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Seth Dei, the Ghanaian investor behind fruit exporter Blue Skies – FT

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Hidden behind high walls and the dusty, traffic-laden chaos of modern-day Accra, Seth Dei sits in pensive calm in his office. A cup of late afternoon coffee and three mini chocolate-chip cookies lie untouched in front of him as he studies his next move in a protracted chess endgame with his computer. “I’m winning, but I’m not sure how to finish,” he sighs.

On the walls are a few pieces from the extensive Ghanaian art collection he has built up over more than three decades. Outside, a neatly trimmed garden with a verdant lawn and brightly coloured tropical plants offset the white walls and clean lines of his modernist house.

The building in which he is sitting was built in 1957 for an English businessman. Dei found it too big when he bought it, and turned it into the now mothballed and sparsely furnished Dei Centre for the Study of Contemporary African Art, complete with a small library, and corridors and staircases lined with some of the 500 paintings he has acquired.

He hauls himself to his feet, and gestures to a picture opposite his desk of a market scene by Adiama that is part-painting, part-fabric collage. “He was part of the old school of artists in Ghana, who were timid about selling their works and not business-like,” he says. “They didn’t put much value on art.”

Dei’s home in Accra © Jordi Perdigó

Dei, 72, is a posterboy for business in Ghana. He helped create Blue Skies, a fresh fruit-packaging factory, which has become a frequent attraction on tours by dignitaries seeking symbols of the country’s economic success. He is now scaling back his involvement in a business with £90m in annual sales, supplying supermarkets in a dozen countries (including Waitrose in the UK) from its original factory in Accra, as well as others opened since in South Africa, Egypt, Senegal and Brazil.

His latter-day activities belie much of his working career and longstanding passion for supporting local artists. That is evident in the residential quarters next door, where he lives with his second wife. “Everything is made locally,” he says.

Born to cocoa-farming parents in the then Gold Coast and witness to independence from Britain during his schooldays in 1957, his focus was long on the US. He won a scholarship to Buxton, a boarding prep school in New England, and moved there aged 16.

Sitting room of Dei’s home in Accra, Ghana © Jordi Perdigó

He recalls his thrill at seeing the red autumn colours in his first September. In winter, “everything was white with snow, which I had never seen”.

With Ghanaian government funding, Dei studied at Columbia and Cornell in New York, before working in the life insurance sector. “I dealt with CEOs and CFOs. I observed the habits of American chief executives: they knew their businesses, kept fit, worked hard, had admirable self-confidence. You learnt from them,” he says.

He married an American and spent much of his career in the US, but never forgot his roots. “I had always intended to come back to Ghana, or at least to Africa,” he says. “I realised it was difficult to be poor here: 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.”

When he returned at the start of the 1990s, his first ventures drew on his US financial expertise. “There was a gold boom and a lot of mining companies, and I figured they needed equipment and leasing services. But that required central bank supervision, and the rules were terrible. I could see it would not grow, so I sold the business.”

Garden room © Jordi Perdigó

Then in 1997, he was introduced to Anthony Pile, a Briton who wanted to open a fresh fruit-packaging plant. “He was keen to find a local partner. Somebody told him to talk to me. We started chatting and he had convinced me within three minutes. It’s been a very good investment,” Dei says.

Asked to list the difficulties of operating, he quotes transport — perishable fruit must be shipped by plane — as well as the erratic local electricity supply, something which, in the humid dusk, also presents a challenge for the preservation of his artworks.

And corruption? “We have not come up against it, and we would not participate,” he says. “We are doing a lot for the economy.” Blue Skies employs 4,000 local staff, pays substantially above the minimum wage, offers free cooked meals, medical help, maternity and paternity leave, and social responsibility programmes in local communities.

‘Jazz Play’ (1997) by Glen Turner © Jordi Perdigó

With Ghana just celebrating 60 years of independence, he reflects: “I feel we should have done better. We had many more assets than Malaysia or South Korea, with a lot more natural resources. But I see a slow realisation from the president down that we should have done better. Coups d’état were getting us nowhere. Democratic practice has introduced competition to government.”

He says he never had any interest in politics. “I cannot say something is blue when it is in fact red.” Instead, during his spare time, he threw himself into art collecting. He befriended many of the country’s artists, buying their work and sometimes being offered it. He points to a long canvas by Larry Otoo of a brass band in a remote village. “He came to me and asked if I wanted him to paint me something. This is it.”

Settling into an armchair in the entrance hall, Dei pauses before answering the question of why he loves art. “First and foremost, I look on it as history: what’s happened, what’s happening,” he says. “The artist is able to freeze-frame and look carefully at things you don’t normally pay attention to when you are walking around. You never noticed something, and, seeing the picture, you realise it’s beautiful. It makes you pay more attention.”

Paintings by E Owusu Dartey and Adoley Nmai among others © Jordi Perdigó

He gets to his feet, and walks across a courtyard, into the street and next door, where at the end of a small garden decorated by large stone sculptures, he had an Italian architect friend modify the former maid’s quarters into his living accommodation. Settling down in the study, among piles of CDs and videos, Dei says he still receives weekly management reports from Blue Skies, and is excited about new projects including a planned range of dairy-free ice creams in chocolate, mango, coconut and lime.

On the lounge table, flanked by sofas, are a series of antique wooden-carved slingshots from Ghana, Ivory Coast and Cameroon, which have been converted into ornaments. A full-length window opens on to a tiny, tranquil courtyard. Yet Dei craves still more space and light, and is completing work on a new home in the hills with a view over Accra. “I want more calm, where the air is cool.”

Baule sculpture from the Ivory Coast © Jordi Perdigó

He is also winding down his art collection, expressing frustration that American academic partners did not provide any funding. He closed the centre to the public three years ago. “I got tired and I’m taking a pause,” he says. “If I kept doing this, I’d be broke.”

He says all options remain open, and recently discussed the sale of works in a meeting with Sotheby’s. His dream is to donate his collection to a new state museum of modern art, but for now, he questions the competence of government officials to take charge.

Sculpture by Saka Acquaye © Jordi Perdigó

“We need a new museum of modern art. I think we can use the diaspora to build a nice little museum,” he says. He would like someone to approach the architect David Adjaye to prepare a preparatory sketch for a new venue, “to embarrass big institutions into contributing and building it”. Even if he is frustrated with the slow progress, Dei has not lost his enthusiasm for art. He has just bought two pictures in a new high-end gallery nearby, itself a sign of changing attitudes. “It has opened the eyes of Ghanaians and encouraged younger artists to up their game. There is a buzz about art in Ghana now. I’m very happy.”

 

Favourite thing

Dei picks out a 2006 painting of a saxophonist by Ghanaian artist Hacajaka. “When I look at this picture, it brings back lots of memories,” he says. “I listen a lot to jazz. It reminds me of when I graduated from college. When I was studying in the US, I heard some of the best jazz musicians: John Coltrane, Miles Davis.

“Miles Davis is my favourite. I heard him in Boston once and asked for his autograph, though he pretty much told me to get lost. There was a lot of experimentation with music . . . It puts me in a good mood. I’ll put this in my office in my new house.”

Credit: Fancial Times
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Bola Ray mentors 30 YOUNG BUSINESS LEADERS, October 19!

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Media mogul Bola Ray ( Nathan Kwabena Anokye Adisi) will hold a mentoring session with young Ghanaian business leaders on Thursday, October 19.

A renowned entrepreneur and corporate icon, Bola Ray looks to renew the passions of “tomorrow’s business leaders”, taking them through his own experiences, and his road to success.

Recently publishing his best-selling memoire “It is Possible”, Bola Ray is CEO of the EIB Network and the Empire Group, and has been a key media player for 2 decades now.

Bola Ray joined radio while still in university, Bola Ray has grown to become an authority not just in radio broadcasting, but in the entertainment industry as a whole. He joined Accra-based Top Radio after university and went on to The Multimedia Group, where he served a variety of roles, mainly hosting Drivetime on Joy for 11 years. For the past two years, he has been host of Starr Chat and co-host of Starr Drive.

Dubbed “An Evening With Bola Ray – Accra Edition”, the event is put together by Empire Protocol, with support from uniBank, StarLite, RLG World, Allianz Insurance, Dominion Oil, MenzGold, and Special Ice.

Copies of Bola Ray’s book can be secured via bolaray.com

 

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Stonebwoy, LIL WIN perform @ GOtv MAX Kumasi launch!

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Over the weekend in Kumasi, GOtv Ghana hosted a massive concert to introduce its new package GOtv MAX to the public. The event held at the Kumasi City Mall, attracted thousands of concert goers who defied the heavy downpour to enjoy the music and fireworks display.

The event was nearly marred by the rain storm that started immediately the first set of performers hit the stage. Fans were forced to take shelter within the mall for well over three hours until the storm passed through and the equipment were checked and given the green light for the concert to resume at 10pm.

General Manager, GOtv Ghana, Kingsley Afful performing the launch reaffirmed the commitment of GOtv to bring its subscribers the best local and international TV shows first, hence the introduction of the GOtv MAX package. He explained that “Quality entertainment has always been a key focus on GOtv platform and we are excited to continue building our entertainment options for our customers by bringing them this new package”.

“We understand that times are tough but that doesn’t mean that our customers have to miss out on world-class entertainment. Sports just got bigger and better with the GOtv MAX package which will bring the best football titles in the world, La Liga, along with more entertainment choice for the whole family like CBS Reality, Sony Max and FOX.”

GOtv MAX customers will enjoy access to over fifty channels of the hottest local and international channels featuring everything from the freshest series, music and sport to the latest in fashion reality, celebrity and kiddies programming.  “From 1st October, all active GOtv Plus subscribers have been automatically upgraded onto the GOtv Max package at no cost to them to sample this new package for one full month”, Mr. Afful added.  He also announced a reduction on the price of GOtv decoders to GHs79 and the subscription price cuts on the GOtv Plus package to GHs35.

Fans were entertained by Stonebwoy and the BossNations’ CEO, the pride of Kumasi, Lil Win and crew. Several fans were rewarded with GOtv decoders as part of the launch activities by the artistes. The event was culminated in a huge firework display deep into the night to the delight of the thousands present at the event.

 

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SAMSUNG, Ecobank Launch GALAXY NOTE 8 in Ghana!

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Electronics giant Samsung has partnered with Ecobank to deliver the much-anticipated Galaxy Note 8 device to smartphone lovers in Ghana.

The two companies jointly introduced the Galaxy Note 8 unto the Ghanaian market with an easy payment plan that can enable Ghanaians to purchase the device.

Described as the next level Note, the Galaxy Note 8 targets consumers who want to do bigger things with smartphones. With Galaxy Note 8, consumers get a bigger Infinity Display that fits comfortably in one hand, the S Pen to communicate in more personal ways and Samsung’s best-ever smartphone camera to capture stunning photos.

Speaking at the launch, Eugene Nahm, Managing Director of Samsung Ghana, the technology manufacturer continues to uphold its commitment to lead the industry in battery safety. The Galaxy Note 8 battery has undergone the 8-Point Battery Safety Check process hence making it the safest smartphone in the world.

Mr Dan Sackey, Managing Director of Ecobank Ghana stated that the partnership with Samsung will give more access to their clients, it will also enable them spend less time in banking halls in order to have enough time to do the things they love.

According to the bank, one can pay GHc14 a day over a 12-month period for the device.

Renowned Ghanaian artist Bright Ackwerh did a live display of the S Pen and gave a testimony of how the device makes it easier for him to sketch his artworks.

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Classics is not a ‘dead’ course – Prof. Olakunbi Olasope

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Professor Olakunbi Olasope, an associate professor of Classics at the University of Ibadan has stressed on the importance of the study of Classics and stressed that Classics offered a window through which the foundations of modern politics, social and economic life could be understood. According to her, classics shaped our ideas of freedom of speech, the rule of law, democracy, equality, ethics, and human rights.

Citing the example of the sex strike by Kenyan women which caused opposing leaders Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga to reconcile, Professor Olasope referred to the ancient antecedent in Lysistrata, a comedy written in 411BC by Aristophanes, in which Lysistrata convinced women of Greece to withhold sexual favours from men as a means of forcing them to sign a treaty to end the Peloponnesian War.

She said that Ghana and Africa should not imitate the West blindly, but study and adapt or modify the past to suit their unique problems, and added that Classics offered such opportunity to the nation.

Prof. Olasope made these comments at the maiden panel discussion on the topic; “The relevance of philosophy and classics to Ghana’s development” organised by the Association of Philosophy and Classics Students in collaboration with the Department of Philosophy and Classics at the University of Ghana on 10th October 2017. The event brought together over 400 students and lecturers from the Philosophy and Classics departments of the University of Ghana. It also had experts in human resource, accountancy and social enterprise present to share how industry accommodates students with Philosophy and Classics backgrounds.

The event was also attended by graduate and teaching assistants, and lecturers in the department, including the former head of Philosophy and Classics Professor Kofi Ackah, and the patron of the association Mr Michael Okyere Asante. Other lecturers in attendance were Dr Caesar Atuire, Ms Bernice Adamson and Ms Gifty Etornam Kemevor.

 

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DJ Mic Smith to shutdown Accra with the biggest DJ Concert In Ghana as part of his 10th year anniversary

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Sunday October 22nd will be etched in the memories of many Ghanaians as a tall list of top stars converge at the Accra Mall food court to party and pay tribute to the contribution of DJ Mic Smith to the Ghanaian and international music industry.

For the past decade, Mic Smith known in real life as Michael Owusu-Smith has demonstrated a monstrous mastery of his craft. His flawless control of the turntables has endeared him to the hearts of many in Ghana and across the shores of the country. So on an occasion to recognize his efforts in putting the country on a different pedestal, “A” list DJS like Andy Dosty, DJ Kess, Nigeria’s finest, DJ Neptune, DJ Mensa, Killa Fingers, DJ Vyrusky are amongst the DJs on rotation to celebrate with him in mega style.

The Shutdown King as he is affectionately called has paid his dues both to the music and Djing fraternity.

So on the night, expect artiste like Mr. Eazi to take things easy as he delivers explosive tunes from his arsenal. E.L, A.I, Magnom, Kojo Cue, are also part of a tall list of performers to thrill patrons at the free concert dubbed SHUTDOWN 2017.

About DJ Mic Smith

Micheal Owusu known as DJ Mic Smith is an event, club, radio, mixtape and artist DJ and also an entrepreneur from the republic of Ghana.

He also currently holds several nominations from Ghana DJ Awards; The Redbull club DJ of the year awardMic Smith is also the official DJ for international Afrobeats star Mr Eazi signed to the highly successful Ghanaian record label Miester Music .

Mic began DJing by “accident” when looking for a job over 10 years ago, where he had an embedded passion for music and allowed this to take more of a forefront in his life than it had previously. At Hot fm (93.9) in the early stages of 2008, he started as a radio presenter who presented the entertainment news on the Drive Time Show hosted by Okyeame Quophi. Within a year of life in the media world. Mic began spinning, his talent was pushed to the next level, when he became resident DJ at one of the most recognised clubs in Accra, Rockstone’s Office known to many as Django. Over the years he was the main focus entertainment at the club and his talent on the decks quickly earned him the nickname ‘The Shutdown King’ exposing him to many opportunities including national and international gigs.

 

 

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Miss Sabina Awuni is 2017 Miss Ghana UK the Jubilee Queen

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“This was an exceptional show and a night to remember with amazing memories. As always, our God came through and didn’t fail us and all glory goes to him.  The competition was tight and not easy to call. But in all, we couldn’t have achieved all these without the support of all our partners and sponsors”.

These were the words of Ms Cilla Gyewu, a representative of the Miss Ghana UK Foundation, after this year’s edition of the grand finale of the Miss Ghana UK beauty pageant, held on Saturday 30th September at Gaumont Palace (formerly known as Dominion Centre) came to a successful end.

At the end of 6  rounds of exciting showing, Miss Sabina Lawabea Awuni rose up to the occasion to be counted and was declared as the winner of the topmost award on the night, the 2017 Miss Ghana UK Queen being the edition of the most popular beauty pageant across Europe.

Miss Sabina Lawabea Awuni is a twenty – Three (23) year old a graduate and currently working as an instructor in Training & Development Administrator from Kent in the United Kingdom. She appeared to have impressed the judges with her elegance and smartness to make her won a little bit easier considering the fierce competition witnessed from the very first round.

The first runner-up was twenty-one (21) year old Miss Rachel Osei-Tutu, a university student from Buckinghamshire and the second – runner-up was Miss Francyn Amuah – Fuster who is twenty – five (25) years and an Accounts Assistant from Enfield.

The 2017 Miss Ghana UK was sponsored by World Remit, Blue Rose Real Estate (GH), VLISCO, Ghana Tourism Authority, Konfidence Hair, Sinai Beauty, Ghana Cocoa Marketing Company Limited, Cans Noire, ORS, Elizabeth Arden, Jackie Johnson, Zeeks Concepts and Shea Glo, Laboro, Pam’s Cakes, Uncle John’s Bakery, JD Fitness, Official Media Partner ABN TV and Radio.

Other partners are Ahomka Radio, CTLR World, Fab Photography, Afropulp, Osess, Flash Africa, Ghana Fashion Marketing (GH), Prompt Communication (GH), Eventsgh, Cypress Ghana, Savvy Concierge and On Point Property and Gold, Radiant Foundation, Pen2 Paper, Ghana Youth Day, Malika Sang (Promo Video).

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