Kwaku O. Bediako, CEO, Chase Petroleum
Distinguished faculty & staff of Ashesi University College, the University of Cape Coast, proud parents, family, friends, ladies and gentlemen of the graduating Class of 2010;
I am honoured to have been called on to share with you on this important milestone. First, I want to congratulate the Class of 2010 on the completion of your courses of study and for successfully coming through these foundational years. Today marks the beginning of a defining phase of your life and I reckoned this was definitely a good time to have a conversation about what you believe is possible for you to achieve.
I remember some of the things I was told growing up; things that inspired me to achieve greater heights. Many of which still guide and encourage me today. My father was an avid business man and fairly well to-do but not excessively rich. Growing up, I remember my father telling me that there was nothing that he could not do for me. By the time I was 14, this had changed slightly, to him saying that there was nothing in the world that I could not do, if I set my mind to it. I noticed the shift in his statement and thought about it every now and again. I realized that he was telling me that I had to take responsibility for myself and what I become.
When I was a little over 15, I saw the world of possibilities with an entirely new pair of eyes and I have never forgotten the learning from a vacation that changed my life. I had the opportunity to visit my uncle in London. At this point, I need to let you in one of my open secrets-- I love cars. I have always been fascinated by them.
Interestingly, the first task I was assigned on reaching my uncle’s house was a dream come true. Imagine my joy, when he asked me to look in his mailbox for the keys to a car that had been delivered to him about a week earlier. My task was to find the car in the parking lot.
My excitement quickly turned into absolute shock, when a brand new Mercedes 560SEC beeped! At the time, this was an extremely expensive, top of the range model and I had definitely never seen one in real life.
From the high of finding that new Mercedes, I only got more and more intrigued over the course of that vacation. As I stayed with him, I discovered what a property in Knightsbridge, where my uncle lived, meant. Visits to his offices revealed the expanse of the Pan-African commodity business he was running and many other achievements that were definitely eye-popping for me. Obvious to him that I was awe-struck and deeply impressed by all this, he kept emphasizing to me that “Kwaku, I am sure you can do much more than I have done, if you actually put your mind to it and believe it can be done”. These words were etched in my heart and in my mind forever and continue to inspire me today.
After that vacation, the things that I would have believed impossible came into the realm of possibility for me. It redefined my life, and I have always been determined to find the silver lining in every difficult circumstance.
I know how you must be feeling today, hopefulness, excitement; anxiety and some of you might be down-right afraid. I’ll tell you this, “do not entertain any fear”. Stick with your hopes and aspirations, and you WILL make it.
Remember also, that in life; sometimes you will learn more from your mistakes than from your triumphs.
Many of the ground-breaking successes in the world today were peoples’ push-back on not being afraid – of not fearing the many “what ifs” or why one thing or the other could not be done. Facebook, Unique Trust, TATA-- were all started by people who just believed it could be done!
Now it is you turn to define the next big thing.
At this point in your life, regardless of what it seems to you, you actually have what it takes to get wherever you want to. You have two of some of the important things needed to be successful. You have a good education and you have built some of your life’s best relationships.
I have shared some of what inspired me with you. But the world has changed. The Ghana I knew at 15 is different from the Ghana you live in. When I was 15, to make an international call you needed to join a queue at the Post Office. Today that call happens in your palm.
My dream today has changed. It’s not personal anymore. My dream is about 24 million people in a country called Ghana. It’s about how to raise the GDP of Ghana and better the lot of the 24 million people who live in it. Ghana today has 24 million people; West Africa has over 300 million. Today, I want to challenge you, to tap into the 300 million market to better the lot of the 24 million. And you do the math; on how much bigger it gets as you move out and target the world.
This is the scope of the opportunities that you must imagine and take. This is the boldness with which you must dare, in daring to achieve great things. Nothing is too big; nothing is impossible.
From a little corner shop on the streets of Mumbai, TATA now runs one of the largest conglomerates in the world. As you leave school today, your challenge is global. Let your horizon be beyond Ghana. Look beyond Africa, reach for the world. The challenge to build the world’s next generation of companies is on. Rise to the challenge.
Whatever you set your mind to do, do it; start today – it’s the only way to make the impossible possible.
Somebody is certainly going to improve on today’s best success stories; that person can be you, that person must be you, God being your help.