Victor Yaw Asante: Celebrating Governor, District 9102, Rotary International


“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made, and can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. You can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.”

– Nelson Mandela, anti-Apartheid activist and former president of South Africa

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”

– Martin Luther King Jr., civil rights activist and clergyman

 “This is a changing world: we must be prepared to change with it. The story of Rotary will have to be written again and again.”

“Whatever Rotary may mean to us, to the world it will be known by the results it achieves.”

 – Paul Harris, attorney, businessman, humanitarian and founder of Rotary International

That the desire to empathise with and help others, particularly the most vulnerable – the young, the elderly, the ill and incapacitated – is innate to all men, and scarcely a matter of debate. However, the practical outworking of this desire varies from person to person with many factors – such as access to resources, significant influences and favourable circumstances – coming into play.

For Rotarian Victor Yaw Asante, the seed for a life of human-focused service was sown early in life as he witnessed, on the one hand, the inequalities in a society – growing up at a time of social and economic uncertainty – coupled with the long-lasting impact that some basic, yet, notable acts of good had on a number of people around him.

His thirst to be a force for good and an agent of change was elevated in the late 1980s when, as a student pursuing an undergraduate degree in Agricultural Economics at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, he was introduced to the Rotract Club – the young persons’ arm of the Rotary International.

Founded on 23 February, 1905 by an American lawyer, Paul P. Harris, and three of his friends, the Rotary International has maintained its primary goal of transforming society by bringing professionals with diverse backgrounds together to exchange ideas and form meaningful, lifelong friendships.

Today, the Rotary boasts of a global network of 1.4 million problem-solvers in more than 46,00o clubs across the globe. Together, they use their resources, passion, energy, and intelligence to take action on sustainable projects. From literacy and peace to water and health, they strive to better the world.

At the KNUST, Victor Asante recalls being drawn to the mission of the Rotract Club and was especially encouraged by the lively manner it conducted its business, which was in sharp contrast to the dour humanitarian endeavours of the day.

“I joined Rotract because it was impactful, yet fun. We would raise funds for projects by organising interesting programmes. We liaise with Rotarians to undertake projects in and around the community,” he recalls.

The natural progression would have been to proceed to Rotary International upon completion of his studies and attaining the then-minimum admission age of 30. However, the rigours of his early career as a Key Accounts Officer at manufacturing and distribution behemoth – Unilever – limited his interaction with the club.

He, however, kept tabs on developments in the club, and having found a sound footing in his professional life, translating to banking as a Senior Relationship Officer at the Universal Merchant Bank (now UMB Bank), Victor Asante joined Rotary International fully in 2005, being inducted formally into the Rotary Club of Accra, Ring Road Central in 2006.

In his 17 years at the Club, Victor Asante, now MD/CEO of FBNBank Ghana, has served as Service Project Director, Public Relations (PR) and Fund-Raising Director, Club Vice President and Club President.

He has also served as the Leadership Chair, a Director of the Rotary Foundation and a Member of the Club Extension Committee. In his time, five clubs have received their charter – the Accra East Legon, Accra Dzorwulu, Accra Osu Oxford Street, Akwapim Ridge and the Accra Industrial Club.

At the district level, encompassing clubs in four countries – Ghana, Niger, Benin and Togo – he has served as PR Chair, Assistant Governor, Convention Promotion Chair, District Governor Nominee, District Governor Designate, District Governor Elect and today, July 1, 2022, his one-year tenure as substantive District Governor commences.

Below, he elaborates on his journey with Rotary International with the B&FT’s Ebenezer Chike Adjei Njoku.

  • In your own words, kindly give us insight into Rotary International.

Rotary International is a service organisation founded in 1905 by four friends, led by Paul Harris. They were hardworking lawyers in Chicago who met every night to fellowship, and after some time, they decided to start going from one person’s place to another. As a matter of fact, that is where the name comes from – they were rotating their meeting places. It started as a community help organisation, and that is what has grown and is currently the longest-surviving service organisation in the world.

It started in Ghana some 62 years ago as the Rotary Club of Accra, which currently meets at Labadi Beach Hotel on Monday afternoons, and is one of about 60 clubs in the country.

  • Who is a District Governor and what does your role entail?

The District Governor is the key administrator of the District and his basic role is to lead the District by motivating, inspiring and organising to ensure that the District, as defined by Rotary International, is well run. The hierarchy includes Clubs, Districts, Zones and then, there is Rotary International.

  • How did the journey begin for you?

It was at the University of Science and Technology where their junior organisations – Rotract and Interact – were either community-based or institution-based. The Rotract Club mirrors what is done at Rotary, where we come together and try to provide service in our communities, using our areas of expertise.

I joined Rotract because it was impactful, yet fun. We would raise funds for projects by organising interesting programmes. We liaised with Rotarians to undertake projects in and around the community.

Typically, entrance into Rotary International is for people who are at least thirty years old. I did not join immediately, as I proceeded to the University of Ghana for an MBA and began a rather demanding career at Unilever. Most of my peers joined shortly after school but I left it briefly until 2005 when I was pretty much settled in my professional life. Then, I joined the Rotary Club of Accra Ring Road Central, which has been my club to date.

  • What has the experience been like, and how has that culminated in you becoming District Governor-Elect?

It has been tremendous. I did not start out with the goal of becoming District Governor. I was a Club Director, responsible for service projects – which is the core of Rotary. Then we did some interesting projects, especially in schools including one at Asempaneye, which was well-loved and we had a lot of participants. That deepened my love for the club.

I went on to serve in other roles as Director, and I became Club President from 2011 to 2012, which was my first major position. I believe I did well and we had a very strong year, starting other clubs in the process.

After that, the District Leadership started giving me positions outside my Club, serving as District Public Relations Chair and eventually as a member of the extension committee, which is responsible for forming clubs. Then, I became an assistant Governor for four years, which meant assisting the Governor and supervising as many as five clubs at a time. After that, I was given other roles and duties.

Then, at the beginning of 2020, I was nominated to become District Governor, so it is a little bit of what I have done and much of the impact others have witnessed, I would say. It takes a lot of preparation, and it is a position I will hold for one year.

The District Governorship is one where you spend one year but takes more than two years of dedicated preparation.

  • What have been some of the highest points so far?

They are all tied to our primary goal of community service. I have mentioned the outreach at Asempaneye; there is also our annual work with the Kressneer orphanage, and building a school at Tetegu.

My club is currently building a community hospital at Berekuse. We have done a number of medical outreaches, including one with our Indian friends, where some US$100,000 was spent, and I am especially proud of our fight to eliminate polio.

  • You mentioned a hiatus between Rotract and Rotary, citing the demands of your earlier career as the key factor. Now, as MD/CEO of a bank, coupled with many other responsibilities, how are you able to manage the competing demands?

At Unilever, I was always on the move, so even physically, it was not possible for me to be dedicated to meetings. Even though Rotary is flexible, I did not feel ready and I wanted to get first things done. But interestingly, Rotary is actually for very busy people; some of the most important Rotarians are the busiest. It is a balancing act and art.

When you look at some of the Governors before me, Sam Okudzeto, who is a member of the Council of State, Adotei Brown, Asafo Boakye – they became Governors at the height of their careers and despite their busy schedules, they still found time to discharge their duties.

In addition, Rotary is a very intricate organisation with solid structures, and that is perhaps why it has survived for 117 years. Every year, there are over 500 Governors who take charge of the over 1.4 million people who are Rotarians in over 46,000 clubs. You can imagine an organisation that dismantles itself in this manner every year. No wonder it has survived.

My District team, for example, consists of about 40 people from four countries – Ghana, Niger, Benin and Togo. It would be practically impossible to do all these without structure.

  • What do you hope to achieve in your time?

We aim to raise a few hundreds of thousands into the Rotary Foundation – where we get money for our projects; but we also aim to execute some US$1.5million to US$2million worth of projects across the District. Recently, at our Convention in the US, I met friends who have committed to giving us equipment for the hospital projects.

We will also try to strengthen membership at the Rotary, Rotaract and Interact levels. There will be a lot of work – raising funds and bringing people in, and we will seek to execute projects of scale.

  • If there are three key areas membership of Rotary has benefitted you, what would you say they are?

Rotary teaches leadership. It is a voluntary organisation so imagine leading other professionals who are not paid for the work they do, you would need a different tactic, especially as people can walk in and out at will. It requires a different skill-set to get people to work together for altruistic reasons for a job that is very demanding.

There is also the added benefit of great networking. Sometimes, people reduce it merely to volunteerism but if you count the benefits, it is tremendous. I have friends and contacts in virtually every profession you can think of and in various parts of the world.

Additionally, the learning opportunities abound. Every week, we bring seasoned professionals to give us talks on all manner of topics; it is almost like a lecture every week where we address pressing issues, so we are well-informed. Other benefits include travelling.

To young people, I would say…

Imagine the benefits of the leadership skills; imagine what could happen to your presentation skills, for instance. Rotary requires constant interaction with people, making presentations, and articulating why people should help. Imagine the rigours of attaining sponsorship, even in these hard times. It is one of the best experiences a young person can have.

Final words

To the Rotarians, I would say: continue to ‘imagine’ -nas our theme for the year says. We have to imagine that there is clean drinking water for everyone in the country, imagine polio is gone, and imagine every child has access to education and basic healthcare. Let us imagine and go forward to achieve it.


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