Meeting up with Samuel Sedegah, Investment Executive at GroFin Ghana

Samuel Sedegah is doing GroFin proud, having recently won the 2015 CFO Ghana Award for outstanding contribution to the growth of SMEs. We spoke to him to find out more about the man behind the mission.

Stepping into Samuel Sedegah’s shoes:

Tell us about yourself.

I am a Ghanaian, working and residing in my home country, with a beautiful and intelligent wife who holds a PhD and is a lecturer at a public university in Ghana. Daniella and I are blessed with three beautiful kids – two boys and a girl.

I hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Commerce and a Masters in Banking and Finance together with an Intermediate professional qualification in Banking (ACIB) and a certificate in the Negotiation of Financial Transaction from the United Nations Institute for Training and Research.

I am currently working as Investment Executive at GroFin – a Specialist Fund Manager providing innovative financial solutions to SMEs in 13 countries across the globe. Prior to joining GroFin, I worked across three banks in Ghana, holding various management positions at different levels.

What made you move from conventional banking to a specialist SME finance profile?

Having spent 10 years in the banking sector in Ghana working across marketing, business development, foreign operations and credit risk management, I felt the need to explore opportunities in fund management, impact investment and the development finance space. Scouting the space with a positive outlook, it did not take much time for the GroFin opportunity to come up, which I grabbed without hesitation.

You have been working at GroFin for almost half a decade now. How has the experience been so far?

Working with GroFin is a delight. Unlike working in the traditional banking space where the focus is basically on doing credit and providing ancillary banking services for the sole purpose of returns on investment, the experience with GroFin comes with a blend of impact and returns where we provide valuable business support to our clients and help them grow their business. For instance, banks would ordinarily extend credit and sit back, expecting repayments and assuming all is well as long as the client is meeting its obligations. The difference with GroFin is that we pick clients, especially the so-called unbankables – clients that banks would normally reject – and we work with them to build them to the state where they become suitable for banking credit.

For me, it has been an exciting experience dealing with the SME market and especially those classified as the “missing middle” – businesses that are too big for microfinance and not big enough to be classified as corporates. Such businesses often face problems with raising funding from banks, as banks would generally classify them as unstructured and risky ventures. In the past four years, I have had the fortune of working with quite a good number of such entrepreneurs who, through our financing, have experienced tremendous growth in business by increasing revenues and extending their free cash flows. The experience has been quite enriching to the extent that one can visibly and palpably feel the impact of our Investments in all sectors.

Are there any particular clients who stand out in your mind, where GroFin played an especially fulfilling role?

Certainly, there are a whole lot of investee businesses that come to my mind. To mention but a few, Cob A, Angels Specialist School, Firm Foundation Montessori School, Linklaters, Emigoh, Y& K, B&P, Broad water, Europe Autoland and Memo Foods, are just some of our clients who have had significant impact in terms of creating employment, and providing products and services to bottom-of-the-pyramid clients.

I particularly recall Linklaters, my very first client in GroFin. Richard Owusu-Poku wished to establish a fuel retail station at Koforidua in the Eastern Region of Ghana and had approached his two bankers but could not access funding because the banks thought the project was too risky. When GroFin came into the picture, we saw the risk but we were quick to mitigate it and get the project off the ground. Instead of being daunted by the challenges of the ill-developed topography, we realized that the site was the best location for the project. Once the project was executed, we anticipated the station would generate better sales in the catchment area than any other competitor. We checked the entrepreneur’s viability and discovered we were dealing with an extremely disciplined youth who displayed a good understanding of the business. Above all, Richard had a great passion to succeed and make an impact in the community.

GroFin approved the funding with a moratorium, and, within 9 months the project had been completed and was ready to serve the community. Today, as we speak, that particular station continues to exceed its projected revenues and tops all the other stations. Although he manages four other stations for an Oil Marketing Company, Richard has fulfilled his dream of owing his own fuel station with GroFin’s help.

We continue to provide Richard with quality business support and guidance to grow his business. In fact, we are currently considering helping him construct and own another station by close of next year.

You sit on the board of the NGO Action Aid Ghana. Are there any highlights you would like to share from your experience of working with them?

I have been serving on the Board for the past five years as its youngest member. It has been an enriching and self-fulfilling experience to be working with great minds as we endeavour to eradicate poverty and ensure justice for all. Through the collective and able leadership of the Board, management and staff of ActionAid Ghana, the organisation continues to chalk successes year on year with various awards being bestowed on us.

It is always satisfying when you see how people, especially the poor, are being empowered in diverse ways to liberate them from hardship and societal stigma, and can help the vulnerable take their rightful place in the governance of their economy.

Ultimately, it is a very gratifying feeling to voluntarily contribute my quota to help build our African society and I am highly elated to be part of a team like Action Aid.

At a personal level, how does it feel to reach out to entrepreneurs in Ghana and contribute to the wider community?

The feeling is great, especially with the realisation that my work is going a long way to create a positive impact on society and the larger community. I feel humbled and blessed.

“I don’t think that charities in Africa really work. I think it just holds the people down longer than it should. I think the only way to build Africa is to build for-profit businesses that create opportunities and jobs for the people locally,” said Senegalese-American rapper and businessman Akon recently, after serving as a speaker earlier this year at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, Nigeria. Do you relate to this statement?

I cannot but strongly identify with the above statement. In fact, Akon rightly hit the nail on the head. What Africa needs is sustainable, innovative and scalable business models that would create job opportunities to deepen the foundation of our economies.

With GroFin winning consecutive awards in Ghana – the 2013 Ghana Finance Award, the 2015 Ghana-Africa Business Award as well as the 2015 CFO Ghana Award for outstanding contribution to the growth of SMEs – how does it feel to be spearheading such spectacular performance?

I am thrilled by these awards because if, without working for awards and simply carrying out our mission, the world has come to recognise and accept our mandate in the SME space, then we can only say “To God be the Glory”.

It is clear in my mind that GroFin will always continue to do the right things and, as such, awards will never elude us. Ultimately, it is fulfilling and satisfying to be recognised and awarded for our contribution to the growth of SME businesses in Ghana and across the African and MENA regions.