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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Isaac Kwabena first winner of The Apprentice Africa

After 16 weeks of rigorous business challenges, Isaac Kwabena Dankyi-Koranteng, 30, entered the records as the first winner of The Apprentice Africa reality business show. The born-again Ghanaian told Dennis D. Muhumuza how God and being himself helped him beat 17 contestants to the crown.

How does it feel winning the ultimate sixteen-week job interview and becoming the first African Apprentice?
I feel highly elated. Words can’t express my feeling. It is joy born out of respect for all my fellow contestants. I see winning The Apprentice Africa as a golden opportunity that I’ll use to build a huge network with top executives and learn from them as well. With God leading the way, the sky is certainly a stepping stone.

Has [Biodun] Shobanjo already handed you the car keys, and have you budgeted for the US$200,000?
I have received keys to my car. It is a Toyota Corolla and I appreciate it. However, on my budget for my salary, I never discuss with anyone other than my wife. Hahaha!

What will be your major roles as the African Apprentice?
I’m yet to finalise my job description with my employers. I know for sure I have a lot to offer both Bank PHB and Troyka Group of Companies.

Was there a secret strategy that brought you victory?
If there was any strategy, then it was to be myself and give my utmost best in every task we executed. However, understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each of the candidates helped in effective working well with everybody. Just like a game of chess, every single move has a consequence and must be thought through well.

When you look back, do you see contestants that could have been better than you but were just unlucky?
I respect all the contestants. I know each of them has the capability and the capacity to be the apprentice. However, me winning was not a matter of luck as luck for me is just another name for tenacity of purpose. In as much as I respect each of the remaining 17 candidates, I believe I deserve this win. It certainly has been by the grace of God.

What was it like competing with these other 17 devastatingly ambitious Africans?
For me it is the greatest experience one can think of. You see, after working with them, when you step out into the world, you feel everything is moving just too slow. I wish we could be working together all the time. The experience with these smart people is worth more than the $200,000.

What was your impression of Ugandan contestants?
They are fighters, smart and will never give up. Deox certainly was a strong contender and no wonder he was in the final four. Nancy for me was the hardest nut among the women. She has what it takes to stand any challenge. She impressed me so much. Oscar, wow, is a nice dude who will make everybody around him happy. You hardly find such people on your team.

What was most special about the business tasks you were given?
Getting things professionals use weeks and months to execute in just a day.
I can never forget how everything is possible within the shortest possible time. All that is needed is commitment and the strong will to get it done.

Do you think The Apprentice Africa show will in any major way help convert poverty in Africa?
The $200,000 will certainly help. That’s on a light side. I really think people running their own businesses and those wanting to start can learn practical lessons which will help them avoid certain mistakes in their businesses. Hey, once we have an effective and efficient private sector running, poverty is reduced.

Are you afraid you may not measure up to Shobanjo’s expectations once the going gets tough?
He had 18 weeks to study all the candidates and finally chose me. I would want to believe he very much knows my strength and weakness. I am daring and no matter how tough the going gets, I believe by the grace of God, I’ll make headway.

Is there anything you want to forget about the show?
Yes. The nightmares I had after each boardroom. Whether we won or lost, I would always dream about the task. It was so stressful.

Any message to future contestants?
Get ready to face it tough. You must have drive to succeed, but most importantly, believe in what makes you a force to reckon with.

--Daily Monitor, Monday, July 7, 2008