Chris BishopBy Chris Bishop|October 19, 2022|6 Minutes|In Billionaire Tomorrow

Billionaire Tomorrow

The millionaire worth his salt

Ofori Sarpong is one of the richest industrialists in Ghana with business in property, manufacturing, and media. This week Billionaire Tomorrow takes a snap shot of the business that helps make Sarpong worth his salt. 

Water flows through a sizeable part of the Ofori Sarpong fortune in Ghana. It makes money bringing precious salt from the sea and also from quenching the thirst of millions.

One of the mainstays of his business is the salt factory on the fringes of the fishing town of Winneba – population 55,000 – in the Gulf of Guinea a few hours’ drive west from the capital Accra.

The factory at Nsuekyir, which he founded with his father 20 years ago, is on 3,000 plots of land stretching over 600 acres. It was a child of necessity 20 years ago as the Cedi – the currency of Ghana – plummeted.

“We had a lot of imports at the time, it was to cut down the use of foreign exchange, just like what is happening now-.the Cedi was devalued,” he says.

Yet the business of setting up the salt factory, back in 2002, gave Sarpong some of his worst days in business.

“The lowest point was when I got into this salt business some 20 years ago with my father,” he says.
“Initially, we didn’t know we had to invest so much, although there was a business plan. I was in the real estate business and sold a lot of houses to push it into the salt business. Frankly, if I knew I had to invest that much I wouldn’t have gone into the business. All in all, it is going very fine now, but that was one of my lowest points, yeah, it was so difficult I had to leave my family and then stay out of Accra for almost three years. ”

The plant is as simple as it is lucrative. It uses fuel and electric pumps to suck seawater from the Atlantic and extract the salt from it through a score of evaporation and crystallization ponds onshore. Power, fuel and capital are the biggest costs.

“The initial cost of building a factory is very high, but because we are pumping water from the sea, actually the raw material is free; so, the margins are ok now, but the initial cost is problems, a lot of people who start are unable to finish.”

In the early days of the factory, there were bigger plans: 60,000 tonnes of salt and a workforce of 1000.

Yet the scaled down version with 300 workers produces 20,000 tonnes about a tenth of the overall market in Ghana.

“We sell to the local market we don’t do direct exports. We sell a bit to exporters who buy and they then export it.”

Sarpong also uses water in his other major business Special Ice Ltd that churns out mineral water from its factories in Kumasi and Accra. It won awards in Ghana, in 2013 and 2014, for the best mineral water.

The company has also started producing carbonated soft drinks.

In his property business, Sarpong is hard at work trying to ease the shortage of houses in Ghana. He is currently building 250 houses and many of them have been sold before a key is turned in the lock.

In his family, Sarpong’s three children have their sights on the professions: a medical doctor, a lawyer, and a pharmacist. He says maybe one day they will also try their hands as entrepreneurs.

What does the millionaire worth his salt has to say to the rising generation of young entrepreneurs in Africa?

“I should say they should strive hard to attain their goals, not be afraid of failures. The failures are to be used as stepping stones to success. You can’t say I am afraid I will fail. You come across a problem, you try to solve it. They should be passionate about what they are trying to do, they should be ambitious, set their own goals, and understand there could be failures here and there, but that should not discourage them as entrepreneurs. They also need to be creative because entrepreneurship is about creating something out of nothing.”

Valuable words extracted through years of hard work and experience – like salt from the sea!

Ernest who has been conferred with a doctorate degree in Philosophy of Law by the Berkeley University, USA also holds a Master of Science degree in Finance and Investment Management from the University of Salford, Manchester UK’.
‘He is currently the Global President of the Old Students Association of the school as well as the Chairman for the governing council of the school