Saturday, March 7, 2009

Ghana Materials Industry, Part 4

I first heard about the Metalex group in March 2008 during my sabbatical leave at the University of Ghana. Several things intrigued me about the company: I learned during our first telephone conversation that the CEO and I attended the same middle school, Abetifi Presbyterian Boys Middle School (though separated by many moons), located in the beautiful Kwahu mountains in Eastern Ghana; also, his company dealt in a wide range of materials, including clay, plastic, and metal products. Unfortunately, when I called to arrange a plant visit he was on his way to Togo on business and would not be able to meet personally with us. I was interested to discover that he had customers in a neighboring country.

It turned out that on the appointed day for our plant tour, the terrific Accra traffic prevented us from completing both of our planned plant trips in a day so we were unable to visit Metalex, after all.

When I found out I would be in West Africa at the end of October, I seized the opportunity to travel to Metalex. Colleague Lucas Damoah from the Materials Science and Engineering department at the University of Ghana was available and made the necessary arrangements for us to visit the Metalex clay products factory in Accra as part of our on-going project on the documentation of the materials industry in Ghana [previous plant trips are featured in earlier blogs: (to ICM ventures in Tema) Ghana Materials Industry, Part 1, (to Ceramica Tamakloe in Dodowa near Accra) Ghana Materials Industry, Part 2, (to Ekem Ceramics and Mbroh Ceramics, Ltd., both in Winneba) Ghana Materials Industry, Part 3].

We quickly saw that the dynamic Mr. K. Adjare Danquah, the CEO of Metalex, ( is an entrepreneur burning with an evangelist's fire.

On education:
  • "The English language has been used to destroy people." He cites the case of the plant which when it was given the English name "Jantropha" made Ghanaians feel like it was something new and different, even though they had long known it by its indigenous names--for example, "Nkaneadua" in Akan.
  • He has plans for a vocational/technical school, where English will only be offered as a subject, and all the technical courses will be taught in a local language.
On success:
  • "To be successful one must be able to change one's disadvantage into advantage. . . You are told you need capital to start a business but you can find a way to circumvent that. . ."
  • "In life one has to be willing to start from point 1. But so many people want to just arrive at point 20 without putting in the necessary effort."
  • In Africa we don't just (need to) talk about quality, we (need to) talk about quantity. If you just focus on quality you will fail. Those who want to wait till they have the perfect plan/product, will never start anything."

On the attitude of the youth:
  • "After university they don't want to dirty their hands."
On accounting and mathematics:
  • "A subject like Accounting should be compulsory. "Obi nim akontaa a n'ani mmere sika" (Those with quantitative skills are not envious of other people's money.)
On culture:
  • "If you want to succeed take culture into consideration. Where are you going to site your plant? You may have to deal with pronouncements like: 'During this festival week you cannot collect clay for your factory.'
On learning from nature:
  • "Everything you want to do, ask yourself: How did God make it?"
  • "Every person is like a seed: if you place it on the shelf it can stay forever. But if you put it in the soil it decays and then sprouts. Nothing sprouts right away; it decays first."
Fledgling companies and young entrepreneurs would do well to gain from Mr. Danquah's rich experience and heed his wise advice.

1 comment:

emmanuel said...


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