“Discover true purpose, understand the times, discover leadership and build capacity, find something to do that connects with your passion, and do it with all your heart and strength.”
What could be more fulfilling in life than finding purpose and living it to the fullest? Prince Adu-Appiah has found the very thing that lightens his face and gladdens his heart. He is on a mission to empower young Africans everywhere to transform problems into projects, create lasting solutions and promote youth leadership.
He is the founder of 1Billion Africa, an international NGO that is committed to raising the next set of world leaders and African giants.
In this interview, the young change agent talks about his mission, deep connection with Africa and the amazing future he sees for African youths.
Sit back, relax and be inspired!
Kindly tell us about yourself, ethnicity, family, education…
I come from a family of 6. I am the eldest son and in my mid-twenties. In ethnic terms I will say I am 50-50. Mum is from the Volta Region of Ghana, that’s the Ewe ethnic group and Dad is from the Eastern Region, the Akyem ethnic group. I studied General Science back in Senior High School and later Computer Science & Physics in the University of Ghana. I love science, technology and creative arts. I have gone through training in Project Management, Entrepreneurship and also Leadership Development Training from Myles Munroe International.
Tell us about 1billion Africa. Mission, goals, focus, target group, achievements…
1Billion Africa is a youth-led International NGO with the mission to empower young Africans to turn problems in their communities into projects; to promote youth leadership and to create better communities in Africa.
Our target is Africans but especially youth and children.We do three things basically. We embark on Projects in deprived communities, we run innovative Advocacies and we provide Support Services like workshops, consulting and online support. Our super goal is to unlock youth potentials, create community leaders and promote problem solving thinking.
1BA started from Ghana and we have run most of our projects here. We currently have presence in 10 other African countries through Country Ambassadors in Namibia, Nigeria, Morocco, Senegal, South Africa, Togo, Tanzania, The Gambia, Uganda and Zimbabwe. We hope to have presence all across Africa by 2025. Our projects and other activities in over 8 communities have impacted over 3,500 youth and children and we hope to impact over 1million youth and children by 2020.
What informed your decision to found it and what challenges does the vision seek to address in Africa?
I would say passion and the cry of the need in Africa. The question “How many problems are there in Africa?” led to the birthing of this movement. The simple mathematics of “1billion” Africans being capable of nullifying the “1billion” problems in Africa sparked the inspiration. We understand Africa is called a youth-full continent in these times for a reason. That we have significant roles to play as youth of Africa, and that this is our defining moment!
1BA has been created to help lead the shift of Africans pointing fingers at problems and just talking about them. Our vision is for Africans to look at problems and begin to think solutions. History proves how the Just-Talk model has failed.It is amazing how this mindset has impacted even our team.
In our personal lives, whenever we see a problem, we think solutions. This is really positive. If Africa is to see a new dawn of transformation, it’s going to take a generation of solution thinkers.
You seem to have a huge passion for Africa. Why is this so? Why do you do what you do?
I think this has to do with Purpose. It’s the only reason that can justify the deep connection. Growing up in a deprived community, I have seen how poverty, lack of proper leadership management, greed and wrong mindsets have rendered many incapable of living lives to their fullest potentials. I have seen how corruption has messed things up. I saw from my community how children were deprived of education and empowerment, and how frustrated unemployed youth took to drugs and deviant acts. I often find myself thinking about these things.
Sometimes I would wake up in the middle of the night thinking about the change I want to see. I have thought about the poor conditions in many communities in Ghana, and desired to become; the head of a local government that is not developing a sustainable community or the head of the educational institution which is not raising dynamic graduates, or the head of the hospitals that are mistreating patients, or the head of the homes, churches or communities that are not raising ethical members. Yes leadership is not easy but I believe it is also not impossible. And I have always seen myself being part of the change process.
From your experience working with African youths, what would you say is the major challenge they face and how best do you think it can be solved?
The African youth generally face a number of major challenges. Some common challenges however include; Poverty, Unemployment and Lack of Opportunities to build capacity and develop potentials to the fullest.
Governments, private sectors and civil societies have a major role to play here. We need collaborative efforts from such bodies to come up with good policies, develop better systems and to create potential nurturing environments for our youth and their ideas.
As youth we also have a huge role to play, we need to make efforts to build capacity, innovate, dare to shape the world we dream of, be ready to accept challenges as part of the journey and value mentorship.
In your TedX speech earlier this year you said “Africans are not lazy people, we just need an inspiring environment.” Can you elaborate on this?
Yes I made this statement in the context of people thinking the African person likes shortcuts or easy things, likes to beg and not work hard. I have heard this statement many times. Africans work and can work really hard. I just think sometimes the youth are frustrated because they lack the inspiration around them to start a venture or work on their ideas. Most youth lack access to investors for their startup ideas, tools and materials to operate and mentorship.
Imagine a young person seeing another youth who is dreaming big and daring in life; get frustrated by complicated bureaucratic processes, face challenges of lack of capital, lack of power, internet access and the like, these things can make a person easily coil in. Most successful youth are doing many things the hard way. We do need to create the inspiring environment for our people.
What part do you think Africans in the Diaspora can play to help address the problems in Africa?
Obviously they have significant roles to play. Ory Okolloh puts it best, “Africans in the Diaspora have to Jump to the continent.” Africa needs their acquired skills and built capacity. We need them to come and invest in young people, mentor them and help create opportunities. There are a number of Africans in the Diaspora who have come back to the continent and doing great, working on great programmes, running businesses, civil societies, some building institutions.
A typical example is Patrick Awuah, Founder of Ashesi University in Ghana. He came from Microsoft Corporation to start what now is one of Africa’s finest liberal arts college. His institution is raising and educating a new generation of ethical leaders and entrepreneurs. Their impact has been amazing. We need more like this. Obviously not everyone can come back to start colleges, but we just need people to come back to impact whether small or big.
Who/what has had the biggest impact on your career and why?
Jesus Christ. Ever since I accepted Christ in my life, life seized to be the same. I was confused, lacked the sense of purpose and I didn’t know why I was on earth. I understood I am here to make a difference and not just a living and this knowledge controlled almost everything in my life including my career. You know, our sense of spirituality is what creates our moral convictions, value systems and how we handle or relate with people. I chose this path of a social entrepreneur because I want to extend His love for me to others.
What challenges have you faced in your journey so far and how have they changed your disposition to life?
Chiefly would be Team building and funding. Every great vision need a team of great people. It was challenging in the beginning finding a team of talented and passionate people. Also getting access to funding was difficult as a startup. But the principle I learnt was that whenever you start something new funding won’t be easy. Often those who can fund would want to see the idea work first. As a determined person you just have to play your cards well and find a way to make it work to attract their support later. We need to understand the whole thing is a journey and thus pursue with patience.
What has been your motivation over the years? What keeps you going?
Love for change, hate for poverty and our achieved results. On the subject of love let me briefly share what I discovered in Joshua 1 in the Bible. It was an advice from God to a new leader Joshua, to love the people he was leading as himself. It changed my thinking. If we loved the people we live with or work with, we would easily create a better Africa. If our leaders loved us genuinely and we also supported them we would see great transformation. In 1BA, we love the youth and children we encounter in our projects, and this keeps us going to impact.
What’s your typical day like?
*Laughs* Well it depends. Sometimes my typical day can be full of work and many meetings. I also usually stay up late to work in the night. If it is not this kind of day I find myself behind the PC, watching a video, listening to music, reading or surfing the net.
What parts of your job today keep you awake at night?
The thinking and planning part of it. I love to think and look into the future. I see a lot of things through the power of vision. I see where we want to get to and begin to plan how to get there. “We’ve got 1 billion problems to solve”, I would think. Essentially, it’s the passion to impact lives of youth and children in the many communities that keeps me awake.
Fifteen years from now, where do you see yourself and your brainchild?
I see myself soaring higher, leading better and impacting many more people. I see 1BA running with great structures and systems and I see us in all African countries running projects that are significantly affecting lives and national economies.
Who inspires you to do more? Any mentors?
Myles Munroe. He’s passed on to glory but he still speaks to me almost daily through his audios, videos and books. I’ve listened to 3 of his messages today. He was also passionate about leadership and his focus was more on the 3rd World nations. He blazed the trail of many of the things I want to do and so I learn a lot from him.
Apple’s Steve Jobs has also really inspired me. His vision, leadership and desire to change the world with his passion and creativity is remarkable. I have many more great and close mentors I follow.
Africa will rise when…
When we have leaders who are ready to lead our nations, institutions, companies, communities, systems, etc. selflessly, with no tolerance for corruption, with great passion, vision and the ability to act courageously.
Kindly advice a young African in one sentence
Discover true purpose, understand the times, discover leadership and build capacity, find something to do that connects with your passion, and do it with all your heart and strength.
To join/support/partner with the 1billion African movement. You can visit www.1billionafrica.org, send a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or email Prince on email@example.com. You can also contact/WhatsApp: +233245762288 or +233547118941. Like us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/1BillionAfrica or follow on Twitter: www.twitter.com/1BillionAfrica