“Entrepreneurship is not a degree one can acquire…it’s an adaptation, it’s something that you inherit slowly and then makes you in the end.” Nana Kwame Bediako.
Nana Kwame Bediako rented space in a building in Accra to run what became one of the country’s most prominent nightclubs. Today, he is building a city.
After renting space for the nightclub for a short while, he purchased the whole building. He would go on to sell it, for a decent profit. It was this one sale that set him off on his career in real estate. He began to see the opportunities, and has not looked back since.
As the founder and CEO of Wonda World Estates and Petronia City Development Company Ltd, Nana Kwame has grown into a real estate mogul – building living and working spaces that have attracted lots of praise. I met up with him recently in one of his cubist homes – painted in bright pastel colours, with glass and steel fittings – exquisite and refined, that his name has become synonymous with.
Perhaps that first transaction resonated with a deep part of him: his love for multiplying things and increasing their value. “I am a street incorporated self-made entrepreneur,” he tells me with a huge grin before he takes me decades back to the years when he lived with his mother in Kumasi. He would walk three kilometres to and from school. At 11, the precocious Nana moved to Accra to live with his father to find better education and escape the poverty he had seen in his young life.
His smarts would serve him a good deal when he moved to London to continue his education after his A Levels. By age 21, he had made a million pounds for himself, selling scrap steel and telecommunications material while attending school at Waltham Forest College and briefly, Westminster University. A number of shrewd business and investment undertakings followed before he moved back home to take advantage of the opportunities that were opening up in Ghana’s economy.
He hasn’t disappointed – snatching opportunities in a real estate market that is variously reported to have a housing deficit of close to two million homes. From that sale of the building that housed his nightclub, he moved into the development of his own buildings. He brought a different touch to building, infusing new designs that brought freshness to building development in Accra. When you see a Nana Kwame building, you can’t miss it; you know it has to be his.
Rising elegantly in the plush Airport Residential area, the 40-apartment block christened Kwarleyz – named after his mother – is easily any beginner’s introduction to the lengths Nana Kwame would go to raise memorable buildings. On the side of the high-rise is an enormous vectogram of his mother, Kwarley.
Make a turn into the popular Osu Oxford Street from Danquah Circle and you will notice another high-rise structure rising gracefully. It’s a 16-floor building designed by the celebrated architect Branco Cavaleiro. Construction is going on at a frantic pace by European contractors he hired to do the job. “It is a mixed-use building – it will have retail and living space. There’s a two floor underground car park, the first of its kind in Ghana. Putting this amount of floor space on such a small plot of land is a huge feat not just in Ghana, but anywhere in the world” he explains to me. “We are slowly changing the city skyline, but people may not realise.” Then there is the development at Cantonments, another high-rise apartment block. Then there is beach front development he is planning to put up at La. Then there is the crowning glory: Petronia City.
Early this year, CNN’s viewers were introduced to a promotional campaign heralding a new city in Ghana’s Western Region. Petronia City is a self-sustaining, master-planned, integrated city being created on 2000 acres of land near Takoradi. It will have an industrial hub to serve the new oil and gas industry/Energy City, a golf course development, several hotel and entertainment facilities, and large communal living spaces for over 30,000 residents. The first phase of the project, the industrial park with free zone enclave is already underway. It is the stuff that dreams are made of. “I had been dreaming for a long time, and decided to wake up and do something that would change my country and my continent. I have been laughed at, for trying to do just that. But it’s a very good thing,” Kwame tells me. “It’s that value that one will leave behind for generations, that’s the spirit of entrepreneurship”
He dreams big dreams, and rewards have matched his dreams so far. Last week, he picked up the 2015 Young Professional Role Model Award from The Young Professionals and Youth Coalition (YPYC) – his third award just this year.
He has become the defacto posterchild of his generation for entrepreneurial success. At just 33, he is a mentor to thousands of young people trying “to make something out of nothing”, like he did. He does not take it for granted, and makes time to speak to youth across the country, trying to nurture fellow dreamers with his story.
A book is in the works, and he tells me, “I want to make a million millionaires, and I think the book will inspire a lot of them – make them know that it is possible, make them say ‘if he’s done it, I can do it too’ because I came from nothing”.