Of all his accomplishments, Ghana's Kofi Amoah is best known for facilitating the entry of global remittance service provider, Western Union, into Africa.
“When I first approached Western Union to get them to extend their services to Africa, they said they were not interested. This was after I had tried all the methods of sending home money, such as through friends and through the mail. None of that worked.
“My money never found its way to my mother and the postal workers always made sure that moneys hidden in mails never reached their destination,” Dr.Amoah, who lived in the United States of America for many years, says as he recounts his frustrations.
“Weeks after turning down my proposal, I called Western Union again and convinced the company’s president to grant me audience,” he remembers. “Our meeting did not last more than 20 minutes because in the morning of our scheduled meeting, the New York Times newspaper carried bad press on Africa, running a front page story on AIDS and tribal wars.” After Western Union turned him away for the second time, Dr.Amoah did not give up. According to him, he believed there was something in him that the Western Union president did not see.
“Two months went by and I sent him another letter,” Dr. Amoah says. This time round, Western Union reluctantly gave him the green light to go to Africa and find a bank that was willing to become an agent.
“This is where the real challenge started. Initially, none of the banks in Ghana was interested. Eventually, I managed to convince the Agricultural Development Bank to become an agent. But thereafter, the problem got worse because the technology that will make money transfer to Ghana possible did not exist,” he explains.
The businessman pursued his dreams trying to secure the technology that will work. “Literally, I did all that was required to convince Western Union to come to Africa,” he says with a satisfied smile.
Western Union started its African operations from Ghana in 1995. Twelve years on, the company has expanded its operations to almost all 54 African states. And today, foreign remittance has become a major source of foreign exchange earnings to many African countries.
In 2002, the last year for which figures are available, US$12 billion was sent to Africa through official means, most of it through Western Union. Nowadays, many school children, with relatives abroad, look forward to their school fees being paid through Western Union while many Africans living abroad have huge investments back home.
Business in Africa