Kevin Okyere is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Springfield Group.
The story of Kevin Okyere is both inspiring and motivating. It promises those who choose to believe instead of doubt that everything good will come if dedication is applied with the spirit of devotion; because it is one thing to believe in the possibility of things, and another to champion the cause of that belief with commitment.
Unarguably, it takes more than hard work and sheer luck to be a billionaire in Africa. This fact is known to everyone living on the continent and those abroad who have experienced life in it. But whatever it is that makes it possible, Kevin Okyere has proved that impossible is nothing.
Born in 1980 to a wealthy family in Ghana’s Ashanti gold-rich region, Kevin’s father had built a reputable fortune through construction, steel manufacturing, and large-scale cocoa farming, before he was made a traditional chief.
Although Kevin Okyere didn’t want for wealth as he was born into it, his love for entrepreneurship drove him into trading at a tender age of eleven.
“Our family house was not too far from the stadium. I would often put water in our chest freezers at home, and then sell the iced water to the supporters watching the games in the stadium. Everyone used to call me ‘Eddie Murphy’ in reference to the movie, ‘Coming to America’. The movie was quite recent in Ghana at the time. They used to wonder why I was working when my father was wealthy,” he tells Forbes.
It was in this same spirit that he did several jobs while studying Accounting at the George Mason University, Virginia, U.S.A, after his high school education in Ghana. Among them include caring for mentally challenged patients at their homes and security guard.
“Anything legitimate that could earn me money, I took it.” He said.
Such was Kevin's hardworking spirit that he was rewarded with esteemed jobs near the end of his undergraduate career. He later became one of the first employees of Sirius XM Holdings where he actively played the role of a radio programmer. Later he would receive an offer from one of the top commercial banks in the United States upon graduation.
However, Kevin Okyere has always been a man of bigger dreams... dreams big enough to leave one’s mind in doubt. He would reject the offer and return home to Ghana.
Speaking with Forbes in the same interview, Kevin gave reasons as to why he turned down the job.
“Unlike the U.S, Ghana was virgin territory for a lot of businesses. here were too many opportunities to explore in Ghana and I knew I could be more successful 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 telecom sector.”
Notwithstanding, he would gather business experience by working with his sister upon arrival in 2004. And later set up a telecoms company, Westland Alliance Ltd, in 2005, with other investors that provided international call routing services for several international calling card companies, which includes AT&T.
Nevertheless, Kevin would start working with a business associate who was in charge of supplying crude oil to the Tema refinery, Ghana. Although he was still spearheading the telecommunication firm he started at the time, it didn’t stop him from realizing an available opportunity.
The storage tanks used for storing supplied products in Tema weren’t enough. Seeing an opportunity, he ventured into the oil sector by acquiring plots of land close to the refinery in Tema and started constructing storage facilities.
When the project was completed, he was advised by officials of Ghana’s National Petroleum Authority who came for inspection to apply for a Petroleum Product import license as they were impressed by facilities.
And of course, he did!
That was the beginning of Springfield Group and Kevin Okyere was only 26 years old at the time.
According to the company’s website, Springfield commenced operations in 2008 to become one of the pioneer players in Ghana’s downstream sector. It obtained a license in 2010 as a Bulk Distribution Company (BDC) from Ghana’s National Petroleum Authority (NPA) for the procurement, sale, and distribution of petroleum products to Oil Marketing Companies (OMC’s) and refineries. Over a period of five years, Springfield has supplied 12.5% of Ghana’s petroleum products requirement and continues to be one of the leading exporters of refined products to neighboring land-locked countries such as Mali and Burkina Faso.
At this point, Kevin’s appetite for success was insatiable. He led the venture of Springfield into Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil market, by setting up Springfield Ashburton Limited in 2011; which to date, is the only Ghanaian company to be involved in energy-related trade out of Nigeria.
Springfield was also the first independent Ghanaian company to lift Government of Ghana’s crude oil entitlement from the TEN field in 2016 and 2017.
Undeniably, the African entrepreneur landscape is not a very beautiful one to boast of. Yes, it is a breeding ground for opportunities but the fact remains that there are contours here and there, enough to bring discouragement to starters. Nevertheless, there are people who are committed to a fault with the hope of making it work and they are being rewarded with profits beyond the usual. Needless to say, Kevin Okyere is one of them.
“I’ve been fortunate in business and in life, and giving back is the least I can do. In the end, I don’t think I want to be remembered as one of the wealthiest Ghanaians; I’d like to be remembered as one of the biggest givers,” he said.