Chris BishopBy Chris Bishop|December 9, 2020|9 Minutes|In Billionaire, Billionaire Tomorrow

Billionaire Tomorrow

Billionaire Tomorrow - I Want To Be The Gas King Of Ghana!

What Nana Kwesi Obeng lacks in scale and capital, in his quest to be a billionaire of tomorrow, he makes up for in ambition. It may take him decades of hard work to become the gas king of Ghana, but he has made a sterling start in a cut throat business that began the day he stumbled upon scarcity.

In the bustling delivery yard in Accra, workers push gas canisters around on creaking trollies. The delivery trucks have been out since early in the morning taking thousands of canisters across the capital to homes and restaurants hungry for gas. The LPG trade is busy in Ghana with many people preferring to use scarce gas rather than take a chance on scarce electricity.

The blue gas canisters on the trollies, made in Spain, can tell you when they are running empty – seriously. They have a device on board that sends an SMS to both the customer and supplier when depletion is nigh so a replacement can be sent ahead of time.
One of the small advances in a gas business that urbane entrepreneur Nana Kwasi Obeng hopes will make him a billionaire in the coming decades. A business born when he stumbled on scarcity.

It all began one cool morning when Obeng woke up and needed gas, but had no clue where to find it. He Googled for gas – no luck. It was only the next day that he managed to drive around and find a petrol station so he could haul a canister home.
LPG gas is in big demand in Ghana – for cooking and heating -in a land of an unreliable electricity supply. The problem is demand far outweighs supply – more than half of the 2.5 million people in Accra can’t secure regular supply.

“So, next day I started thinking. I was blessed to have a vehicle, so what does a guy do who doesn’t have a car do? I realised it was more of a convenience thing. People have to carry gas cannisters on their heads, people have to hire taxis to take them home,” says Obeng.

Delivery was the spur. The challenge and risk of becoming an entrepreneur was loomed large for Obeng after a fairly well- heeled life of education and opportunity in the United States. He left Ghana, with his family, for Florida when he was a child and earned a business degree at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

A string of comfortable corporate jobs followed. Obeng started out at Northwestern Mutual – a wealth management company – before moving on to American Express followed by business development manager role at Konica Minolta.

A trip home to Ghana, in his mid-20s, changed his life.

“I came to visit in 2009 and home was home and there were so many opportunities to take advantage of. I realised this is where I want to be,” says Obeng.

“Coming back to Ghana showed me how much opportunity is here – a lot of people don’t realise the opportunity they might have. If we can solve problems, we have a business. This is home and this is where I want to create something. The memory of my childhood and nostalgia came back to me and I was thinking – wow, we have something lovely here! It was being home with family.”

Obeng started work back in Accra, in 2014 at a family business, Jislah Financial Services, which proved a decent grounding for a would-be entrepreneur.

“I was bringing in funds and managing funds and finding out about new markets; raising capital. When I got back we had a thriving economy and people on the financial side able to raise capital. I realised we had a core group of youths wanting to become entrepreneurs and start new businesses and new challenges,” he recalls.

Soon after the gas canister hunt, came the day that was to changed his life -January 30 2019 – the day he took the plunge as an entrepreneur with $100,000 in seed capital.
A was a small beginning for a company with a big sounding name – Giant Gas. The first delivery came at dawn on the first day, amid one of Accra’s notorious gas shortages.
Obeng had to deliver three canisters to Bondai restaurant in Accra by 5.30 Am; lunch depended upon it. Three hundred US dollars was the prize. His truck made the delivery and the business never looked back.

From this first customer, which the business has retained, the roster grew to 300 customers and over 2000 canisters in the first six months. As 2020 drew to close, Obeng had 3500 canisters and 2000 customers. He employs six trucks and 25 people.

The trucks make up between five to 10 per cent of running costs, according to Obeng. They have to be fixed and replaced regularly because of the damage wrought by the rough roads of Accra. Strikes are another bugbear; a down tools by transport workers at Ghana’s coastal refinery at Tema put prices up by between 20 and 30 per cent. Price is major issue in gas in Ghana.

Most of the country’s LPG is from the Netherlands, Switzerland and Nigeria. Obeng says the biggest hassle of the business is getting the most competitive supply at the best price – he says there is a strong case for Ghana producing more and importing less LPG.

“It is a cut throat business, but the market is big and the penetration is small – only 45% in Accra- so there is a lot of room for growth,” he says.

That is exactly what Obeng plans from his bright and tidy air-conditioned office in Accra. He plans to expand north to Kumasi next year. He hopes to have a depot in every major city.

“I want to be the gas king of Ghana!” he says.

Like many entrepreneurs in Ghana, Obeng concedes that the government has done much to encourage them, but feels the state could do more in the shape of extra tax breaks and a tax on imported LPG to encourage production in Ghana.

“Like Oliver Twist, we always ask for more,” he chuckles.

It is a cut throat business, but the market is big and the penetration is small  only 45% in Accra- so there is a lot of room for growth, I want to be the gas king of Ghana!

- Nana Kwesi Obeng