Ethel Cofie Returns To MEST To Speak To The Class of 2018

Guest Contributor, Friday May 4th 2018

This post was written by Heather Mavunga, a Zimbabwean entrepreneur in training in the MEST class of 2018.

Ethel Cofie joined us at the Accra Campus of MEST last  Wednesday afternoon to share her entrepreneurial journey with the MEST Class of 2018.

She started off with the story of her personal journey. At eighteen years she was sent to what was known in those days as ‘computer school’. Growing up in a family of engineers and entrepreneurs, she always knew that she would end up working for herself.

Ethel says that, ”as a creative person who fell in love with computers, as someone who did things differently, computers allowed me to create and build things.”

[caption id="attachment_6774" align="aligncenter" width="665"]MEST EITs with Ethel Cofie MEST EITs with Ethel Cofie[/caption]

University Life

For four years, she studied computer studies at Valley View University, a private university in Oyibi, Greater Accra. By her second year, she already had a job. After completing her first degree, she proceeded to complete her Masters in Distributed Systems at the University of Brighton.

She started out as a software developer who built travel systems. She worked from the back office and implemented and built systems. When she got a chance to move to the front office, she learnt business analysis and consulting. This she enjoyed and what she discovered next cemented her career as a link between software and consulting.

Into the World

Thereafter Ethel held various positions at Vodafone, the Ford Foundation and The World Bank. She is currently a consultant who represents Seedstars, the MTN Apps Challenge, and #HerFutureAfrica bootcamp.

In addition to starting  Women in Tech Africa she  also founded EDEL Technology Consulting, which provides IT, advisory, and software services. The company has been in operation for more than eight years. Not only is she a sought after as a keynote speaker, judge, and thought leader, she has been named one of the top 5 women impacting IT in Africa and is regularly cited with regards to technology and innovation thanks to her engaging LinkedIn page.

How It All Began

Ms. Cofie’s story of how she became an entrepreneur in Africa is the age-old tale: qualified professional quits stable job abroad to start a company back home;family is horrified. When her first business failed, she moved in with her mother and devoted herself to understanding what it took to make a deal happen in Ghana. She had the perfect presentations, but she was not making sales. When she discovered that to make a deal happen in Africa meant building strong relationships and identifying the decision-maker in the room, things started turning around.

Women in Tech Africa

Women in Tech Africa began  as Women in Tech Ghana. Initially, Ethel wanted to build a killer  network of women supporting each other in business and lifting each other up in their careers.  Starting with 70 women in Ghana, today Women In Tech Africa is in over 30 African countries with thousands of active members.

The KINGS of Africa by Eric Osiakwan

When a member in the audience asked Ms. Cofie what she thought about Mr. Osiakwan’s comments and which countries she felt were winning in tech, her response focused on intentional branding and supportive policies. She cited Rwanda and Kenya as examples of countries that have consistently been deliberate about becoming tech leaders in Africa. Rwanda has friendly economic policies and a focus on bringing all the best minds in tech to Rwanda. She mentioned that Kenya had also been intentional and how the rise of their tech companies such as M-pesa had fueled their growth.

Branding for Success

Ms Cofie had advice for those who seek to build a brand and a company. Her principle around being intentional and making decisions that deliberately place you in a position of leadership resonated well. To her this means deciding to work on projects you are fanatical about, writing white papers and sharing your opinion. This of course means that you have to be consistent in sharing your opinion so that you develop your niche. She also spoke about the need for startups to focus on marketing and selling products instead of media hypes that do not translate to sales. The bottom line of being in business is making sales, and this above all should be the goal of a startup.

Start Small and Scale Later

When asked about whether it would be better to start in a smaller market that you own (Blue Ocean) or starting in a big market that you own a tiny piece of, she responded, “When you are starting out, it is good to go to a smaller market so that you can take the entire market. That way  in the interim, you test your sea legs. Once you are stable you can take your learnings into a bigger market and build for scale.”  

Want to hear more about MEST visitors like Ethel Cofie? Recently, Google sent Site Reliability Engineers to talk tech at MEST and share tips. We’ve got their insights on all things tech for you here!