Dr Ishmael Evans Yamson: Chairman across the board and God’s gift to Africa’s private sector

  • the splendour of old men is their grey hair (Prov 20:29, ESV)

There is something about sitting at the foot of a veteran – one whose body bears the scars of a lifetime of dedication to their craft – as nuggets of wisdom drop like honey into waiting bowls. The experience is heightened when said individual has risen to the summit of their calling and left an indelible mark in the sands of time.

Scarcely has anyone, singlehandedly, impacted the private sector in any country, at any point in history as Ishmael Evans Yamson has, period. His list of corporate engagements read like the yellow pages and it is not overstating it that he must be in contention for a world record for the highest number of boards served on.

From the uncertainty that characterised the military-led mid-1960s and the tumultuous 70s and 80s, through the burgeoning democracy of the 1990s to the technological revolution of the 2000s, 2010s and 2020s, he has seen it all and continues to influence affairs across the board.If anyone embodies the expression: Larger-than-life, it is Dr Yamson. At this point, we beckon you to clear your schedule, find someplace comfortable and glean precious jewels from the life and times of the Father/Chairman of Ghana’s Private Sector.


Ishmael Evans Yamson was welcomed into the world via Breman Kuntanase in the Central Region of Ghana on May 11, 1942, as one of the 26 children of a cocoa buying agent from Saltpond and the first of his mother’s 10 offspring.

He was named Ishmael – God has heard – by his maternal grandfather, who had lost 11 of his 15 children, ostensibly due to sickle cell anaemia and related conditions. The older Yamson left the family when Ishmael was only six months old. His mother remarried a catechist and due to the frequent travels associated with his stepfather’s calling, Ishmael was informally adopted by his maternal grandparents.

He credits the circumstances of his upbringing for impressing upon him the principles of community, responsibility, integrity, and humility.

Touching on the overarching influence of “the principal pillar of his formative years,” Nana, as he called his grandfather, Dr Yamson says the former’s ability to provide for the vast number of persons under his care and do so in an equitable manner left an indelible mark on him.

Additionally, the candour, coupled with the meekness with which his grandparents – who were classic, dyed-in-the-wool colonial-era Methodists –  interacted with their superiors, contemporaries, and especially subordinates, he notes, set the tone for his philosophy of leadership, which has served him well in the multiple instances where he has been at the helm of affairs; domestically or professionally.

“I used to think my grandparents were rich because, despite their meagre income from the farm, they were able to provide a piece of cloth for everyone who lived with us; and the number was not small… but what impressed me the most was how they would interact with everyone, even their younger relatives. It showed me that everyone must be treated with dignity,” Dr Yamson notes.

The reluctant scholar

“I just refused to go to school,” recalls Dr Yamson of his earliest experience.  It took the intervention of an uncle of his to literally carry him to school through a window to the local Methodist school, which also served as a place of worship on Sundays. He was there from Class 1A to Class 1C.

With no middle school in the village, he proceeded to Breman Jamera Methodist School in what is now the Odoben Brakwa District of the Central Region, where young Ishmael and his contemporaries would walk a combined 12 kilometres to and from school. “When it rained, we would have put our books at the back of our school uniforms to keep them from getting wet as we had no school bags.”

Ishmael was there for a year and proceeded to the Methodist School at Agona Odobeng at the behest of his grandparents. He attributes the seeds of resilience sown in him to this period.

Apam Secondary School

Ishmael was well on course to the Komenda Training School and subsequently, the Wesley College, on his way to becoming a priest; as Nana would have wanted it, but a priest, who was well aware of the young man’s academic prospects, proposed that he be enrolled at the newly founded Apam Secondary School.

“About two days before I was to leave for the Komenda Training School, a priest came to see my grandparents and told them that a new secondary school had been opened by the Methodist Church at Apam and he impressed upon my grandparents to let me go there. My grandfather was not amused, and he asked if I could still be a priest there. I think the priest told him I could still be one.”

As such, in 1957, Ishmael Yamson became the first person from Breman Kuntanase to obtain a secondary school education; one of his many firsts.

Despite the less-than-ideal conditions at the secondary school in Apam including the absence of potable water and electricity as well as having to use a makeshift cocoa shed as both classroom and dormitory, Ishmael excelled under the tutelage of its founding principal, the eminent Reverend J.W. De-Graft Johnson, who doubled as Maths and English teacher.

Nana’s words of encouragement served as fuel for young Ishmael in the pursuit of academic excellence. “I remember him saying he had heard there was a place in Accra called the ‘unibersity’, and he wanted me to go there and become a ‘big man’ and that would make him very proud and feel accomplished. He promised to cater to all my needs even if he were left with my last piece of cloth.”

Enamoured by the quantitative aspects of Economics as well as Mathematics, he excelled in Geography and History; the bedrock of the social sciences for which Apam Secondary School was renowned, alongside St. Louis and Opoku Ware.

His academic prowess, which saw him win ‘Scholar of the Year’ on three consecutive occasions, was replicated in the area of sports as Ishmael succeeded as an all-round sportsman, with hockey, football, sprinting and baseball being among his favourites.

His preference, however, was for hockey. Football, where he played in goal, came in second place, due to his size and a famous incident of truancy. “We escaped to play for the Apam town against Gomoa Tarkwa but the team was wishy-washy, we didn’t take permission and so everyone had six, firm lashes. Maybe that is what took my time off football,” he reckons.

His privileged position compelled him to give regular talks to his townsfolks on the benefit of education, particularly for the girl child, and the initiative that saw enrolments in Breman Kuntanase rise.

He obtained his ‘O’ level certificate and ‘A’ level certificate, from the same school in 1961 and 1963 respectively, by which time, the school under Dr P.A. Owiredu had secured a water tank and generator. Ishmael and 11 of his classmates gained admission into the university, a testament to the academic performance of the school. The one student who was unable to pass at the first sitting, joined them the following year.

Legon calling

Similarly, Dr Yamson was the first person from Breman Kuntanase to proceed to the university. Aged 21 in 1963, he gained admission to the University of Ghana, Legon, where he was a contemporary of some of the nation’s most influential leaders including former Minister for Finance and Economic Planning, Kwesi Botchwey; immediate-past Senior Minister, Dr Yaw Osafo-Maafo, and former Minister for the Interior, Kwesi Ahwoi.

His preference was to major in Geography, which he said came naturally to him but adds: “There were rumours that no one ever passed Geography, so I proceeded to the Department of Mathematics. But there was only one other student at the time and I decided against it. So, I eventually opted for Economics.”

The period coincided with the reversal of fortunes at a national level as the ambitious industrialisation drive by the then President, Kwame Nkrumah, was beginning to take its toll on the public purse. Ishmael continued as before, performing admirably in his academics and balancing that with his love for hockey and what he describes as a “modest social life.”

His grandfather continued the tradition of regular visits, bringing with him fresh supplies of bread and other victuals, and at the time Ishmael was in his final year and inhabited a single-occupancy room, Nana would have the occasional sleepover; heart bursting with pride that his very own grandson was at the ‘unibersity.’ He graduated with a Bachelor’s degree with Honours in Economics in 1966.

The United Africa Company of Ghana

Upon graduation, and with the sense of revolution being the zeitgeist of those mid-to-late 1960s, he applied and gained admission to join the army, drawn especially by the appeal of a disciplined, regimented life at a time when indiscipline was becoming rife. “I liked the discipline, the salutes, and the uniform,” he says. He, however, had multiple offers from many reputable companies and opted to honour the invitation by the renowned United Africa Company of Ghana (UAC).

Recounting the events around the interview, he said, “That was the first time I wore a suit – an undersized Chinese suit – and an oversized shirt. I arrived late and covered with dust and the panel burst out in laughter, with one person asking where this ‘bush man’ was from. But I took no notice of the slight and I was not perturbed.”

He performed spectacularly well before the panel and when asked where he would be in 20 years from the time, he responded confidently, saying he will be Chairman of the company. “Then one man asked me: young man, where will you be 20 years from now? And I replied, without any hesitation whatsoever, ‘I will be Chairman of this company.” And an even greater round of laughter ensued. Ishmael Yamson was Chairman at UAC exactly 20 years later.

In November 1966, Ishamael Yamson’s journey at the food arm of UAC began in the capacity of a Trainee Manager. He was declared AWOL by the army for opting for the job at UAC, after being admitted into the Armed Forces. To atone for his apparent indiscretion, Ishmael had to teach for one year at the military academy.

Shortly afterwards, he was on attachment at the Bird’s Eye Foods in the United Kingdom, and in 14 months, he was a full manager; a process that typically took more than 40 months and made history along the way.

In 1967, Ishmael Yamson launched UAC’s first mass-market confectionary – Cascade Sweets.  For UAC, which was a trading company, the launch represented its first entry into the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) market and a major breakthrough for the company. In 1970, four years after he joined, Dr Yamson became the General Sales Manager at UAC.

Kumasi Breweries

After six years in the capital, he was transferred to the Kumasi Breweries Ltd, where, by his own account, he drank beer for the first time as a requirement during the interview process. Of that experience, he says: “After one glass, my head was spinning. My legs were wobbly but after lunch, I was back to normal.” His time at Kumasi Breweries saw him have stints with Heineken in Holland and Nigerian Breweries, Nigeria.

The beginning of his tenure in Kumasi coincided with the launch of Gulder Lager Beer, which had failed to capture the attention of the market. Without any briefing, Dr Yamson was tasked with selling 400,000 cartons of the brew.

Nicknamed ‘Akpeteshie Beer’ for its strong taste (and its assumed higher level of alcohol), the job was a tough ask. However, Ishmael embarked on a tour of the country to get feedback from the market on why the lager had failed to catch on. The only place where Gulder was in short supply was up North, where it was often drunk warm, straight off the trucks. This was because the beer tasted sweeter when gulped immediately after eating kola. In eight months, all 400,000 cartons had been sold. This saw him become the Marketing Director at the firm.

He, however, did not rest on his laurels as the idea was to have a brand that was sold across the country, not just a regional brand. As such, in 1975, Dr Yamson, along with the late Jake Obetsebi Lamptey, then of Lintas – the advertising arm of UAC, embarked on a new campaign alongside counterparts in Nigeria to promote the brand.

The campaign brought with it the tagline, ‘Strong beer, Proud of its taste’.  Despite the overwhelming approval of the campaign promise, Ishmael immediately knew it would be ineffective in Ghana and said so publicly.

The General Manager of Kumasi Breweries sought to change Ishmael’s mind, fully aware that the company lacked the resources to develop and run its own campaign, and failure in that regard would have resulted in heads rolling.

Upon Ishmael’s insistence, the team from Ghana was given three months from London to run a successful campaign or lose their jobs. This was the typical six to nine months for a campaign of such magnitude.

In 13 weeks, after both campaigns were assessed the Ghanaian strategy was on a perpetual ascendancy, whilst the Nigerian approach had backfired spectacularly. In no time, the Ghanaian campaign was adopted in Nigeria as well. Ishmael Yamson describes this as one of the most significant epochal periods of his life, as Gulder has gone on to attain international recognition. He also instituted the Gulder Cup programme during his time at Kumasi Breweries.

Worthy weight in Textiles

Again, after six years in the breweries business, he proceeded to head the Textiles Division.

This was at a time when companies could not access raw materials and struggled to produce more than 12,000 pieces of cloth per month. The government had ordered textile companies to grow their own cotton as they would not receive approval to import the commodity. “Even if every customer received one piece, it just would not have been enough,” he says of the period. Additionally, corruption was rife, with entire trucks of textiles going missing.

Ishmael Yamson introduced a scientific means of distribution, which promoted equity. This singular initiative saved the company during a crackdown on graft under the military regime. In 1980, he was promoted to the position of Managing Director at Ghana Textiles Printing Co. Limited (GTP) as well as Commercial Director, Juapong Textiles Limited and GB Ollivant.

East Africa

In July 1983, Dr Yamson went on to be Chairman UAC for East Africa – Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and based in Tanzania. This came after turning down a role at Bird’s Eye Foods in London as he was captivated by the prospect of turning around the fortune of the perennially unprofitable company; which had not made a profit in nine years.

Describing the state of affairs when he arrived, he says, “Things were so bad in Tanzania that we needed to cross the border into Kenya to purchase basic items including sugar.” Despite the seemingly insurmountable challenge, he was able to turn things around and by the close of the year, UAC Tanzania had returned to a profit. In the four and half years that he spent there, Ishmael Yamson rebuilt the team, expanded opportunities for indigenous Tanzanians, and appointed the first local Tanzanian director in the more than 90-year history of the UAC Tanzania.

“Chair, here”

In November 1986, exactly 20 years after his famous response to his first interview, Dr Ishmael Yamson was appointed as the Chairman of UAC Ghana. At the time, UAC had its hands in no less than 26 businesses covering trading, shipping, advertising, publicity, oil and gas, timber, tractor and equipment, vehicle assembly, business equipment, and retail.

During his tenure, he is credited with revolutionising the distribution of fast-moving consumer goods in the country through a novel key distribution concept, leading to sales volume tripling as a result of efficiently managing this new distribution concept.

The period coincided with the Liberalisation era and Ishmael began developing concerns about the trading business as such, he moved to restructure UAC and, in the process, rationalised the 26 existing businesses, with more than 15,000 employees, and condensed them to six. This saw the sale of some 300 landed properties in prime areas – Ridge, Ringway, Cantonments, etc. even as the focus was centred on the expansion of the manufacturing business.


Following the restructuring of UAC Ghana, he successfully led the historic merger in 1992 of UAC Ghana and Lever Brothers, to form the largest corporate establishment in Ghana and the first such merger in Ghana, where he continued as Chairman of the new entity – Unilever.

Dr Yamson oversaw Unilever’s consumer-driven, small unit pack, low unit price innovation that revolutionised the entire route-to-market chain, making affordable products everywhere throughout the Unilever Africa region.

“At the time of the merger, Lever Brothers’ total production was about 30,000 tons and the company was precariously reliant on one brand – Key Soap.  In the 10 years that followed, production hit 150,000 tons with 23 brands including major brands such as Royco, Blue Band, Frytol, Sunsilk, Close-up, Geisha, and Lipton.  The brand portfolio aligned Unilever Ghana with Unilever’s global business and put Ghana on the world map as a consumer products business,” he reckons.

In 1997, Unilever led by Dr Yamson played a crucial role in the expansion of Ghana’s palm oil production.  The company invested US$7.2 million in the Twifo Oil Palm Plantation (TOPP), as a result, the company’s total acreage rose from 6,000 hectares to over 13,000 hectares.  Today Unilever produces more palm oil than any company in Ghana, providing jobs to over 40,000 rural people where per capita income is double the national average. He was appointed to the Board of Unilever Africa in 2000.

In 2001, through Ishmael Yamson’s initiative, Unilever discovered the Allanblackia fruit whose oil promises to revolutionise the manufacture of margarine globally. In 2002, Unilever began to explore exports to Nigeria under Ishmael Yamson’s tutelage.  Today, the company exports close to 40,000 tons of margarine to its neighbours.

But in his estimation, the greatest achievement of his time as Chairman of Unilever Ishmael is the establishment of the Unilever Foundation for Education and Development. The Fund awards scholarships to second-cycle students as well as tertiary-level students for undergraduate and post-graduate studies. The Fund also engages in entrepreneurial training for SMEs as well as ambulances for rural hospitals.

Approaching retirement

Dr Yamson began the ‘Flexi time’ of intermittent working, two years before turning 60, to aid his transition towards retirement. Due to his impeccable leadership, Unilever asked Dr Yamson to extend his departure by another two years. “I was not awfully happy with the request,” he says, “as I had taken on so much and felt I needed time off.” After 38 years of unblemished corporate excellence, Dr Ishmael Yamson bowed out from active service as he retired as Chairman & CEO of Unilever Ghana in 2004.

Ishmael Yamson & Associates

Not one to stay idle and with multiple lifetimes’ worth of experience in corporate governance, Dr Yamson had a very clear idea of what he wanted to do post-retirement.

“I had looked at many of my colleagues who did not prepare well and barely six months after retirement, they were different people, even physically… I had to put out what little I knew about building brands, ethical leadership, and corporate governance, especially, for people in the public sector,” he explains.

And so, business management consultancy – Ishmael Yamson & Associates, was born. The firm promises to deliver an “approach to transformation that is based on an all-encompassing and time-tested ‘Vison-to-Value-Creation’ model. Though the model cuts across all the key aspects of business and organizational activities, it is not a one-size-fits-all application. It is always tailored to the environments and the needs of the specific client.”

IY&A has so far helped many companies redefine their strategic agenda but Dr Yamson says the consultancy has not been without its challenges, especially as many people struggle to see the value. However, the perception is changing. On some of the most frequent advice he has had to give in his capacity as a consultant, Dr Yamson says: “I tell young people, you won’t succeed if you are lazy. Success requires risk-taking also. It is amazing but many people think tough assignments are punishments.”

“Having the potential is different from delivery. The two must come together. Some people deliver but have no vision of themselves. Some have potential and are arrogant and believe everything should fall in line for them,” he adds.

Other engagements

No one has done more for the private sector in Ghana than Dr Ishmael Yamson. He was instrumental in driving private-public partnerships, bringing both under one umbrella to speak with one voice through the Public-Private Sector Advisory Committee. He played a big role in the setting up of the Private Enterprise Foundation as well as the rebirth of the Ghana National Chamber of Commerce, where he also served as its Chairman. Dr Yamson is also a one-time President of the Employees Association.

Ishmael participated in the setting up of the Ghana Stock Exchange and was a founding council member. In 1992, Dr Yamson successfully negotiated the return of GTP and Juapong Textiles to their original owners – UAC International and Vlisco BV.

He was the Vice-Chairman of the Ghana government-private sector consultative group that developed the first-ever Investment Code for Ghana and also a pioneer in the establishment of the Ghana Investment Promotion Council and a founding council member.

He is chairing Ghana’s new thrust into oil palm production and has served as the Chairman of the President’s Special Initiative on oil palm. With the scale of his responsibilities, it boggles the mind that Dr Yamson had time for other engagements. However, the list reads like something from the yellow pages.

Directorships / Advisory Council Membership

Current (Local)

Unilever Ghana Ltd                             (non–executive chairman)

Ghacem Ghana Ltd                             (Heidelberg (Germany) subsidiary)

Mantrac Ghana Ltd                            (Mantrac (Egyptian) subsidiary)

Benso Oil Plantations Ltd                    (Chairman)

MTN Ghana (Scancom)                       (Chairman)

Ishmael Yamson & Associates             (Chairman)

TARS Consult                                      (Chairman)

Kosmos Energy Ghana                        (Advisory Council Member)

Past (Local)

1987 – 2013                                        Twifo Oil Palm Plantations Ltd

                                                            Council Member, Centre for Policy Analysis 

1988 – 1992                                        Venture Capital Fund

1991 – 1994                                        Ghana Stock Exchange

1994 – 2004                                        Barclays Bank Ghana (now Absa Bank)

1998 – 2007                                        University of Ghana Council (Chairman)

2004 – 2006                                        Bank of Ghana

2008 – 2012                                        Ghana Investment Promotion Centre

Standard Chartered Banb (Non–Executive Chairman)


1997- 2007                                          Commonwealth Business Council

2004 – 2014                                         Nigeria Breweries plc (Heineken subsidiary)


Membership of corporate/non-corporate bodies (Present)

Patron and Fellow, Ghana Institute of Marketing

Fellow, Institute of Management, Ghana

Member, Rotary Club of Accra

Member, Society of Friends for the Mentally Retarded

Trustee, University of Ghana College of Health Sciences Postgraduate Endowment Fund

Trustee, National Kidney Foundation, Ghana

Trustee, Achimota Golf Club


1990 – 2000 –              President, Ghana Employers’ Association

1990 – 1994 –              President, Ghana National Chamber of Commerce and Industry

1992 –1998 –                Member, Public/Private Sector Roundtable

1991 – 1996 –               Member, Private Sector Advisory Group

1991 – 1994 –               Council Member, Ghana Stock Exchange

1992 – 1994 –               Chairman, University of Ghana Investment Committee

1992 – 1996 –              Member Gimpa Court of Governors

1992 – 1996 –              Member, Central Region Development Commission

1993 – 1998 –              Founding Member and President of Governing Council,

Private Enterprise Foundation

1994 – 1996 –              Member, Business Assistance Fund

1996 – 1999 –              Chairman, Hunger Project-Ghana

1998 – 2007 –              Chairman, University of Ghana Council

2000 – 2008 –              Member, National Institutional Renewal Programme

2004 – 2012 –              Member, Private Sector Advisory Council

2009 – 2012 –              National Development Planning Council

2009 – 2012 –              Ghana Investment Promotion Centre

2009 – 2012 –              President’s Economic Advisory Council (Member /Chairman)

2009 – 2012 –              Economic Management Team (Member)


1980 –                          Member, Duke of Edinburgh’s Commonwealth Conference

1986 – 1990                 Member, Global Coalition for Africa

1986 – 2000                 Chairman, International Chamber of Commerce (Ghana chapter)

1997 – 2007                 Member, Commonwealth Business Council/ Chairman, Corporate Governance Committee (CBC).

1990 – 2004                 Member, Unilever Africa advisory council

1998 – 2006                 Member, Heineken Africa advisory council

2000 – 2004                 Member, Private Initiative for Africa

Awards and Recognition

With a career as impactful as Dr Yamson has had, it is expected that he receives ample recognition for his contribution. He remains the only Ghanaian to have been awarded the Order of the Volta (civil division – national award) and Companion of the Order of the Volta (civil division – then the highest civil national award) in 2004 and 2006 respectively.

The former was for his contribution to the business landscape during the transition from military administration to civilian rule as well as his work in the evolution of the private sector, particularly in bringing the public and private sectors together. The latter was for the role he played as a negotiator with IMF and encouraging investments in the country. Ishmael Evans Yamson was also recognised as the Outstanding Statesman at the Millennium Excellence Awards in 2007 and the Africa Business Award by the Commonwealth Business Council in 2011.

Additional Studies

UAC’s model of periodic studies, usually over the summer at the Russell Group and Ivy League institutions ensured he had an impressive catalogue of academic qualifications. In 2005, he was conferred with an honoris causa (PhD) by his alma mater – the University of Ghana.


A lifelong Methodist, Dr Yamson comes from a family of musically gifted persons. Aged nine, he was a chorister and played the keyboard at the Breman Kuntanase Methodist Church; he remains an avid player up till today. He credits his faith for keeping his ground, especially in the face of many temptations to compromise his integrity. “It is evident that there is more to us than the physical. In addition, the laws stated in Scripture – the 10 Commandments will prove useful whether one is a Christian or not.”

“I joined UAC with five other persons from the University of Ghana, but they had all been sacked in less than five years due to many indiscretions. There were so many opportunities to steal during my time at UAC, but I would not for the fear of God. My naivete even almost had me killed on one occasion at the port, where I was intentionally locked up in a freezing container because I had reported an instance of extortion from poor market women… During the restructuring of UAC, there were offers by others to purchase property in their names and transfer them to me upon retirement, but I would not even consider it.”

He remains a faithful member of the Calvary Methodist Church.


In 1966, upon the completion of his entrance medical examinations at the University of Ghana, Ishmael saw two second-year nursing students walking toward Korle Bu. He looked at one of the nurses and said, “This girl looks like my sister – a sibling from my father’s side whom he had never met but had exchanged correspondence. I walked towards her and asked who she was and she mentioned her maiden name, we embraced and were in tears.”

He invited both of them to a ball at the University of Ghana which was to welcome new students. His sister once again came over with her friend, Lucy. The friendship waxed stronger, and Ishmael would frequently visit the hospital, standing in long queues to see his Lucy.  In 1970, things were taken a notch higher. They were married in August of 1971 at Mensah Sabah Hall, and have proved that the ‘forest boy’, who was a Methodist from Kuntanase, and the ‘seaside girl’ who was a Catholic from Cape Coast could have a lasting union.

On her contribution to his success, he says, “It has been the most enormous. There were times when she had to buy and sell bread to make some extra money to support the household. Her biggest contribution, however, is that she had the biggest part to play in the direct instruction and raising of our children. Especially as I travelled a lot. I always say to her, that if we have children today whom we are proud of, it is largely because of her. She did very well. I’ll need an entire occasion to pay tribute to her.”

The union is blessed with five children – Michael Harry, ….


Initially, an avid squash player at the start of his career, playing primarily at Tesano Sports Club, Dr Yamson had to forgo the sport due to persistent inflammation in his shoulders and a racket cut to his face.

In its stead, took up playing golf and has never looked back. He currently plays daily, from Mondays to Fridays. “It is both calming and taxing, especially on the mind and I think that is why many executives play golf. The worst thing you can do on the green is to get angry because, at that moment, you have lost the game. Golf teaches patience and tact.”

He says it is wrong for people to golf as a preserve of rich people; a bourgeois game. “But look at many of the professionals we have today, they began as caddies. Admittedly, there are some costs but there are so many pricing options. And when you factor in ageing, you cannot play football or lawn tennis as much when you are ageing. With golf, you take it at your own pace. When I compare the cost of golfing with the health benefits, I cannot say it is expensive. My advice to young people is: Play Golf!”


In 1990 Ishmael Yamson single-handedly provided electrification for the whole village, buying the poles and the low-tension cables, and accommodating and feeding the entire workforce from the electricity company which came to execute the job. “The communities were supposed to provide the poles and low-tension cables and the government provided the high-tension cables. My people could not afford them, so I decided to buy them. We were connecting electricity from Breman Esikuma to Breman Kuntanase, that was a total of 80 poles.”

In the same year, he provided pipe-borne water, drawing the pipe from Agona Odoben over an eight-kilometre stretch. “By God’s Grace, I was able to buy all the pipes for Odoben. The first public taps were provided by me. Unfortunately, the contractor broke the pipes and it was redone three times.

Due to this intervention, the persistent problem of Guinea worm is all but in the past. Dr Yamson is now actively engaged in the construction of the communities’ roads and is part of a team pooling money together for a community centre, with a state-of-the-art IT complex. He also set up an education fund to fully pay for any four best local students who qualified to enter either SHS or any tertiary institution.

Ishmael has also recently donated a significant amount to the Breman Asikuma, Odoben, Brakwa district assembly library fund. Together with 30 other prominent Ghanaians, Ishmael is leading the launch of a think tank to drive the economic and social transformation of Ghana. He is currently promoting the establishment of a multi-disciplinary speciality hospital.


When Dr Ishmael Evans Yamson is not playing golf, you would catch him reading memoirs of business and national leaders. “I try to learn what made them successful,” he says, adding that he is currently reading books on executive development. I am reading books on big businesses which formed small businesses and tried to treat them as big businesses; most have failed. The smaller businesses must be set up and allowed to operate on their own. I also like books on innovation.”

  • Favourite Meal – Boiled plantain (apim) and kontomire as well as his wife’s rice balls (Omo Tuo) and palm nut soup.
  • Favourite Quote – Go and sin no more. (John 8:11).
  • Favourite Tourist Destination – Breman Kuntanase.
  • Favourite Music – Church songs and Methodist hymns.

Published Works

His published works include:

  • Africa in search of prosperity, 2017
  • The impact of trade on the economic development of the third world (published by the international chamber of commerce – the new Europe in the world economy – May 2000)
  • Creating a business environment for enhanced growth in the context of macro stability: (Published by Bank of Ghana – proceedings of the Bank of Ghana’s 50th-anniversary symposium – the Accra Agenda, 2009).

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