Herman Chinery-Hesse is the founder of theSOFTtribe, the largest software company in Ghana and possibly West Africa.
Fifteen years ago Herman decided to abandon his comfortable life in the United Kingdom to prove to sceptical friends what he had always maintained – that his native Ghana was a land of opportunity waiting for entrepreneurs with innovative business ideas.
Herman believes: “Technology is the only way for Africa to get rich. We don’t have proper infrastructure and we can’t compete in manufacturing. But if you put me behind a PC and tell me to write software for a Chinese customer, then I can compete brain for brain with anyone trying to do the same thing in the US.”
With no start-up capital and little in the form of personal savings, no infrastructure, and no equipment other than his old personal computer, Herman had to rely on the only resources available to him: his determination and creative talent for writing software programs. The young company’s first office was Herman’s bedroom in his parent’s home.
The company now employs around 70 people and has a client base of more than 250 organisations, including major multinationals such as the Ford Foundation, Nestlé, and Unilever; it is also a Microsoft development partner in the region.
theSOFTtribe has won a number of awards including the Millennium Excellence Awards for IT in 2005. The company has also been featured on BBC, CNN and the IEEE magazine in the USA, amongst others.
Herman is a manufacturing engineer by education but a software engineer by profession having graduated in industrial technology from Texas University, San Marcos. He holds a number of directorships and is an Assessor of the Commercial Court, Ghana. He has also won a number of personal awards including being the only African recipient of the “Distinguished Alumnus Award” from the Texas State Alumni Association and Texas State University-San Marcos, USA.
The BBC has described Herman as Africa’s “Bill Gates”. Herman believes that: “If Africa misses the current global IT boat, there may never again be an opportunity for rapid wealth creation on the continent.”