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CHINERY-HESSE: COMMONWEALTH BUSINESS ROLE WILL SPUR AFRICAN PARTNERSHIPS

Technology

Ghana’s software pioneer Herman Chinery-Hesse has expressed excitement about taking up his latest tech-focused challenge: to give Africa a place at the table among the world’s top designers of cutting-edge software solutions. This time the maverick entrepreneur will be working through an unusual channel ‒ that venerable political union, the Commonwealth.

Ghana’s software pioneer Herman Chinery-Hesse has expressed excitement about taking up his latest tech-focused challenge: to give Africa a place at the table among the world’s top designers of cutting-edge software solutions. This time the maverick entrepreneur will be working through an unusual channel ‒ that venerable political union, the Commonwealth.

Chinery-Hesse has recently been named the Commonwealth Chair for Business and Technology Initiatives in Africa. John Apea, Africa regional head for the Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS), announced the appointment on 11 March during celebrations in Accra marking Commonwealth Day.

The role, the first of its kind, will help forge closer links between tech companies in Africa and other parts of the world.

Destination: growth

Speaking to the Daily Statesman in Accra, Chinery-Hesse said he will be given a free hand to shape the role and described how he intends once again to make a difference.

“I’m looking forward to putting together business partnerships and collaborations between African and European techpreneurs, for their mutual benefit,” he said.

“My aim is to represent the wave of technology coming out of Africa and open up new areas of opportunity. For instance, there are fintech applications emerging from Africa that could have a huge impact on financial services in Europe or Asia, and that the West needs.”

The role, which is unpaid, feeds off some of Chinery-Hesse’s core interests and plays to his strengths. He was chosen because of his visionary approach to problem-solving, his expertise in tailoring solutions for African markets using appropriate technology, and his experience of steering businesses to growth.

Global boat

His company, the SOFTtribe, grew out of the coding for fun he did with an old high school mate, Joe Jackson, on moving back to Accra in the early 1990s.

Chinery-Hesse had taken a degree in industrial technology from Texas Tech and then worked as an engineer in the UK. The duo began working out of his bedroom in his parents’ house, and eventually found themselves designing accounting packages and payroll software for everyone from travel agents to poultry breeders to supermarket owners.

The firm moved on from there to the likes of Nestlé and Unilever.

“If Africa misses the current global IT boat there may never again be an opportunity for wealth creation on the continent,” Chinery-Hesse has said.

The RCS’s Apea agrees: “We need jobs for the youth, businesses that compete internationally. We need functioning health-care systems and a literate population. These drivers of any economy sit on the bedrock of technology and business.”

Chinery-Hesse believes the challenges posed by operating in an African setting and the very nature of information technology give Africans the edge in approaching business with the West and the rest.

“I don’t need the extra work,” he says, “but I want to broker relationships and open up a much broader space for technology companies based on the continent.”