I am growing sick and tired watching people who cannot manage their own lives insult and ridicule the likes of William Ato Essien and Kofi Amoabeng. They failed and so what? Do these cynical critics know the sacrifices it takes to keep a business running and pay salaries for a year?
I have been there and I can assure you founding and running a business in Ghana is not luxury and comfort. At one point, yours truly employed over 800 people and I dreaded whenever the month was racing to an end. Every month for 6 years, I will move heaven and earth to make sure I paid their salaries and on time. To the glory of God, there was never a time I had to defer salary payment, not because we didn’t have liquidity problems, but because I believe lives depended on the salaries.
The irony is, in spite of the sacrifices I believed I was making, many of them may not have appreciated it. Of course they wanted more! And woe unto you if you should slip. Of course not everyone is ungrateful. Among my staff there was this particular young man, he always sent me a thank you text message any time he received his salary, and it read: ‘Mr. Donkoh, this month also, I have received my salary and I am so grateful. Thank you and God bless you !’ I tell you, I believe this staff was my raven sent to lift my head up. I didn’t think he was obliged to thank me for the salary he has worked so hard for, but I remember I always looked forward to the message with a tear in my eyes and wondered, ‘where are the remaining 799?’
This entrepreneurial journey can indeed be lonely and depressing. When they fail, the least we can do is to leave them alone to nurse their wounds, count their losses. I get the feeling that, increasingly people are becoming way too cynical, ungrateful and developing a certain sense of entitlement which fights the culture of entrepreneurship.
What am I driving at? In the mist of all these commentaries on the bank collapses we have to be careful we don’t kill entrepreneurship and discourage others from daring to take risk. We don’t want to raise a country of so ‘proper’ people who are so careful lest they fail. We don’t also want to give the opportunity for some lazy-not-going-any-where-dudes to justify why they’ve buried their talents in the ground.
I believe whatever mistakes that was committed is part of the learning process as a country. All the developed economies have had to go through similar or worse things. Do you know how many laws the likes of Google, Facebook, Apple and recently Uber had to break before they became the legitimate business you see them to be today? Do you know how founders of some of these multinational companies who have been around for centuries built their initial capital ? After all, it’s the sacred duty of entrepreneurs to push the limits, it was up to the regulators to be doing the restraining, and if they failed us, who’s to be blamed?
Those demanding for the head of Ato Essien and Kofi Amoabeng shouldn’t forget that, it was by that same daring spirit and what they are misinterpreting to be ‘greed’ that spurred them to create their respective banks and the thousands of jobs in the first place.
Let’s face it, if you calculate the economic value created by these banks since they were formed, if you consider the food they’ve placed on the tables of the thousands of families whose lives have depended on them for all these years, It may well be worth the government’s bailout. Singling out the impact UT alone had had on the entire financial sector is invaluable – to the extent that even the good old GCB is now doing a loan in 24 hours!
That is not to say these entrepreneurs and shareholders should be left off the hook. No, lets allow EOCO to investigate and those found culpable punished, but let’s not rejoice over their fall, let’s not demonize and crush their spirit. After all they dared, they were so close to creating for us an equivalent of an Apple Inc., which could have grown to be a trillion dollar company. They attempted and failed, but let’s leave the door open, may be they will bounce back, and even if they don’t, some other crazy observer will pickup the baton from where they left it.
By Ken Donkoh