HELPING HAND

Ghana 2016 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Togbe Afede XIV, CEO of SAS Finance Group and Strategic Initiatives Ltd., and President of Asogli State Council, on the business of creating business.

Togbe Afede XIV
BIOGRAPHY
Togbe Afede received his MBA from Yale University. He is co-founder of Databank Financial Services Ltd and Sunon Asogli Power Ltd. He is the founder of Accra World Trade Centre Ltd and Africa World Airlines Ltd. He also foundered SAS Finance Group Ltd., an investment banking firm, and Strategic Initiatives Ltd., a private equity and portfolio investment firm.

You founded SAS in 1994. Who are your primary clients?

I started SAS to do investment, starting with stock brokerage. We soon added corporate financial advisory services, consulting for companies that want to go to market to raise money. Apart from companies, we also advise government institutions. Later, as we established ourselves, we followed accounts and went into asset management—pension funds, provident funds, individual wealth, and, of course, our own investment funds, such as the Fortune Fund. These are our three broad areas; stock brokerage, asset management, and corporate finance advisory services.

How did you then develop Strategic Initiatives Ltd?

Knowing how small the market for these services is, the deals being few and far between, and instead of waiting for companies to come to us for advice to raise money to fund their projects, we looked for opportunities to pursue our own projects. I started Strategic Initiatives Ltd, and identified the sectors that were most in need. One area we looked at was the energy sector. I went out and presented a case to my Chinese counterparts, who came in and established Sunon Asogli Power Ltd and initially invested $203 million to build a 200MW combined-cycle gas-fired plant. There is an ongoing expansion for another 360MW, and by May of next year total capacity will be 560MW. We also worked on Africa World Airlines, again with Chinese partners, and this has become the leader in the small domestic market. We hope that next year we will see more expansion and collaboration with other airlines. We are now mostly targeting renewable energy. We are looking at the mini-hydropower segment through a new subsidiary, Lighting and Construction Africa Company Ltd. We have submitted an application for a provisional license covering nine mini-hydro sites, and we are also looking at solar. Hopefully, perhaps within the next two weeks, we will submit an application for a provisional license to build solar power plants in the Upper West Region of Ghana. We are also working with an American company, Zoetic Global, which has a new technology in hydropower production, the in-stream auger turbine. We are negotiating a PPP with the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG). The augers, designed to be deployed in fast-flowing rivers, have the potential to revolutionize power generation. We will be the first company to undertake large-scale commercialization of this technology. We plan to generate 100MW from the post-wash section of the Akosombo Dam, without building any new dam on the river. If it succeeds, we can replicate that at many dam sites across the world. SAS has undergone a major transformation since its founding in 1994. We have become entrepreneurial, and are now in the business of creating businesses.

What are your expectations for the future in that respect? What sectors are most ready for growth?

One of the most attractive sectors now is energy. Per-capita consumption of electricity is low here compared to other countries. Infrastructure is generally promising. For example, our road density is also low, presenting extensive opportunity for growth, as is the case with energy. That is one of the reasons why Africa is seen as the next frontier for development. The story gets more interesting if you look at the fact that we export our bauxite to Jamaica and then import aluminum. We should develop an efficient aluminum industry, and if we can convert the bauxite to aluminum, so much of the value addition will be done here and many jobs will be created here, with positive ramifications for sectors that are dependent on the commodity. Agriculture is important because it employs more than half of our people but contributes only about 22% to GDP. There is a lot of opportunity for enhancing agricultural production, given all the fertile land we have.