The Ashesi Deep Dive, held in October every year, is a programme explicitly designed for government, nonprofit, business, and academic institutions interested in gaining a deeper understanding of the work happening on the Ashesi campus and how partners are helping make an impact. The programme brings together donors and potential donors to witness and discuss how their donations are making an impact through the Ashesi Foundation. During this period, participants are given the opportunity to meet directly with President Patrick Awuah and university leadership to learn more about the Ashesi Experience, team up with a student to experience an Ashesi education as they live it, and learn about student projects cultivated through the Ashesi Enterprise Fund, the Ashesi Design Lab (D:Lab), and Foundations of Design and  Entrepreneurship course (FDE), and opportunities such as the Ashesi Venture Incubator (AVI).

This year, the AVI was invited to share the success stories of their fellows. During the presentation, Dr. Gordon Adomdza, the New Entrepreneurs Xchange for Transformation: Idea to Impact Project (NEXTi2i) Program Director, spoke about AVI closing the loop on the mission of Ashesi to educate a new generation of ethical, entrepreneurial leaders in Africa. He said that with a one-year entrepreneurship course for all freshmen and now a one-year incubator program for graduating students with an entrepreneurial proof of concept, Ashesi hopes to accelerate the rate at which graduating students become entrepreneurs. Jewel Thompson, the AVI Manager, noted that this called for deliberations and attempts to answer some critical questions such as: how the entrepreneurship process could be derisked, how to incorporate impact into the business from the onset, how to transform the business ecosystem in Ghana, how to create a pipeline of student entrepreneurs who are able to incorporate the hybrid business model of doing good while doing well, and could we replicate this model across Africa? With Ashesi’s commitment towards entrepreneurship and generous support from sponsors such as the USAID, the answers to those questions birthed the NEXTi2i project and the AVI is one of the programs under its umbrella.

Shedding more light on the comprehensive nature of the AVI ecosystem, Ms. Thompson explained that the design of the incubator is to give fellows a holistic experience and support package to thrive in their entrepreneurship ventures while completing their National Service Scheme (NSS). The components of the one-year incubation program include Quarterly Training Programs, Personal Development, Entrepreneur Support, Mentor/Coaching, Profit/Purpose/Impact (SDG Outcome) among others. 

The Ashesi Deep Dive provides an opportunity for the young entrepreneurs to practice their pitch and master the art of storytelling as they present on their business concepts, their achievements so far, and the dreams they have for their ideas.

Derick Omari, Founder of Tech Era

The presentations were started by Derick Omari, founder of the Assistive Technology Makerspace, who gave the audience some insights into what he does at his social enterprise, Tech Era. Derick explained why it is important to ensure that no one is left behind leading him and his organization to develop affordable assistive technologies that will bridge educational and employment gaps for more than 10,000 persons with disabilities in 3 years.  Citing statistics from the WHO, Derick stated that 2 billion persons with disabilities would need assistive technology by 2030. Out of this number, 9 out of 10 people with disabilities in Africa do not have Assistive Technology (AT). Considering the above, his Assistive Technology Makerspace works to provide affordable AT solutions to facilitate inclusive and quality education for children with disabilities. He shared how his digital platform is creating inclusive learning opportunities for 100 blind learners. Tech Era has imparted more than 1000 people with disabilities (pwds) in Ghana with capacity building and intervention programs in the past 3 years.  

Jennipher Alista Panashe, founder of Colourful Plastics

Jennipher Alista Panashe, shared her story and inspiration behind the plastic waste recycling and climate-friendly initiative, Colorful Plastics.  The goal of colorful plastics is to build cleaner cities with better infrastructure for less. Colorful plastics recognizes that 70 million tonnes of plastic waste is produced annually in Africa (World Bank, 2012) and lack of locally available high-quality construction materials at low cost as problems. In order to solve these challenges, the business recycles plastic waste to produce high quality, long-lasting construction materials at a lower cost. Colorful plastics is positioning itself as a plastic recycling research institute that provides construction consultancy services and plastic enhanced construction materials. This ambitious project has not only been on paper; Jennipher has gone a step further to conduct a pilot test on her idea. The pilot test was successfully done on the Dufie Road (A hostel located a few meters away from Ashesi University). 

Inspired by Jennipher’s determination to make this initiative a reality, a generous participant offered to create a website for Colourful Plastics. 

Comfort Appiah, founder of SHeK eCofashn

With over 1.7 billion tons of plastic produced in Ghana annually and only 2% out of that quantity recycled, it is unfortunate but not completely surprising that more than 4 million people have been affected by flooding in Ghana in the past 50 years resulting in economic damage exceeding $780 million. Due to the above, SHeK eCofashn, an initiative of Comfort Appiah, seeks to produce quality and aesthetically appealing bags from plastic bottles. “We are redefining fashion to be eco-friendly,” she said in her presentation. Intrigued by this innovation, some participants were interested to know where Comfort collects her bottles and fabrics used for the handbags. She explained that through partnerships with some companies that collect the plastic bottles she is able to acquire more than enough to make her bags. However, the fabrics are bought on the open market. 

Dzifa Anabglah, founder of Bloom Bags and Luggage 

Dzifa Anabglah was next to present on her initiative: Bloom Bags and Luggage. This is an accessory design brand that offers a fusion between artisanal skills, fashion innovation, and African culture to provide a range of products that showcases the African narrative in a luxurious tone. She explained that, to support and promote the creative and local economy of Ghana, Bloom focuses on identifying and enhancing the skills of women and craftsmen to create what she describes as “trendsetting masterpieces”. Some of her bags were passed round for the audience to have a feel of the quality. About sixteen participants purchased her products after her presentation. 

Emmanuel Asaam, founder of Gamma Energie Ltd

“3 billion people cooking on open fires worldwide daily, as a result of the lack of affordable clean cooking fuels and stoves. We aim to curb this by providing clean cooking fuels, making them more accessible while using sustainable and climate positive practices,” said Emmanuel Asaam, founder of Gamma Energie, during his presentation. Gamma Energie was established with the goal to provide clean, affordable energy from renewable sources to homes & SMEs across Ghana, and other global communities using sustainable Practices – thereby contributing to improving the livelihood of consumers and protecting the environment for future generations. Within 12-18 months of operation, they have been able to collect and recycle over 1,709 metric-tons of biomass waste, saved 5,400 metric-tons of trees, which is approximately 1,392 trees and a total of 29.22-tons of CO2 emissions saved among many others. Some interested participants  interacted with him during and after the presentation to find out more about his initiative and how they can support.

Kevin Blankson, founder of SWoove

The final presentation was delivered by Kevin Blankson, founder of SWoove, which is a company dedicated to building a robust logistics network that spans the continent of Africa. Kevin showed the participants his website and demonstrated with a video, how the company is testing an experimental delivery model that will allow businesses and individuals to move products from one point to another. 

What’s next for the AVI

We’re excited to take our entrepreneurs through this journey, helping them to unearth the qualities within  themselves that will enable them to be resilient, compassionate, and ethical entrepreneurial leaders. The proceeding months will include business development learning modules and workshops, along with personal development assessments, and extensive  mentoring and coaching to assist the fellows implementing and tracking the impact of their hybridized businesses. In addition to the training and development, our fellows will continuously be engaged within their market to test and collect the data to help them refine their businesses as they prepare to transform Ghana and beyond.