The New Face of Africa: Herman Chinery-Hesse (Africa’s Next Bill Gates)

Shares

Mr Herman Chinery-Hesse has been dubbed the next Bill Gates of Africa. He was recently featured by Inc Magazine because of the technology idea he is proposing. In the midst of the global technological revolution, Africa has been mentioned few times because of the scarcity of Internet service which forms the backbone of modern technology. However with the introduction of high speed Internet service in the recent past, Africans are beginning to see the vast opportunity that exists in this domain. Herman Chinery-Hesse is a 43 year old entrepreneur who is seeking to maximize his opportunity in this technologically driven world. He was one of the founders of the largest Internet Cafe in Ghana and now serves as Executive Chairman and controlling shareholder for SOFTribe a company he founded.

His newest company is called BSL and is similar to popular services such as Amazon.com and PayPal. BSL was created to provide a platform for African entrepreneurs to easily sell their products online and accept payments via mobile phone. Computers are probably more difficult to come by in Ghana but mobile phones have become a standard. The success of BSL would mean that Ghanaians become connected to the global marketplace effectively. Other than the impact he would have on Ghanaians it also goes without saying that he will the face of new multi-millionaires and billionaires in Africa in the near future. Herman Chinery-Hesse has a degree from Texas State University at San Marcos in Industrial Technology. He credits his experience in Texas with opening him to the possibility of doing business in Ghana because of the vast opportunity that he recognized was still untapped.

His first opportunity on his return to Ghana was to write a computer program for the largest travel agency, he called it Gbefalor which means traveller in Ga, his native language. This program became the standard software for most travel agencies in the country. Together with his high school friend, Joe Jackson he developed more than 30 products for sales tracking , payment systems and even game shows. His company soon grew to more than 80 employees. In 1995 SOFTribe landed a deal with Unilever for payroll processing software which led to other deals with Nestle, Guinness etc and gave him a 50%- 75% market share in payroll processing in Ghana.

Chinery-Hesse wants to lead the PayPal of Africa. He would like to be able to to conduct money transfer within Ghana and the payment of remittances by Ghanaians living overseas to their relatives. His BIG idea is to help Ghanaian entrepreneurs sell their products on the Web and accept payments without a computer, a website, or even a bank account. He has spent the past year recruiting dozens of local merchants, craftspeople, clothiers, art dealers, and food companies whose merchandise will appear on http://www.shopafrica53.com/, a website that will eventually boast products from all 53 African countries for expatriate Africans eager for a taste of home and for Westerners interested in buying directly from local merchants. The merchants will agree to pay 10% of what they sell the product for to BSL.

In 2004 Mr. Chinery-Hesse landed a contract with Microsoft in which SOFTtribe would became their partner by selling and installing their products in Ghana and rewriting SOFTtribe’s applications to work within Microsoft. As a true entrepreneur it came as no surprise that he was unhappy because instead of SOFTribe becoming like Microsoft he was now selling their products. While speaking at a TEDGlobal event in Arusha Tanzania he was happy that the conversation about Africa was shifting from sourcing Aid to Business and Entrepreneurism. With the vast untapped opportunities for commerce and trade in Ghana and Africa as a whole, Herman Chinery-Hesse has his place in history carved out for being the man who clicked Africa into the 21st Century. Congratulations!

Courtesy of Samantha Dhlamini 2011