A young visionary with an entrepreneurial spirit, Raphael Dapaah is the founder and Managing Director of The Dapaah Group, a social enterprise. A graduate of Politics and History, Raphael’s experience as an adviser to Members of Parliament in the UK on their business costs and expenses has helped shape his response to the challenges on the African continent.
With his eyes very much on the continent, Raphael founded the Dapaah Group with a view to creating a sustainable business model around the chocolate industry. As an African living in Diaspora, he has a keen awareness of how African resources are not being fully utilized by African countries and is passionate about changing that. Raphael runs the Dapaah Group with is siblings, Kwaku and Afia Dapaah.
In our chat, I asked if he had any plans of returning to his home country, Ghana to run for a political office, like the President of Ghana for example. He laughed and replied that although he had no plans to run for the office of the President, he did see a future as “a special advisor/consultant to African governments across the continent.” He also mentioned that the possibility of running to become an MP in the town in Ghana where he planned to build a factory was not out of the question, but, “thats all much down for now.”
Read our interview below.
Did your background in politics and history in any way lead you to where you are now?
My background in politics has definitely shaped the role I would like to play in the development and advancement of Africa. I got involved in politics in the UK in order to gain political experience and initiate my career as a global change maker and activist, but ultimately because I plan to eventually return to the African continent to work as a special advisor to African governments.
Where history is concerned, my fascination with the subject resulted in my research into Africa, both her historical glories and her failures, and led me to examine how I could do my part to break the shackles of neo-colonialism, ie. Africa’s incessant dependancy on Western aid, and its unsustainable mono economy model. But above all else, the role I could play to restore Africa to its former glory and pride.
Tell us more about Dapaah Group and what informed your decision to start a social enterprise?
Dapaah Group came about due to my frustration with the state of Africa’s socio-economic affairs, and the never ending single sided negative narrative of her that has almost become a globally accepted truth.
My own experience of Africa, through Ghana, is one of abundant opportunity, potential, energy and hope, and I sought to challenge the status quo, and naysayers who speak of nothing aside from Africa being poor, and plagued by famine, violence and corruption.
So, I looked into Ghana’s chief export, cocoa, which has long been Ghana’s pride and joy, aside from Gold, and I realised for all Ghana’s reputation for producing and exporting over 20% of the global cocoa supply, Ghana receives less than 5% of the revenues generated by global chocolate industry, approximately $140bn annually, and growing. This fact both shocked, and annoyed me, but above all it motivated me to start adding value to Africa’s raw materials, no matter how small the scale.
Why chocolates and do you intend to stop there?
Chocolates are one of the world’s most loved and consumed product, and I figured that given the fact that the bulk of the world’s cocoa comes from my home continent, then it should be the first raw material that I invest in.
Furthermore, given the level of competition in the chocolate industry, we have sought to differentiate our brand by producing organic, vegan chocolates, thus adding further value to Africa’s cocoa and targeting a niche but growing market.
We won’t stop with chocolates however; the long-term aim is to add value to the Africa’s most in demand raw materials, so the next likely investment once our chocolate brand takes off, will be coffee…
How long has it taken you to go from the idea stage to actually opening your doors for business?
We aren’t officially open for business until 2018, as we are still working behind the scenes to produce a product we are completely confident we can go public and launch with. However, from conception, to sourcing our cocoa beans and producing our first batch of chocolate bars took around 4 months, so it’s fair to say we hit the ground running.
What has your funding journey been like thus far?
Funding the journey to date has been fine, and we have been well resourced to operate on a sustainable self funded model, for the stage we are currently at. However as we scale up, and our brand grows, we will be seeking funding in the form of business grants from potential angel investors, and in the long term we will consider crowd funding.
What has been the most memorable part of your journey thus far?
The most memorable part of the journey to date has to be when I visited my Grandmother’s town in the Western region of Ghana, where my family own extensive tracts of cocoa farm land. I went on a tour of my Grandmother’s cocoa farm, examining the different types of cocoa, and learning about the different times of harvests, and methods used to dry the cocoa beans. It was in that moment, that I decided that I would one day build a factory in the town, and use the cocoa beans grown locally to produce chocolates, and in the process creating jobs and new opportunities for the local people, my people.
Are you married or in a relationship? How does that play out with starting and running a company?
I am currently single. I find that it means I have more time to just focus on my business, and also becoming the best version of myself. Starting a business, whilst working full time requires a lot of sacrifice and time, and I have found that being single has allowed me to maintain my focus and vision. That said, I am not opposed to a relationship, and I do believe that life is all about having a balance. I believe in allowing things to occur organically, and not forcing or rushing things, so who knows what the future has in store for me.
What’s it like, working with your siblings?
Working with my siblings is great, they bring different insights, perspectives and qualities to the business. For instance, whilst I am more of a creative, bigger picture and ideas person, my younger brother is more scientific, objective, and structured. He is almost the ying to my yang, and keeps me grounded, and focused on our short to medium term objectives, whilst I orchestrate our grand vision and purpose.
Ultimately, as the Founder and Managing Director, I have the executive decisions to make, but I believe great leadership is about listening to everyone, considering all views, and being willing to change your mind based on the input of others. My siblings have made me change my stance on a plan on a few occasions based on their insights, for which I am grateful.
Has venturing into the global trade in commodities changed your world view in any way?
My world view changed the moment I learned that several African countries were not getting the true value of their commodities based on a distorted and unfair exchange of trade with external partners, typically from the West. I ventured into this business with the mind of challenging the status quo and reclaiming control of the supply and value change in favour of Africans.
What is your vision for Dapaah Group?
My vision is for Dapaah Group to become symbolic of black/African excellence in the world of trade, investment, tourism and marketing. We want to play an instrumental role in the positive marketing of Africa as a place to visit, do business in, and live in, and we want to empower our people by creating jobs, and opportunities for them through our ventures.
Advice for entrepreneurs who are just starting out…
My advice would be, to establish your short to long terms goals, research your market well, and always be willing to learn. One thing I have definitely come to appreciate, is that you never really know it all, even when you think you do. There is always room for improvement, growth and understanding
Dapaah Group is currently taking bespoke orders for occasions. Get in touch by sending them an email at [email protected].
You can contact Raphael via his Twitter handle: @RaphDapaah
Dapaah Group Twitter: @dapaah_group
Dapaah Group Instagram: @dapaahgroup
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