Sangu Delle, CEO of venture capital company Golden Palm Investments, has enjoyed an entrepreneurial spirit from a young age, selling his own revision guides to school mates in Ghana so he could fund his travel to the US and accept a scholarship to attend secondary school there.
“With the money I had left over after travelling to the US, buying some clothes and setting myself up, I thought it would be a good idea to buy items from a discount-price website to sell on – my first exposure to arbitrage,” says Delle.
"Unfortunately all the goods I bought turned out to be fake and I lost all my savings. Luckily, the full scholarship and some additional help from family kept me going. I never forgot the lesson I learnt though: be careful what you invest in."
Delle made his way from secondary school to Harvard University, where he focused on the relationship between sustainable development and business, which would lead to the creation of Golden Palm Investments.
“At the beginning, we were highly opportunistic," he says. "One of our first business ventures consisted of transporting cheap cows from Burkina Faso to sell back in Ghana where meat was double the price. Later, we looked into more sophisticated ways of doing business.”
So far, Delle and Golden Palm Investments has focused on agriculture, financial services, real estate, healthcare and technology, which are ventures that he believes can turn a profit while transforming lives – essential to an African context.
In healthcare, Delle and his team have built a successful chain of hospitals in Ghana, which they hope to expand into the region as well as investing in mPharma, an integrated drug-monitoring system which connects patients to pharmacies and hospitals via their mobile phone.
The project has the potential to revolutionize how drugs are prescribed and monitored – especially important in a region where counterfeit medication is rife.
“Africa has 24% of the global disease burden, but only 3% of health workers,” says Delle. "It’s plain to see that there is a lack of accessible healthcare in the region and we are working on a solution to combating this issue."
Delle grew up in Ghana during a turbulent time for the continent. As civil war in nearby countries Sierra Leone and Liberia raged on, Delle’s family risked their lives to shelter and hide refugees who had fled conflict back home.
From this early age, Delle’s family had instilled in him a humanitarian spirit and led to the creation of CleanAcwa, a non-profit organization which focuses on clean water and sanitation in Ghana.
“While I believe in development through market-based solutions, I do also believe that I have a moral responsibility as a privileged African to give back,” says Delle. "In the absence of government action, the role of non-profits is to fill the void."