Meet the Entrepreneur behind Ghana’s $1 Billion Oil Company
- May 12, 2019
Kevin Okyere is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Springfield Group, an African oil company. His story is both inspiring and motivating, as it shows that good comes to those who choose to believe in their dream. His story also shows the value of action; it's easy to believe in the possibility of things but much more difficult to actually do the work.
Okyere was born in 1980 to a wealthy family from Ghana’s gold-rich Ashanti Region. His father built a sizeable fortune in construction, steel manufacturing, and large-scale cocoa farming and eventually became a traditional chief. Although Okyere was born into wealth, he still had a love for entrepreneurship from an early age. This love drove him into trading by the time he was eleven.
“Our family house was not too far from [a] stadium. I would often put water in our chest freezers at home and then sell the iced water to the supporters [at] the stadium. Everyone used to call me Eddie Murphy in reference to the movie Coming to America. ... They used to wonder why I was working when my father was wealthy,” Okyere told Forbes.
In this same industrious spirit, Okyere worked several jobs while studying accounting at Virginia’s George Mason University, which he attended after completing his high school education in Ghana. These jobs included acting as a caretaker for mentally challenged patients and as a security guard. He said that if a job was “legitimate” and “could earn me money, I took it.”
Due to his hardworking spirit, Okyere was rewarded with more respected jobs by the end of his undergraduate career. For instance, he was one of the first employees of Sirius XM Holdings, where he served as a radio programmer. Later, upon his graduation, he received an offer from one of the top commercial banks in the United States. However, Okyere’s dreams were bigger than that job— big enough that he rejected the offer and returned to Ghana.
In the same Forbes interview, Okyere explained why he turned down the job: “Unlike the U.S., Ghana was virgin territory for a lot of businesses. There were too many opportunities to explore in Ghana, and I knew I could be more successful [at] home than abroad. I knew I wanted to run my own business, but I wasn’t even sure of what I was going to do. My two previous jobs in the U.S. had been in telecom, so I was more inclined towards launching a business [in the] telecom sector.”
To gain business experience, Okyere worked with his sister upon his return to Ghana in 2004. Along with other investors, they set up a telecom company called Westland Alliance Ltd. in 2005; this company provided international call-routing services for several international companies, including AT&T.
Soon after, Okyere met a business associate who was in charge of supplying crude oil to Ghana’s Tema Oil Refinery. The associate mentioned that the storage tanks at the refinery were insufficient. Although Okyere was still spearheading the telecommunications firm, that didn’t stop him from realizing a new opportunity. He ventured into the oil sector by acquiring plots of land close to the refinery and constructing storage facilities there.
In 2008, he completed this project and applied for a petroleum-product import license. As a result, officials from Ghana’s National Petroleum Authority came to inspect the new facilities—and they were very impressed! This marked the beginning of the Springfield Group; Okyere was only 26 years old at the time.
According to the Springfield Group’s website, it is one of the pioneers in Ghana’s downstream sector. It procures, sells, and distributes petroleum products to oil-related marketing companies and refineries. Over the past 5 years, it has supplied 12.5% of Ghana’s petroleum products and served as one of the leading exporters of refined products to neighboring landlocked countries such as Mali and Burkina Faso.
After founding the Springfield Group, Okyere’s appetite for success was insatiable. In 2011, he led a new venture in Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil market, by setting up Springfield Ashburton Ltd. To date, the Springfield Group is the only Ghanaian company to be involved in Nigeria’s energy trade. In 2016, the Springfield Group also became the first independent Ghanaian company to drill for oil in the Tweneboa Enyenra Ntomme Oil Field.
Although the landscape for entrepreneurship in Africa is not particularly fruitful, the continent has become a breeding ground for opportunities for those who are willing to take the risk. Those who remain committed to making their ventures work, such as Okyere, are usually rewarded. Commitment and hard work led the Springfield Group to be valued at over $1 billion.