29 Oct Africa needs stubborn optimists: Interview with Emmanuel Acquah
Emmanuel Yaw Acquah was one of 400+ guests that convened at the inaugural Student Entrepreneurship Week Ghana at the British Council last year. We recently caught up with him for a chat on how the event impacted him and what he’s been up to afterward. Here’s what he had to say.
You might also be interested in this interview with Roberta and Baffour.
Tell us about yourself and what you’re working on.
My name is Emmanuel Yaw Acquah. I am in the 4th year of a Doctor of Pharmacy course at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (K.N.U.S.T). I’m also the Co-Founder and CEO of Jungle Online. Jungle Online is a technology company that provides a retail marketplace to connect buyers and sellers on the continent.
Since August 2017, bad online shopping experiences on some African platforms fueled my desire to make a difference. I thought, “If Amazon can make their customers love shopping online, why can’t African companies do the same? Why can’t a student in Ghana own a bead-making business and have customers in Nigeria or South Africa?”
Hence, Jungle works to build infrastructure that connects the continent through retail. We, as Africans, deserve better and that’s what we are working to achieve at Jungle. We won’t stop improving our services, and we aim to offer you nothing but the best shopping experience.
Read how these young Ghanaian entrepreneurs received an invitation from Facebook to participate in F8.
How did you come up with the idea?
The idea to start Jungle Online had been with me for some years but I kept making excuses. I kept telling myself, “It requires too much money, ” and wondered, “How will I raise money?”
After participating in #SEWGH, I decided it was time to stop making excuses. I was going to do it, regardless. At the back of my mind, I had Mr. Yoofi Grant‘s advice from the fundraising panel session of the event: “Entrepreneurs should focus more on being investment-ready instead of worrying about how to raise funds.”
To me, that means, if I focused on building something that works and has potential, investors will find me. That was the turning point. I began planning and putting a team together. I had no money at the time, so I sold a few belongings to raise the initial capital. That was the point of no return for me. In short, the company was Incorporated this year and we’ve run a pilot study on our product. We intend to launch in a couple of months.
What’s your entrepreneurship experience before Jungle?
Before Jungle, I’d taken part in a few business ventures. These include organizing parties in high school and a snack business during my first years at the university. Some were disastrous but they each taught me valuable lessons in business. These lessons have stuck with me till today. One valuable lesson I’ve learned is, a business will only be as successful as the people running it. Without the right team, every business will collapse.
What’s the impact you want to make in this world?
My ambition is to leave the world much better than I met it. I make it a point to ensure that my work is helping to solve some of the biggest problems we face today. That would make me sleep better at night. Africa needs more “crazy” people and stubborn optimists. People who will commit their lives not to enriching themselves but to the development of the continent. And, the creation of a better future for the next generation. We don’t need to be politicians to make a difference. If our grandchildren faced the same problems we’re facing today, then we would have failed them. For a start, expect to interact with Jungle Online a lot over the next year. That is my hope at least, but I’m confident we can get the job done.
A word of advice to young people.
To my fellow youth, our youthful days are the best times to take the biggest risks of our lives. We still have so much time to figure things out. So stop playing it safe and chase those dreams that are in your heart.
Thank you for your time!
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Tom-Chris Emewulu is the Founder & President of SFAN (Stars From All Nations). When he’s not building SFAN and helping entrepreneurs and rising professionals create fulfilling careers, he’s telling African innovation stories or advocating for people-centered policy. Tom-Chris is a former consultant at Mastercard Foundation, Seedstars Ambassador for Ghana, and the author of the forthcoming book: Breaking the Limits. He is a thought leader on youth development, social entrepreneurship, technological innovation, and the future of work.