Although it is tempting to describe Augustine’s career as the path that is frequently travelled by many from the diaspora, it is anything but typical. With a career that has taken him across Africa, Asia and Europe, Augustine has found his calling in purpose-led projects.
And ever since, he has been working hard to bridge the gap between business and purpose through innovative global projects. This couldn’t be more timely, with the environmental and social challenges we face. We asked Augustine to reflect on his career, impact investing, and the lessons learned so far.
Rise up the corporate ladder
Augustine Agyeman-Duah was born in Ghana. An alumnus of the prestigious Prempeh College, he graduated from the University of Ghana with First Class Honors in Business Administration alongside studying for his chartered accountancy (ACCA) accreditation. He then went on to pursue his MBA at the University of Oxford.
After a brief stint with LAWA Ghana Inc., an organization that promotes Public Policy on Women’s Rights, he settled into corporate life at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) working across many countries. “Providing professional services to companies in the financial services, telecom, mining, and manufacturing industries was an immense learning opportunity,” says Augustine.
After over nine years with PwC, during which he managed one of the Firm’s biggest portfolios in Africa, Augustine started the next chapter of his professional life in Geneva, Switzerland. “It was an unmissable opportunity aligned with my purpose,” says Augustine. Beating stiff competition, he joined the Global Fund, the largest multilateral investor in sustainable systems for health. The organisation invests more than US$4 billion annually to support HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria programs in more than 100 countries.
Joining the dots: business and impact
“Working in the corporate and not-for-profit sectors has given me the opportunity to understand how business and social impact can be connected.” It’s this awareness, which drives Augustine to support and mentor many independent impact projects. “Impact is improving the lives of people. We all have something to offer to this world, but we don’t all have the opportunities to develop this potential. Impact is about creating a level playing field.”
For example, he is the President of Maxim Nyansa in Ghana that is offering Information Technology skills training to create career perspective for young people in Africa. The organisation is expanding to Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa and The Gambia. In 2019, the organisation won the Fire Africa Award for its role in digital transformation in Africa.
In Switzerland, he sits on the Board of All Special Kids (ASK), an organisation that supports children with special needs. “These children have tremendous potential but unfortunately it is often not recognized. Just like Albert Einstein implied, everybody is a genius but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is not worthy.”
Future of Africa
Africa has a young population that is seeking opportunities to improve not just their own lives, but the lives of their communities. According to Augustine, this driven and ambitious generation of entrepreneurs is willing to embrace risk in order to create sustainable social and economic impact. “We are however at a crossroads. As part of the diaspora, do we support these young people to pursue opportunities that will be redundant in a few decades, or do we encourage them to carve out new careers and create a global impact?” This belief among others led Augustine to co-found the African Professionals Network in 2016. Based in Switzerland, it has members from over 30 countries across Africa and the Caribbean region.
“Less busy” times
In addition to spending time with his family, Augustine loves to destress by listening to music, reading, and mentoring people during his free time. “I got to where I am because of the generosity of people who gave me their time, attention and advice. And this is something I want to offer to others”, he says.
Interview by: Theresa R. Fianko, with additional resource from Augustine Agyeman-Duah
Photo Attribution: Augustine Agyeman-Duah