It’s not business as usual when an Executive MBA (i.e. EMBA) graduate decides to venture into the erroneously perceived restaurant business. My encounter with Rashida Saani Nasamu has become my new normal, a chance encounter. Fortunately, she had just launched her outfit on the Abbatoir bypass, Spintex Community 18 area of Accra.
So what is the story behind this post? I am currently on secondment in Ghana on a global project that involves 12 universities and 4 industry partners across three continents: Africa, Europe and the Middle East. So I make an appearance in Ghana, hosted by one of the University partners, the University of Ghana Business School (UGBS), one of the leading business schools in Africa, on 7 January 2020. As luck would have it, that date coincided with the inaugural celebration of the country’s Constitution Day.
As fate would have it, two other events happened to be celebrated within that same week. The first was the GUSA2020 University Games and the second was the New Year School both hosted by this prestigious university..
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While GUSA2020 kicked off prior to my arrival, the NYS commenced while I was on the ground and only a few metres away from the UGBS in the Cedi Conference Centre associated with the Department of Economics.
Part of the showcase was a very articulate assortment of stalls celebrating the entrepreneurial spirit and resilience of Ghana’s private sector with stalls ranging from radio stations, higher education exhibitions to independent organic products as well as arts and crafts.
But that surely isn’t the main focus of this post. Prior to 2020 I had been pondering over the quest of African business in a global context taken from the purview of eating out (something that Africans are not usually known for) and especially on the exploits of Nigerian restaurants worldwide from Nigeria itself, to other geographies such as London and Dubai.
While I was disappointed with the under par ambience of these businesses, especially in Dubai, that narrative seems to have awaken some rather incidental new knowledge for me as I arrived in Accra.
The last time I was in Ghana, I was amazed by how an informal woman retailer of the traditional cuisine of the country, Waakye, could be so popular even without a brand name, registered address, ambience and perhaps even a clearly articulated business plan, could have been so successful.
Being the academic that I am, I decided to interrogate this success further and followed the tradition research pipeline to celebrate this informal business from a conference paper, through a book chapter to a media report published in the equally celebrated national newspaper, the Daily Graphic. Yes, that business was Auntie Muni Waakye.
Fast forward to 2020, the national dish Waakye is still on the cards, but this time, the story is different. Alhaji’s Wife has a somewhat different appeal. While the owner/ manager is equally a woman, the business format is much different. There is a trade name, there was a business plan, launch event and the ambience? Out of this world!
Alhaji’s Wife even has its own brand of drink, Puha, to wash down the Waakye. As luck would have it, the proprietress had time to attend to our needs and share some of her stories, which included a discussion of her options prior to settling for this line of business. Obviously, she had embarked upon some scenario analysis drawing upon her EMBA at the UGBS.
I couldn’t agree more with her slogan “Waakye & More” as she does more than just Waakye. The ambience is sublime.
Nothing gives me more joy than seeing students make effective use of the soft skills we teach in class and align this with those skills we cannot really teach in class – passion, energy and drive. It is a win-win collaborative and co-creational experience. I am still learning and loving this adventure.
Exterior – Left to Right: Nnamdi O. Madichie; Rashida Saani Nasamu, CEO Alhaji’s Wife; Professor Robert Ebo Hinson, HOD Department of Marketing & Entrepreneurship at UGBS