By Peace Hyde
Self-made Ghanaian entrepreneur Nana Kwame Bediako bought his first car by age 16 and made a million pounds in the United Kingdom before he turned 21. The fearless, unabashedly ambitious property tycoon is now on a mission to transform Accra’s skyline.
The bigger the risk, the maximum the return.
That’s the mantra of Nana Kwame Bediako, a real estate mogul who has had stints in the United Kingdom (UK) and Ghana over the past decade, and who has always believed in hunting for opportunity in the midst of a crisis.
Take, for instance his decision to drop out of the University of Westminster in the UK after six months, only to make a million pounds by the age of 21. Bediako, who turned an entrepreneur by age eight, when he started his own poultry business to support his cash-strapped single mother, continues to stay undeterred in the face of challenges.
Meeting Bediako is like having an encounter with a young presidential aspirant. He is fearless, ambitious and revolutionary in his foresight of building an Africa the world has never seen before.
And then there is his belief in a higher power. Bediako attributes his lucky streak in business to an inner voice which he says has steered him in the right direction ever since he was a child. His company Wonda World Estates is on a mission to not only change the skyline of Accra but also to show the diaspora community that they too can return home and add value to the development of Africa.
That mission has birthed a real estate portfolio that boasts over 560 homes in Ghana and one of the most ambitious projects in the West African region, Petronia City, an industrial park, which will become a petrochemical cluster in Africa. The project, once completed, will be a 2,000-acre city development project that will provide the first fully-integrated business hub for West Africa’s oil, gas and mining industries, according to the 40-year-old entrepreneur.
“To secure the land, I had to convince 60 families, six chiefs and three sub-division chiefs to embrace my vision,” recalls Bediako.
Feats like these and other remarkable landmark projects have made him a household name in Ghana. But even while Bediako became a name to reckon with in the country, it hasn’t been smooth sailing all the way. A mix of factors such as luck and ambition has paved the way for Bediako to succeed. Above all else, he credits that inner voice, for helping him identify the right moves to make.
A voice he first heard in Kumasi, a suburb of Ghana, located 300km from Accra. “My mother was broke and penniless but my father had money. One day, he gave both my brother and I money and I told my brother not to spend it and use it to help my mum. The next thing I saw, he had gone out to buy bread and eggs, which was a luxury at the time, with his money. I was very angry with him,” says Bediako.
His anger at his brother quickly turned into a hunger to make money. He decided he would buy a hen and cock with his money and start a poultry business to help his mother.
Very soon, the business was producing over 200 eggs a month.
Then came the second instruction he heard.
“My father was extremely rich and my mother was broke so I heard a voice again that said I should pursue my father to get a better education. So, I moved to Accra and started going to secondary school before I went to London to attend Waltham Forest College,” says Bediako.
As he grew older and succeeded in his ventures, Bediako began to credit that voice to ‘God’. One of those directions led to him selling clothes from the back of his car in college and turning a tidy profit in the process.
“I was selling Versace jeans and YSL shirts which were fake and I was buying them from a guy called John who used to bring them from China. The whole school was buying from me and that’s where I started making my ends meet and bought my first car by the age of 16.”
Another moment of crisis would prove instrumental in creating real wealth for Bediako.
“They clamped my car in college three times. The first and second time I paid £45 and by the third time, I was angry and I thought the security was taking advantage of me. So, I loosened the tire and removed the clamp out of the tire and out of anger, I took the clamp with me and put it in the boot of my car. At that time, I had a white friend called Peter Smith who was a locksmith and he offered me £65 for the clamp.”
That was the Eureka moment for Bediako.
The scrap metal industry remains a vital sector for the UK economy. It is estimated that about 10 million tonnes of scrap metal is recycled in Britain every year. According to a report published by metal recycling specialists, Maxilead Metals, the UK scrap metal industry is worth an estimated £5 billion.
“So, I thought if I could get a clamp, I get £65 but then later on I realized I needed the steel itself, not the clamp. I started buying scrap from scavengers and crushing them and turning them into the steel yard and selling it,” says Bediako.
An idea today is a fortune tomorrow. Bediako dropped out of Westminster because he felt he had nothing more to learn about business. The young blood serial entrepreneur moved swiftly from selling scrap metal into the telecommunications sector with his next business idea, Global Telecommunications and Utilities (GTU). Fortune was soon to follow. The year was 1999 and the internet, which was widely known as the Global Market at the time, was still in its bubble stage.
Bediako created a company that billed people when they went online to carry out transactions. Helped by the dotcom sensation, an Indian investor soon approached him to buy his company for £327,000.
“My lawyer told me to refuse the offer and the investor came back with £410,000 which I took and then just added it to my savings and it shot up. That’s how I made my first million pounds and it inspired me to go ahead. I realized that if you build a company and do it well, you can make a lot of money. Then God told me to come to Africa.”
That final instruction is what has made Bediako the property tycoon he is today. His rapid growth and success is based on one simple principle, maximization.
“From the beginning, when I got my first land, something told me ‘why don’t you build two houses on one plot instead of one house on one plot’? I had four plots of land. So, when I did that, eventually’ I built eight houses on one plot instead of four houses and subsequently sold them and that’s the secret of my business.”
Today’ his company easily builds about 108 apartments on 1,500sqm of land. His passion is to free the mindset of African entrepreneurs from their limiting beliefs in order to strive for excellence. After conquering the property sector in Ghana, Bediako has his eyes firmly set on Hollywood where along with his new moniker, Freedom Jacob Ceasar, he hopes to show America’s A-listers, that Africa is the next bastion of economic development.