With the World Bank reporting that 65 percent of Ghanaian youth are unemployed, newly appointed Country Manager for Microsoft in Ghana, Derek Appiah, emphasises the company’s focus on developing employability skills in the country. He sees significant potential in Ghana’s young population and is excited that Microsoft has a presence in the country to help unlock this potential.
Appiah, who spent his formative years in Ghana after moving to the country from the UK with his father as a child, holds an engineering degree and an MBA. After gaining 20 years’ experience in research, technology, product development, marketing, sales and general management in the UK, he felt an urgency contribute to the growing economic development in Africa and emerging markets in particular. He spent time working in the UAE and Nigeria, where he worked as an Executive Director at MTN, before moving back to Ghana in 2011 to work at Vodafone Ghana, Logiciel Ghana and finally Microsoft.
“What I really enjoy about working in emerging markets,” says Appiah, “Is that you can make a big impact quickly; it’s possible to contribute to the ecosystem in a very real way.”
Appiah’s goal as Country Manager is to help the company have a more active role in Ghana and add more value now that it has offices in the country and a 100% Ghanaian staff complement. In keeping with this, he aims to make a significant impact on Ghana’s development. “I believe there is enormous potential for technology to change lives in the emerging world, so this is an opportunity to make a big impact using Microsoft to enable productivity for businesses, government and consumers,” he says.
One of the key areas Appiah’s team is focusing on to enable this is developing youth employability skills, which he believes will help to develop Ghana’s business ecosystem. “What I love most about Ghana is its young and vibrant population,” he comments. “They are peace-loving and punch above their weight intellectually, making them the perfect candidates to take the country forward if they can acquire the necessary skills.”
Appiah believes in the power of technology to help make this happen. While technology and ICT skills are generally low in Ghana, he believes this is improving thanks to companies like Microsoft having a more active role in the country and the training of its people. He notes, “This is not about charity but rather about creating a value exchange between citizens, industry and government.”
One of the ways in which Microsoft is working to make an impact is through its 4Afrika initiative, which was launched in 2013 to play an active role in Africa’s economic competitiveness and enable Africans to turn their ideas into a reality through access to the right devices and services, training and mentorship. Through the initiative, Microsoft has partnered with Spectra Wireless to launch Africa’s first commercial service network utilising TV white spaces in Ghana. This allows students to buy affordable, high speed internet bundles and devices, giving them access to the internet which is often critical to their success.
Beyond this, Microsoft is also launching a Ghanaian National Youth Employability Portal called TizaaWorks (Everyone Works) on 21 May with partners such as the International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD).
Appiah is particularly excited about these initiatives and the opportunities they will help to open up for Ghanaian youth. He concludes, “Young people are an asset to our society, and even more so if they are adequately equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to create a brighter future for themselves and for Ghana.”