Remarks by MTN Group Vice President for West and Central Africa Ebenezer Twum Asante at the University of Ghana Legon Graduation ceremony for Post Graduate students on January 13th, 2022.
Members of the University Council,
Pro Vice Chancellor,
Chair and Members of the Board of School of Graduate Studies,
Deans and Directors,
Members of Convocation,
Staff and Students,
Parents and Guardians,
Members of the Press Corps,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
I am very pleased to be here today and to join you on this august occasion as my first formal engagement in the new year.
Let me start off by extending my sincere appreciation to the University leadership for inviting me to share some of my reflections with you. Addressing you today as a Guest Speaker is a glowing tribute to my Lecturers and by extension to you all holding the fort now. Hopefully some of you will be inspired and motivated to look at things differently.
I would also like to congratulate all of you for studying and graduating in a most globally disruptive pandemic period. In these times of uncertainties and anxieties, it takes some stubborn courage to pursue a demanding program such as postgraduate studies in an equally demanding University like my alma mater. This indeed is a good step to life – we admire your resilience – and you all deserve to be applauded.
The pandemic has taught us many lessons and confirmed our human vulnerabilities if you look at what has been described as Vaccine Apartheid. Another reminder that the global share of Selfishness remains high, but beyond complaining lets play our part. It may be a clarion call to Africa to lift the Selflessness balance and as the saying goes “put our destinies in our own hands”. Your degree, therefore, should also serve others.
Listening to my profile and intro, perhaps what best describes me at the core may be in my mid-teen stages, way before graduating from this premier University. That shaped me, taught me human nature and a varied understanding of people and our society at large. One theme to describe that may be, From a Store boy, itinerant hawker to a multinational corporate leader today.
I learnt that all business or indeed work is about people and their common good, and that has stayed with me till now. My pitch here is, moving on, we should not lose or abandon some of the ingredients that made us, brought us this far, if it must also serve our future.
As you graduate, I believe many may be looking into the future with questions on your mind – work, career, life attainments, some pressing realities to confront, etc. The real Question of Questions to me is what impact you would make and what higher-order purpose would anchor your pursuit of those goals?
Let me say upfront, the law of random distribution will suggest most of you will do Okay, others may do well whilst a small proportion will be extraordinary. No matter where you find yourself, take a stand that you will diligently apply yourself to defy the odds of the bell-curve of life, with conviction and ethical values. Having said that, I also believe it is better to be just Okay than cut corners in search of greatness.
University as a knowledge marketplace is a key avenue for grooming critical thinking, curiosity and creative minds, and for rigorous application of knowledge to solve real-life problems. Contextually, all academic disciplines, study
aspects of nature, their dynamic interactivity and issues therein. A Question I once asked a gathering of corporate people was, Why do you want to be leaders? For you, its late to ask why you wanted to be Graduates. Perhaps the more appropriate question may be the one I posed earlier, What compelling impact would you want to make with your acquired degree and why? The University can only certify you for successfully completing your study but only YOU can confirm whether your mind is equally “certified”?
My second pitch for your reflection is, Irrespective of the degree you hold, from Archeology, Business, Classics to …Zoology, when we look at it from a value proposition of Problem Solving, there is a mighty difference each of you can make. Please make the focus of your degree to solve uplifting problems and it would take you way beyond securing the hard needed employment, the Promotion or career you so dearly desire. In Ghana , a lot of people are being encouraged to be entrepreneurs which is very good.
To me, being entrepreneurial means taking ownership of and actively making use of your ideas, talents and knowledge for a living. Let me share a personal story with you. During my time as Teaching Assistant in this University, I used my off-duty hours to teach private A-Level students. My target was to aid students who have failed their GCE A-Level Economics at least once to attain strong grades. The insight that drove this idea encouraged me to re-introduce Economics to them as practical and interesting as possible.
For all my students, the social contract was our mutual commitment to go the extra mile. I needed to work on their psyche to drop the myths around the subject and gain self-belief. One simple rule was for the students to arrive in class at least one hour ahead of allotted teaching time to sit and study in my presence. By the time my National Service came to an end in 1994, I had created a niche for myself.
The students who went through my program became unsolicited advertising mouthpieces with their Grades F to B as a credible testament. So successful was the program that, I was never anxious to be employed and when I got the opportunity for my first job interview, I was humbled, calm but very confident. My desire has always been “to apply self in manner to be a real blessing and priceless gift to whomever I work with or impact”.
With my clear understanding of the Utility principle in Economics as borrowed from Psychology, I was always determined to give more to my employer than I took, which creates higher appetite for my value. The pitch to you here is that by all means pursue your lofty dreams and ambitions but get going with a niche within your control that can help you build a base in readiness.
Global statistics show that only a small percentage of people pursue graduate programs. In the UK for example, only about 1. 3 percent of the population have acquired a Masters degree and in Ghana I don’t think the numbers will be any different, if not lower.
I wish to challenge all of you to use this privilege to influence and inspire others positively. So no matter what you studied, I hope that you all go out from here to solve problems that add value. To do so, we must also be sober enough to appreciate that we cannot be islands to ourselves because we operate in an ecosystem and not Ego-system with our degrees or letters.
An Ecosystem of work, human connectivity, food cycle, leveraged learning and global inter-dependency. The academic laurels attained today is one thing to demonstrate your potential, a really huge one but the impact you’d make out there will depend on how you apply yourself, work with others and indeed seek greater collaboration to get the best out of yourself and others.
Please maintain the attitude to constantly learn and keep your sense of enquiry acquired from your studies active, not shut.
In Ghana, just like other societies, we are battling with many problems which are being trumpeted every day. Poverty, Inequality, Unemployment, Global Talent competitiveness gap, Corruption, Governance and institutional malaise, poor sanitation, poor urban planning, Doing business issues, lowly industrialized non-diversified Economy, Climate Change, all resulting in low human development index.
Quite a confounding clutter of Wahala we need to confront, isn’t it? How interesting to observe that we define our problems by their symptoms but we can critically appraise and simplify for resolution through their deep root causes.
A rigorous Root-Cause-Analysis may reveal that the many, diverse, and multi-sectoral issues could actually converge at the yoke, a key part of what we are dealing with could be polemic really – Cultural yet Technological. Cultural because the generational problems created have lived with us for a long time, crystallized and have set their own unenviable standards, behaviors and attitudes.
Technological because the endemic issues should be resolved smartly, with the force of scale and speed autonomously if we want to leapfrog. Take for instance the apex challenge of organizing the socio-economic system to make activities visible, traceable, to the smallest unit of society – individual and firm. Fundamental to that is a functioning Law and Order and dealing with underlying culture that inhibits same.
To this end, the current wave of resurgence in the Police Service under the leadership of IGP Dr Akuffo Dampare must be applauded whilst we call for more pervasive transformation and institutional reforms. It is also for this reason that the National Identity Digitization by Government as a single-source identification for everything, everywhere you go should be embraced by all, expanded and fast-tracked as a prerequisite for building a modern society and economy.
When societies are less organized, Law and Order suffer, social and civic responsibilities undermined, economic incentives are skewed, resources are poorly generated and allocated, ultimately, poverty and unemployment become endemic. But equitable Law and Order, organizing society to make it functional is a most complex multi-faceted problem to have a lasting solution for.
It requires all hands, heads, eyes and backgrounds such as your field of study, interactions among them and their intense application. You have a greater part to play.
We all need transformational mindsets that is driven by strong values and the right behaviors. Let me leave you with a common thread I’ve observed over the years as to how you can go about everything I have pitched: PASSION driven by PURPOSE AND ETHICS – PPE for short.
The key that unlocks Purpose is the Passion with which you have set out to do what you have to do rightly. We understand that society has invested a lot in us and we all have to give back ethically to sustain. Your social license to lead anyone is your Ethics, and the impact it makes must transcend generations.
That is why you should be an atom of societal change and not for instance join the bandwagon of Corruption being shamefully retailed at all levels of societies.
Procurement and permitting processes etc should not become your avenue for making money. If we live above the fray, we should be proud of ourselves for emotional wealth. A corrupt mind cannot think and make optimal decisions. Let’s focus our decent minds and energies productively and it will pay off in the end.
Ethics is also about what you represent. Your big minds and voices must uplift and promote merit-based just society. Taking an active stance for gender diversity and participation, national cohesion eschewing familial bigotry be they partisan, ethnic, religious, old-school alliances, and others.
Lady Chancellor, Ladies and Gentlemen, I left this University some 28 years ago and even with a First Class degree in Economics and Statistics, I was not too clear exactly what I wanted to become – Academia, Research or Industry, Public Service or Private Sector. One thing was vividly clear to me from the onset though; to make an impact as an African and strive for the common good with whatever I ended up doing.
With this I started with a niche to get me going. This has been my constant source of energy, inspiration, reminder and ultimately, the basis of my work and leadership fulfillment. It has served me well but there is still a lot more to be accomplished. I sometimes falter, trip and fall along the way. I try to lift myself up because I can’t afford to let down. It’s a struggle, an exciting one actually, Aluta continua!
I came to pitch my reflections on your graduation with you…, and was hoping your mind will catch something to illuminate a new path or paradigm for actionable inspiration.
Dear Graduating Class, if you don’t recall anything at all, please remember in your Hi and Lo times, you’re the sole Entrepreneur, Pilot and Captain of your Capabilities/ Talents and that your Purpose and Ethics should drive your Passion (PPE for short). By all means pursue your big dreams and ambitions, but also create your own niche before the opportunity to play in a bigger crowd comes, if ever.
I wish you the very best in your careers, niches of life and living. I hope that you all rise to the heights your beliefs. Go out there and make your mark of a difference.
Congratulations to you all once again.
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