Still waters, they say, run deep: and that’s a more than apt description of the MultiChoice Ghana MD, Mr. Alex Okyere.
On first meeting him, he comes across as an easy-going friendly guy who you would just love to hang out with. But have a conversation with him and you will discover an incredibly deep man, with a great depth of knowledge and desire to bring equality and inclusion into the world.
Alex Okyere has been the man at the helm of affairs at MultiChoice Ghana from 1 June 2021 with the task to further grow the business, taking it to the next level. From all indications, things are moving along very well,even in the face of the economic difficulties Ghana is currently facing.
He oversees some 400-plus staff at Multichoice Ghana, a company that has made a major impacts in the media and communication industry of Ghana for close to 30 years. However, Alex is not daunted by that task and is instead ready to get down in the trenches and make sure he leaves an imprint.
This is not surprising, considering the vast experience he has garnered over the years from working with some big-name organisations.
With a background in Accounting, Alex’s career started with accounting firm Ernst & Young – considered one of the top 4 firms globally, taking him through PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC); mining firm Newmont, oil companies Schlumberger and Weatherford, and finally to MultiChoice.
While in Level 300 at the University of Ghana Business School, Legon, he had already become a Chartered Accountant having aced his ACCA. With a strong interest in working with PwC, which at the time was considered the best accounting firm, he applied for the company’s Graduate Recruitment programme before completing his first degree.
Ernst & Young came calling, and just two months after he leaving university he joined them. But when PwC got in touch with him three months into his employment with Ernst & Young, telling him he had made the cut for graduate employment, the lure was too strong to resist and he left to work there.
He spent about three years at PwC before he moved on to Newmont. “Normally, when you work in a Big 4 firm you have two choices with your career path; you either stay to become a Partner or you move into industry after gaining valuable experience from the Big 4 firm.
“And that is a big decision which you need to get right, so in my third year with PwC I got an offer from Newmont. The Regional Financial Controller then spoke to me personally at the time. They were looking for a certain skill-set that was scarce. At that time, the USA had passed a law known as the Sarbanes–Oxley Act, 2002 which brought certain requirements in terms of internal controls for companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange, so all their subsidiaries had to comply.
“Fortunately, during my time with PwC I had been auditing such companies so I got exposure to the Act and those who had done it at the time were few. So although I had just about three years’ experience and the role – which was a managerial one – required about 7 years’ experience, I got the job,” he disclosed.
Alex describes the experience at Newmont as a good one, with his then-boss, Walter Richards, becoming a mentor to him: buying him books, encouraging him and just making sure he did not regret his stay with the company.
His boss eventually had to leave for another role, and just around that time Alex got a call giving him another opportunity.
“Till today, I still don’t know how the person got my number; but I got a call from London about a role at Schlumberger in Nigeria, and the person inquired if I wanted to take it. And of course, I said ‘yes’.”
At the time the offer came, he had been married for just a few years and had a very young family. Tthere were concerns from his family about his safety, considering some of the things they had heard about Nigeria.
However, there was no way he was going to refuse such a big offer – especially when he was going to be an expatriate; the opportunities were endless.
“I think that was also a major turning point; going to Nigeria was heavenly. I didn’t witness all the bad things they were saying about Lagos. I got a lot of experience and it was great. It turned out to be as Samson said in Judges 14:14 – ‘Out of the eater, something to eat; Out of the strong, something sweet’.”
While working in Nigeria, he got an offer to work with another oil firm, Weatherford, where he oversaw West Africa including Ghana.
As there is no place like home, Alex started to get homesick wanting to return to Ghana – and MultiChoice offered him the perfect chance to do so.
He returned to Ghana in 2017, and at the time MultiChoice was looking for a Regional Finance Director with the office based in Accra. After a restructuring the office was moved to Nairobi in Kenya, and he relocated with his family in 2018.
While in Kenya there was another opportunity to return to Ghana in the Managing Director role, and he took it last year. While it was out of his comfort zone, just as in everything else Alex put a positive spin on it – motivating himself that since he had done great in finance he could succeed in this role, too.
The biggest challenge for Alex coming into the role was how to fix operational issues facing the company. “When I first took on the role, I was made to understand that the biggest problem was sales and GOtv. Sales go with marketing, so I needed to give it attention; and there were some people-issues as well.
“When I came in, I spent 80 percent of my time on sales; I had sleepless nights, because even when I was sleeping I would be thinking about the problem. Sometimes I had to come to the office at 4am; I was always the first person to get to the office because I had to do presentations to my bosses in Dubai.
“The first few months, I spent a lot of time on sales, work-shopping, finding out what was wrong and what we could do better. Related to this was marketing – because if you don’t have proper marketing communication, you can’t excel.
“So, the sales operation needed to be fixed… but also marketing. We did some people-changes, we changed incentives, re-demarcated the sales regions with scientific data backing the demarcations among other measures, and I think we’ve come far,” he revealed.
Today, all those changes are paying off, and for Alex that’s a high point for him. “Our sales and marketing efforts are paying off and feed into our subscriber numbers. The business has grown significantly, recording the biggest-ever monthly growth in the business’s history in August 2022 – with all-time highest subscriber numbers in Oct 2022,” he stated.
Alex Okyere describes himself as a man from humble beginnings; one who has seen quite a lot in life and is trying to build something for himself.
He was born at Asamankese in the Eastern Region to a farmer father and trader mother. He had his basic education at Asamankese, where his love for accounting was nurtured by his Junior Secondary School headmaster.
“Back then I was among the best students in my school, coming first several times. And I had a headmaster who noticed I was good with business math and encouraged me to study accounting.
“At the time I didn’t even know what accounting was, but it seemed interesting to me. So, when we were choosing courses for secondary school, I chose Business and nothing else,” he disclosed.
Having spent a lot of time with his aunt and older sisters in Kumasi, Alex chose Prempeh College for his secondary school but did not get admission. He however got into Kumasi High School where, with his aggregate 6, he was encouraged to pursue Science; but he insisted on studying Business.
For Alex, that shift to Kumasi High School was a blessing in disguise because the school was the best in Business for the region. His first semester results in accounting (95 out of 100) convinced the school’s authorities to give him a scholarship for the duration of his stay in the school.
Not only that, but his love for music was also nurtured there – joining the school choir known as Shalom Singers by courtesy of his school-father, who was the music director. He understudied the person who played the keyboard, and soon he was perfect at it – even playing for churches outside the school.
It was also at the school that he met a man who would become his mentor and spiritual father; his English teacher, the Reverend Simon Ampofo, who was a pastor at Harvest Chapel, Kumasi, and took him to the church where he played the keyboard; and he also became a member.
To date, Alex consults him when he needs to make any major decisions concerning his life.
After secondary school, he proceeded to the University of Ghana, Legon, where he obtained a Bachelor of Science in Administration. There, too, he became music director of the Chosen Vessels Choir (CVC).
Married with three kids, he has a strong love for football and his favorite teams are Accra Hearts of Oak and Chelsea; and he also loves music and travelling.
He is currently a member of the Ghana CEOs Network, the Association of South African businesses in Ghana, and the Association of French Businesses in Ghana. He is also a Fellow of both the ACCA and ICA Ghana.
On his long-term vision for MultiChoice Ghana, Alex had this to say: “I believe we have the potential to be the biggest within the region we find ourselves. Although Ghana has very strong Free to Air channels, I believe we can crack that and become the biggest in our region. That is something I hope I can do with my team.”
On a personal level, Alex has just one dream – to help alleviate poverty in Ghana. “I know it is difficult, but it is something that is dear to my heart and I hope to be able to make a significant contribution to it,” he concluded.