Dede Drives the Discourse: Episode 14: Is Cooperation the Missing Link for Ghanaian Success? :


By Kodzo Foli

Walking out of the Vida e Cafe in Labone was a tall, athletic young man in a red hoodie with the number “” emblazoned across the chest. Strapped to his shoulders was a sleek black backpack, matching the black cargo shorts that he had quite clearly deliberately chosen to wear as part of his fashion statement. He noticed me from across the street, and glancing at his phone to confirm the number plate, he rightly concluded that I was the ride he had ordered on the app.

“What’s his name?’ I thought to myself.

I took a quick glance at my phone, which was strategically placed on my dashboard. The app had him listed as Razak B.

“Does he look like a Razak?”

I laughed to myself. This was a silly game I had always played with my sisters growing up, as though children were named based on an agreed-upon set of looks they were expected to have in our culture. We would watch people walk into our mother’s fabric store in the Makola market, and before they said a word, we would try to guess what their names would be. As one can imagine, we were wrong on more occasions than right. Regardless. It was still always a fun game to play.

Just then, my thought was interrupted as Razak opened the door.

“How are you doing today?” he asked without missing a beat. He was forward. I immediately knew he would be the passenger who would love to engage in general conversation.

“Nice hoodie”, I said. “What do those numbers represent, Razak?”

“Oh…that’s one-two-seven-dot-zero-dot-zero-dot-one. It means home. There is no place like home. And it sure feels good to be back”, he retorted.

“How does represent home? Is that your Ghana Post Address?” I asked jokingly. As much as I thought it was funny, his loud bellowing laughter took me by surprise.

“Well, that’s the IP address for the local host on your computer. My computer or yours? I asked, “Everyone’s actually?” he responded.   It is also referred to as home, but there is no need for me to bore you with the details,” he said.

“Oh, of course, you must work in IT”, I quipped back, “You laugh like a rich man”.

I could see through the rearview mirror that he had a huge grin as he responded. “Well, I’m a software developer. IT is very broad, so I prefer to focus on the fact that I design and develop software.”

“And how’s business?” I asked.

“Not too bad … .not too bad”, Razak answered. “But I have to admit”, he continued, “it took me a while to find my feet in Ghana”.

Taking a cue from his tone, I realized the conversation was about to get less light-hearted. I glanced back at him to allow him time to elaborate.

“Well, doing business in Ghana requires always planning for the unexpected. It would be best if you had a contingency for everything. For instance, if you are working from home, there is a chance your lights may go off, and you need to plan for that. If you have to meet someone at a cafe at a designated time, there is a possibility that the person you are planning on meeting will not arrive on time. If you want to be a stickler for things like that, you’ll spend more time being frustrated than not”.

I noticed that while Razak was speaking to me, he had his eyes glued to his phone, which he held the entire time.

He continued, “What I love about the unpredictability in Ghana is that it has helped me become more flexible and more effective regarding handling challenges at work. Nothing surprises me enough to throw me off my game anymore”.

“That’s wonderful, then. I’m glad you see it from that perspective”, I responded. “Too many returnees….” I caught myself. “I hope you don’t find the term returnees offensive, but too many of our brothers and sisters returning to Ghana are quick to complain about the things that make doing business in Ghana unique”.

“Well, my grandfather always told me that whining prevents you from seeing the opportunities that a difficulty presents, so I try not to dwell on the negatives too much”, Razak said. “But I have to admit,” he continued, “the most disappointing experience I’ve had in Ghana so far comes from the unwillingness of some of us young people to cooperate”.

I noticed a wry smile appear on his face. “Tell me more”, I said.

I had a friend who was pursuing a project with a company. An upright guy who would give the clothes off his back to help another man.  Now, it turns out there were other people we were all familiar with, who were pursuing different projects with the same company. Mine fell through, but I have been in business enough to know these things sometimes happen. The guy, let’s call him Joshua, had his project go through successfully.”

“For me, this was something to celebrate. As I imagined it, Joshua’s success could spell success for all of us someday. We have worked with him before, so whenever he gets another opportunity, Joshua will likely give us a fair chance to work with him. Unfortunately, other people felt quite differently. I believe Joshua’s success may have built up what appeared to be envy in them.”

 “They formulated lies about him and worked assiduously in an attempt to have his contract revoked.  It was quite sad. A truly diabolical act which Joshua did not see coming. Fortunately for Joshua, I could vouch for him in his absence, and eventually, the confusion caused by the lies told about him did not damage his reputation. Unsurprisingly, when Joshua was asked to work on a new project that had just received some funding, he was so swamped with work that he referred the project to me, and that was the break that put me on a path to success.”

Razak continued, “I believe that we’re all probably one good recommendation away from a breakthrough, and often, those who would open the door for us have worked closely with us on a certain level.”

“We need to surround ourselves with genuine and hardworking people and celebrate and encourage their success wherever possible. When surrounded by the wrong people, we usually spend too much time trying to prevent sabotage or such unnecessary shenanigans that we are unable to reach our potential fully.”

The GPS navigation indicated that we had arrived at our destination as I let Razak’s last words echo in my mind. The amount of wisdom this nondescript young man spoke had left me speechless for much of the ride.

Could it simply be that the unwillingness to cooperate openly and honestly was the primary factor holding us back as a people? How can one find like-minded people willing to approach the journey to success together? Well, who knows? I certainly believe it is worth looking into.



Hello, my name is Dede Nyansapo. I am an entrepreneur who also participates as a driver in Accra’s burgeoning gig economy. My love for meeting fascinating people and my curiosity about their thoughts usually place me amid very entertaining conversations. Invariably, these conversations lead to some key learnings that may be useful to anyone on their business journey.

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