Why thank you for joining me for yet another interview. This week, I had the pleasure of speaking with social entrepreneur, Raphael Dapaah. Raphael Dapaah occupies the intersection of Art, Business, History & Politics. Read on to find out more about his story and vision.
JF: What is your name? What do you do?
RKD: My name is Raphael Kwabena Dapaah, and I am a commercial policy advisor, an independent art dealer, collector and writer, and a social entrepreneur.
JF: Before we hear more about your journey thus far as an entrepreneur, tell me, how do you identify yourself?
RKD: On a macro level, I identify as British- Ghanaian, and Black-British, as I was born and raised in the UK, and I am of Ghanaian heritage. On a micro level, I consider myself a bonafied South Londoner, Peckham via Surrey, and as an Akan; Ashanti and Sefwi respectively.
JF: I think it is important for one to have a rooted sense of identity and find that it emanates in other areas of one’s life. So, tell us a bit more about your brand, The Dapaah Group.
RKD: Dapaah Group Ltd is a family run holding company based in the UK, which I founded in 2016. Our raison d'etre is to promote and empower Africa by investing in, and adding value to her natural resources, and by promoting African culture and heritage. Our first stand out venture has been in the cocoa sector, as part of our mission to add value to Africa's finest natural resources and raw materials, and establish global house hold artisanal brands. Hailing from Ghana, cocoa was the most obvious raw material I wanted to invest in given the considerable role it plays in contributing to Ghana's economy, as well as it being very much a part of my own family heritage and livelihood. Despite its great cultural and economic significance, I found through extensive independent research that despite growing more than 20% of the global supply of cocoa, Ghana receives as little as 2% of the $100 billion global chocolate industry. I found this disparity unsettling, and realised that the only way to realise our true potential and become a serious global contender, would be to industrialise and process our raw materials to its finished product. Dapaah Chocolates; a dairy-free luxury chocolate brand was thus born. Another venture scheduled to launch in 2019 is Dapaah Sea Salt, a gourmet sea salt brand, specialising in hand-harvested natural sea salt from the Atlantic coast of Ghana.
JF: Wow! The disparity is definitely alarming and not one that is often highlighted. What is your vision for Dapaah Group?
RKD: My vision for Dapaah Group is to become a diversified conglomerate specialising in agribusiness, real estate, tourism and the arts.
JF: Inspiring vision and I pray that it definitely comes to pass. Now, the development of Africa and Diaspora affairs has been at the forefront of many discussions in recent years. What advice would you give to a millennial interested in occupying a similar space to yourself?
RKD: My advice to young millennials who want to establish a business based in Africa or with connections to Africa, would be to extensively research your respective sector of interest, and explore how you can add value, resolve an issue, or revolutionise the sector entirely. Most importantly, explore why you want to establish such a business, as it is your why and your purpose that will determine whether you succeed or fail. Furthermore, explore the pioneers of your industry, and see how they have been able to succeed thus far. For me, Seth Dei, Aliko Dangote and Paa Kwesi Ndoum were successful African role models and business moguls I studied closely prior to establishing my company; their respective journeys to date has guided and inspired my own.
JF: How important is it for Diasporans to connect with their respective homelands? How would you advise going about building a deeper connection with said countries?
RKD: I think it is essential for Diasporans to connect with their homeland for the sake of truly knowing who they are and where they come from. The first port of call, in order to connect with one's homeland would simply be to visit the place and embrace the culture. That relationship can be formed initially by indulging in one's culture through food, music, and fashion. On a more intimate level however, I think it is important at some stage to visit your country of origin to truly connect with one's homeland.
JF: What do you think are the main issues Ghana faces and how would you advise Diasporans to transfer knowledge and skills to progressively rectify this issue?
RKD: On a fundamental level, I believe Ghana, and Africa at large suffer from a lack of esteem and confidence in their ability to achieve self determination and realise their true potential. This can be attributed to the enduring legacy of colonialism, and more recently neo-colonialism, however that said, I am encouraged by the vision and strides made by Rwanda led by Paul Kagame, in pursuing socio -economic policies that put Rwanda's first. I hope Ghana will soon follow suit. I think whilst Diasporans have an abundance of skills and knowledge they could utilise in order to empower and build Ghana, the most important thing Diasporans can transfer to Ghana is capital and be willing to invest in Ghana thereby creating employment and a culture of enterprise and prosperity. Diasporans need to increasingly see Ghana as a fantastic place to do business, as evidenced by the rise of investors from South East Asia and the Middle East in past and recent decades. Sending remittances to family in Ghana is not enough, neither is working hard in foreign countries in order to build a big house in Ghana just to visit once or twice a year and to ultimately retire in. Diasporans need to invest that capital in establishing businesses or investing in the considerably talented entrepreneurs already in Ghana.
JF: Agreed! So many of us are in positions where we have been fortunate enough to thrive academically and currently occupy positions of seniority within our respective fields. I think in comparison to the generation before us, we are in a better position to actively invest, not just through capital but also through knowledge transfer. I hope that in the coming months and few years or so, that we see more young people in the UK starting up ventures to aid the development of our respective home nations - provided you have a sense of identity elsewhere! More specific to Ghana, what are your thoughts on the current president, his policies and development of the nation since his inauguration?
RKD: I like the current President and believe he understands that Ghana should be doing so much better than it currently is, especially 60 years after independence. I'm particularly encouraged by his one district, one factory policy which is part of his industrialisation agenda. It's a policy I hope to capitalise on as I eventually move part of our chocolate production to Ghana in order to be closer to the raw materials I currently source, and above all else to create jobs. Hopefully if the President is able to secure another term, I will be able to build a factory surrounded by my cocoa and coffee farms, and do my bit in reducing the rising youth unemployment in the country.
JF: Any final thoughts?
RKD: Africa is the past and the future. The sooner we all wise up to this inescapable reality, the sooner we can all invest in genuine nation building and development and begin to reap the benefits of an empowered Africa
I have followed Raphael’s journey on social media for a while now and it is inspiring to see his vision for the Dapaah Group come into fruition. I am all the more inspired by his evident passion and love for Ghana and Africa as a whole and think that with reputable figures like himself within our community, a change, in due time, will come. I saw the above quote on the Dapaah Group Instagram and it seemed rather fitting to end on that note. Africa has the potential, I think we the Diasporans have an important role to play in tapping into that potential and furthering the development of our continent.
Be sure to follow Raphael on all his social media platforms and hey, buy some chocolate too!