biggest Problems With Hospitals in Africa

Photo by Piron Guillaume on Unsplash

Written by John Kotey

Why are our health systems a mess? Negligent doctors and nurses cause so many deaths on a daily basis.

When my mom was bitten by a snake a few years ago in Ghana, the doctor on duty prescribed antimalarial drugs instead of anti-snake serum. When we cautioned him, he claimed there was no anti-snake serum at Ridge Hospital.

We combed through almost every hospital in Accra only to find anti-snake serum at Adabraka Polyclinic about 15 hours later. When we brought it back to Ridge hospital, we were told serum from the hospital had just been administered to my mom and that Ridge Hospital is the main hub that stores and distributes anti-snake serum to medical facilities in Ghana and West Africa.

So why did the doctor on duty not know that there was a stockpile of the drug in the hospital? Why didn’t any of the nurses or doctors know as well? If it wasn’t for God’s grace, my mom would have died that night.

That very night, three patients died in my mom’s ward. One’s oxygen run out but all the nurses were asleep so they couldn’t wake up in time to replace it. Another patient who lay next to my mom fell off his bed and died. My dad had prevented him from falling several times but got tired and dozed off when the lazy, sleeping nurses refused to help him consistently.

The next morning after hearing of the deaths of the three patients and the lack of knowledge of doctors and nurses that Ridge stores a lot of anti-snake serum, I caused a lot of commotion in the hospital. The nurses eventually barred me from entering my mom’s ward. But I swore to come back to place cameras in their common areas to make sure they do not sleep on duty. And I intend to keep that promise.

The niceness, and newness of the medical facilities does not make these medical institutions strong and reliable. We have doctors and nurses who go into the medical profession because it pays well. It’s prestigious. Their family forced them into it. People interpreted their WASSCE results as doctor material, or there was no other option than nursing school and the allowances thereto attached.

We have many in the medical profession who have no place being there. Imagine if 50 percent of pilots actually didn’t want to be pilots and so spent most of their time in the cockpit playing candy crush, WhatsApping or simply sleeping. Just imagine the carnage.

So why can’t we hold our medical professionals to a higher standard? Why aren’t we suing doctors, nurses and their medical institutions for negligent behavior that causes the demise of our family and friends?

Putting cameras in resting areas of nurses and doctors might be strongly opposed by these negligent professionals. But we can all use our phone cameras to record these sleeping, and negligent nurses and doctors. And maybe when we start publicly shaming and possibly jailing these assassins cloaked in medical attire, we can clear the rot in this noble profession.

John Kotey is a is a Systems Entrepreneur, STEM Enthusiast and Active Citizen. As a systems entrepreneur, he is the co-founder of Nsesa Foundation, an organization inspiring an innovation revolution in African through STEM education initiatives like Project iSWEST innovation bootcamps for high school students and SuaCode – a smartphone-based code learning system.

John often writes on a wide range of topics including entrepreneurship, political accountability and nation-building. He is passionate about the role of entrepreneurship in spurring the African renaissance.

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Maame, Mama Africa Left Another Voicemail

“Hi Maame,

I see mama today. She tell me sey you no fit pick im call. E no good o. I tell am sey you dey work plenti so you no dey carry your phone. Maame, mama don dey old oh. She no go like am if you and her no relate soon. She dey vex sey some yankee boys dey give her wahala for street. She no fit sleep o. Dem enter yard, dem come comot with the computer wey you leave am but e be surprising dey give am light. Dey call am solar power. You know sey that computer na wetin she dey use to remember the way you dey give am sweet belle. Mama no happy! She feel sey you de only light she dey need…

There is a fascinating parable depicting a lady who once lost a needle in her house and ventured to search for it outside. An old man observing the scenario asked where she had lost the needle. She aggressively responded, “Inside my house!” He continued, “Why aren’t you looking for it inside the house then?”

She scratched her head for a bit and said, “Because the light is outside.” This is the reality of most Africans living abroad today. Africa’s sun has somehow positioned itself to shine to the West while consciously alienating the additional cardinal directions. This is a result of the lack of an impactful educational curriculum.

The educational system in a number of African countries is flawed. Those who attend public schools are usually at a disadvantage due to the gradual absence of ill-paid teachers. As a result, attendance rates decline, diverting the attention of our youth to quick monetary gains on the streets of their respective cities. Education then becomes a lingering thought, as opposed to a necessity.

On the opposite end, those of affluent backgrounds have access to the best-paid teachers and the most prestigious forms of westernized education. This may be positioned as the norm in the minds of many, however; a number of graduates complete school with a limited understanding of their country’s narrative. As the brain drain trend dictates, the youth of the latter demographic pursue their higher education abroad, get accustomed to a prodigal lifestyle, and refuse to return to a continent they never fully understood.

Between one-third and a half of the tertiary educated populations of Kenya, Uganda, Liberia, Mozambique and Ghana leave their country. Africa has been in darkness for centuries and the permanent absence of her children – coupled with their past ephemeral presence – utterly encapsulates the drastic lack of development.

“What are you going to do to push the upsides of your continent so it could be open for business?” Adebola Williams – Chief Executive Officer of Red Media Africa – asked participants at the most recent Africa Economic Forum at Columbia University. At this forum, participants had the opportunity to witness entrepreneurs, disruptors, and innovators who took the bold leap to move back home after completing their education or professional servitude abroad to formulate an impact. Themed “Building Bridges, Breaking Barriers,” the forum encouraged Africans to break out of the fashionable cycle in order to make themselves a force for the people on the continent.

The discussion amongst the African diaspora pertaining to moving back home is clearly one that has come to stay yet quite impossible for most to grasp or take seriously. Many philosophers and influencers have said that the only thing greater than failure is not trying. However, when it comes to most Africans, I firmly believed that the trying is not the hardest part. The ability and need to try have been ingrained into our DNA for many years to the extent where it has been culturally positioned as an essential part of our survival. The problem for most is

The problem for most is comfort. As Thabo Mbeki said, “The principal investors in the South African economy are South Africans. And this is something, I think, we should really pay attention to.” It’s no coincidence that when you ask most non-Africans to name a country in Africa, an almost certain answer would be South Africa. Imagine an African with a well-paid job in investment banking, management consulting, or engineering. Logically thinking, why should she bother packing her bags to a land where the odds are portrayed to be against her, even if she is unfulfilled?

The perceived risk factor has been marketed to be exponentially high. As a result, we end up growing comfortable and being caught in the wheel of working to build another individual’s dream. A job is no doubt a blessing, however, it’s evident that ten years or so down the line, you may be replaced with someone younger and astute or by a robot. These ten or so years could have been invested into a goal to potentially transform your country or better yet, our continent.

On the note of transforming our continent, Adebola Williams challenged all attendees to become water to Africa. Water is a major problem in Sub-Saharan Africa where people lose 40 billion hours a year collecting it alone. Although all this time is invested collecting, research shows that 319 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa are still without access to improved reliable drinking water sources (Source: The Water Project). This issue, amongst others, deserves to be ameliorated and Africans abroad must devise impactful and scalable solutions accordingly. The reality is if we do not, someone else will because Africa is looking for heroes.

Today, most Africans ironically contribute to the single story of a continent filled to the brim with aids, poverty, and corruption. As Adebola said, “We are all media owners. The West no longer owns the media, the wise owns it.” For our singular narrative to be shifted underneath the wings of a progressive light, it’s of vital importance to cultivate our why as it will be the guiding force to propel us to bear with almost any how. Regardless of our respective realities, our why needs share a common denominator of improving our continent for future generations. A blessing and curse about our continent are that there are so many challenges. Understanding that when our neighbor’s house is on fire, our house is also on fire creates a tremendous opportunity to perspire and become water.

Patrick Ngowi – a Tanzanian Entrepreneur – is one of many success stories, as highlighted by Adebola during his keynote. Patrick started selling top-up vouchers, however; he saw that there were limited mobile phones in his vicinity. As a result, he imported mobile phones from China to address this challenge. He then realized his neighbors lacked the power to charge their phones. This realization challenged him to venture into solar energy. Patrick became the water cycle for his country. Today, Patrick is a millionaire.

Based on Patrick’s story, it’s quite evident that what Africa recognizes and celebrates is a force that doesn’t hesitate to transform, adapt, and execute. Second keynote speaker Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond – author of Powder Necklace – shared an experience where 39 African writers, including herself, set out to celebrate their published books. During their time at the summit, every author present spoke English, except two. This observation goes to show how colonialism has placed barriers in terms of our languages and interactions as Africans. This observation also creates an opportunity for the African diaspora to provide creative distribution models for individuals on the continent to better connect.

In his book, The Advanced Formula For Total Success, Robert Anthony said, “If we divided all the money in the world equally, in a short time the rich would be rich again, and the poor would be poor.” This idea carries on to the realities of our continent. Based on Anthony’s logic, it could be argued that what Africa needs to increase its competitiveness to promote economic equity is skillset, innovation, and access (opportunity). A combination of these three could be the right recipe for growth and development on our continent.

On the Media, Fashion & Arts panel, Lolade Olayokun – First US correspondent for – shared with attendees an experience with her family while in Nigeria. According to Olayokun, the more time she spent in her hometown, the frustrated she grew due to lack of cell phone service. At one point during the trip, they decided to climb a mountain.

“At the top of the mountain, there was service!” she exclaimed with joy. This is a story not foreign to the population living and breathing on the continent. For them, it’s not the issue with their cell phone service, it’s the lack of immediate connection with a neighbor. It’s not about hiking a mountain for an adrenaline blur; it’s about growing to understand that in order to be adorned with the opportunity to serve others in Africa, you have to be at the top. The problem is those who have made it at the top often forget their roots which leads to our stories being mistold.

As Michael Rain – Co-Founder of ZNews Africa – said, “Don’t just focus on who is telling the story, focus on how they tell our stories.”. Ayoinmotion – A Nigerian Musical Artist – echoed this sentiment by shedding light on his observation of African youth consuming entertainment and information through mediums built by non-Africans. We – the Africans abroad – have been equipped with the skills and have been given the tools to build platforms for our relatives on the continent yet we choose to add flame to the flawed narratives circulating the West.

Ghanaian businessman Seth Dei once said, “I realized it was difficult to be poor here (Ghana): there are so many opportunities. You only have to drop a seed and in two weeks you have a plant. Depending on your ambition you can become a millionaire.”

There were 169,000 millionaires on the continent at the end of 2014 — a number expected to rise by 53% over the next 10 years, according to the Knight Frank Wealth Report 2015. These predictions bring hope for most. However, the hope of being a millionaire should not be your reason for moving back to the African continent. Those who are truly impact driven are the ones who succeed.

Hakeem Belo-Osagie – Nigerian businessman and philanthropist – shared that you will find that a lot of successful people at home (Nigeria) have a deep sense of sadness because they are driven, as opposed to being in the driver’s seat. As a result, they subsume their identity into a piece of work. Their personal life suffers since they have overly committed to some work they just cannot do or they have put an importance or arbitrary significance on some work that doesn’t matter.

Based on his personal experience of venturing down the entrepreneurial route, Belo-Osagie boldly attests to having a wife and children who comprehend the true essence of his drive and assist him when the road grows dimmer as the defining reason for his success. He also advised, “You don’t want to have a lot of contacts but very few friends. When things get dark, the contacts disappear.”

This point hit home the hardest because I’ve had the opportunity to explore a plethora of conferences centered around the theme Africa. The majority of the time, the same familiar faces are in attendance, ever ready to be seen, heard, and acknowledged (See Networking Disguised As Transaction). We consume so much information at these conferences yet fail to execute, which leads us to believe there is more to consume before we go on to turn our wishes into goals.

Today, social media plays a revolutionary role in strengthening ties with friends and family on the African continent. During a discussion with Kwadwo Sarpong – Co-Founder of African Research Academies for Women – he shared that social media was a guiding force in building his organization’s team. With access to social media, Africans abroad have the advantage to assess those in their distant circle in order to formulate a vague idea of what they may be passionate about and whether that passion echoes their mission. Social media is one powerful tool that can potentially mere change contacts into friends.

To further drive the point of contacts, Belo-Osagie advised that having founding members with MBAs from top schools is absolutely not the hailed recipe for success. To succeed on the African continent, it’s imperative to find local people who have spent their entire lives on the ground to aid in a well thought out execution. His additional themes during his keynote included the willingness to be bold and to not hesitate, the importance of failure because it emboldens you to plunge ahead and address your mistakes, and the need to cultivate a laser cut commitment when pursuing your desired goals.

To my sisters and my brothers, it’s so important to live as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now. Africa has a population of 1.2bn people, and a GDP of $2.8Tn and assuming a compound annual growth of 5%, Africa’s GDP as a continent can reach $30Tn in 50 years. This should be enough motivation to reach out beyond cultures, races, and national borders to break barriers and build bridges for the sake of our continent, Africa.

Maame abeg you dey enjoy with oyinbo people wey you no fit remember mama.You fit dey bold, dey daring. Uncle Bello-Osagie dey tell us sey “if rain dey fall, e no be the reason wey you no go reach anywhere.” The thing wey dey happen for our kantri dey for head. Whether rain or sunshine, me must to move. We must to remember sey na mama born us. Blood dey thicker than water. As you dey with oyinbo people, make you no forget mama. Na the reason all our papa and grand papa dey fight so we no go fight again. Come home, Maame. Do am for us. I dey pray for you o.  

Your bro,



Jephthah Acheampong is an Entrepreneur, Writer, and Storyteller based in New York. Equipped with a background in Economics, Jephthah writes as a millennial voice on social justice, women equality, and education. He currently serves as Director of Sales & Marketing at Esusu. Jephthah also founded Anansi Global, a non-profit empowering youth in Ghana by providing quality education and mentorship.

View his work at or find him on Linkedin.

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From ‘South Africa to South Brooklyn’ Climate Change Affects Everyone

Photo by Jason Blackeye on Unsplash

Written by ZNews Africa Staff

Imagine if you could provide financial resources to enthusiastic entrepreneurs in emerging markets, empower women and fight climate change all at the same time? This is the work of New York-based non-profit and social investment fund, Shared Interest.

The organization mobilizes the resources for Southern Africa’s economically disenfranchised communities to sustain themselves and build equitable nations. International investors and partners on the ground enable Shared Interest to provide collateral, unlock local capital, and build capacity for entrepreneurs in low-income communities.

“You hear many people say ‘save the planet,’ ‘save the planet,’ ‘save the planet.’ The good news I want to say to you is the planet is just fine. The planet does not need saving,” remarked South African global activist Kumi Naidoo. Naidoo is the incoming secretary general of Amnesty International and former executive director of Greenpeace International.

NEW YORK, NY – MARCH 20: Incoming Amnesty International Secretary-General Kumi Naidoo accepts an award onstage during the Shared Interest 2018 Annual Spring Benefit at the Edison Ballroom on March 20, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Ben Gabbe/Getty Images for Shared Interest)

“If we continue on the path that we are on… the end result will be we get the planet to the point where we do not have water. We don’t have soil and we cannot produce food. So let’s be very clear; If we continue on the path we are on, the end result is that we will be gone. The planet will still be here,” Naidoo emphasized.  

Climate change is of course not restricted to affecting Southern Africa. The problem is a global one.

“Whether you’re in South Africa or South Brooklyn, it’s the same challenge we all face,” urged Bill De Blasio, Mayor of New York City at a recent benefit hosted by the group.

The Mayor emphasized that the very real effects of climate change are not limited to particular geographic regions and can affect even the world’s most developed cities. “We in New York City got an extraordinary wake-up call when hurricane Sandy hit. It made climate change very personal for all of us. The worst natural disaster in the history of the city just five years ago,” he remarked.

“What Cape Town is going through now as the precious resource of water is slipping away, it’s a reminder that climate change is not a theory. It’s not abstract. It’s very personal for everyone who is affected by it.”

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio addresses a crowd at Shared Interest’s Annual Spring Benefit in Manhattan on March 20, 2018. (Photography by Eric Acquaye)

Congresswoman Barbara Lee, member of the U.S. House of Representatives and Democratic Representative to the United Nations address the very personal issue this is for women. In a statement she declared, “All around the world communities are grappling with the reality of climate change and frequently it’s overburdened women left to run households feed their families and care for loved ones who also feel the brunt of climate change. This is especially true in developing countries.”

The reality is climate change is an issue of survival for human beings. The planet will restore itself, with or without us. As Naidoo points out, “Once we become extinct as a species the forest will recover. The oceans will regain their salt. So do not worry about saving the planet. Understand that the struggle we are engaged in here is to ensure humanity fashions a way to coexist with nature.”

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