On a continent with billions of problems, a young Ghanaian visionary has made it his life’s mission to solve them all. Prince Adu-Appiah is well on his way to empowering millions of Africans to become change agents in their various communities through development projects on his platform, 1Billion Africa (1BA). While many complain and condemn the continent from the sidelines, Prince and his team are getting their hands dirty in the game of problem-solving and are inspiring others to do the same.
The passionate leader, social entrepreneur, writer, public speaker and Christian is making tremendous progress in positively transforming lives and communities, just a few years after graduating from the University of Ghana with a B.Sc in Computer Science and Physics. Since its inception, 1BA has impacted over 3,620 youths and children through initiatives like 1BA Go Empower Schools, Tech2Orphans and 1BA Free Community ICT.
In what may be our most inspiring interview yet, we got a chance to learn from Prince who was just recently nominated as one of Junior Chamber International (JCI)’s Ten Outstanding Young Persons of the World. What we will soon share is sure to move you to become the next change maker in your sphere of influence.
Ify: What’s your favorite childhood memory?
Prince: (Laughs) I was the reserved type when I was a child and I didn’t have the toys and games children usually play with, so I remember I used to daydream a lot. Often after watching cartoons, I would imagine myself as Captain Planet or Superman flying over my community solving problems, stopping the bad folks or saving the day. It sounds crazy now but then I loved such moments and after a typical “imagination trip”, I would be full of smiles.
I would imagine myself as Captain Planet or Superman flying over my community solving problems.
Ify: What led you to start up 1 Billion Africa?
Prince: Passion and deep love for Africa! I’m most passionate about two things: Good leadership and Africa. These are linked to my purpose in life. After I completed Senior High in 2007, I was supposed to go to college the following year. I couldn’t buy forms early due to some challenges, so I submitted late and this meant no college for me till the next year. In this year, I worked in a bookshop and this exposed me to many great books and their authors. I learnt a lot about leadership and in that same year, I became very clear about what I wanted to live for. Eventually I went to college and whilst there, I was involved in volunteerism and youth leadership. The more I led, volunteered and engaged in youth leadership; the more I got connected to passion and I saw the power young people had to cause a change.
I realized Africa is full of youth at this time for a reason – that it is our defining moment. We just lacked the inspiration, drive and mentorship. I thought about this day and night. I would wake up often at dawn thinking about Africa and at times I would shed tears. I would ask God why Africa is still poor. One typical dawn at around 2:30am, I was in a deep passion state and as I asked the usual questions, I heard a voice that asked me, “How many problems are there in Africa?” My answer was “Plenty! About 1 billion problems!” I heard the voice say again, “How about you help turn these 1billion problems into 1billion projects, to empower and to create opportunities for Africans.” I took a paper and a pen and this is how 1Billion Africa started.
I realised Africa is full of Youth at this time for a reason – that it is our defining moment!
Ify: What’s been the biggest highlight of your journey so far?
Prince: I have quite a number of them but let me just mention this one. After one of our inspiring projects, one time, I got a strange mail that week from the personal secretary of a Radio Presenter, Author and Founder of People of Distinction organisation in New York, USA. In the mail she says her boss Al Cole wants to book a phone call appointment. I say why not and eventually, I got on the phone with Al. He told me that I had been highly recommended on his Radio Show by Inc. Magazine’s Top 100 Leadership Expert in the World Gordon Tredgold. Apparently Gordon had mentioned 1BA and some of the things we do on the radio show as an example of a revolutionary and inspiring movement for change. Al then tells me his organisation has an award for 1BA in New York. I was surprised because I thought we were just doing what we love in 1BA, pursuing passion and service to humanity. I realized people are watching whatever one is doing.
Ify: How do you stay motivated despite the challenges you come across?
Prince: Along this journey, we have encountered many heartbreaking and inspiring moments. 1BA team stays motivated by such experiences. Personally, I often recall the smiles of faces of children or youths we have impacted through a project and I just know I can’t quit – for that would be denying someone the reason to smile. The story of a little boy in an orphanage in a deprived community who is brilliant but has limited opportunities, or the story of a girl with great dreams but lacking the inspiration to become a Changemaker, etc. keeps us going. We are not doing what we do because it is easy but because it is hard. There is no inspiration in doing easy things.
We are not doing what we do because it is easy but because it is hard. There is no inspiration in doing easy things.
Ify: How were you able to secure your various partnerships?
Prince: Many people seem to like the mission of 1Billion Africa. When people hear there’s this initiative or movement that seeks to help turn the “1billion” problems in Africa into “1billion” projects, they get inspired. We thank God for this. For partnerships, we look for organisations that have what we need and we approach them with our message of maximizing impact if they come on board. This is not to say the road has been smooth. We have received many no(s) too. Having the big vision in mind, we are looking forward to thousands of collaborations.
Ify: What role do African youths have to play in solving Africa’s socio-economic problems?
Prince: This is key. I shall be publishing an article soon on the topic. Whether we like it or not, the youth are the future and hope of Africa. We are the ones Africa has been waiting for. It is thus critical to look out for our individual roles and start acting fast. Africa has “1billion” problems! The big question is what role is each youth playing to ensure the problems reduce for a better Africa in the next 30 or 50 years to come.
Whether we like it or not, the youth are the future and hope of Africa
In our homes, communities and countries lie opportunities for each of us to do something. We are all leaders of what we can do. We therefore need to build capacity, develop positive mindsets and attitudes. As African youth we need to go back to our true history, understand it and choose to capitalise on the positives. This will help us develop confidence in Africa and true Passion for the continent. We need to come together as one body and collaborate in the fields of entrepreneurship, civic leadership and public management, etc. We must learn but not copy. This is not the time for the African youth to prioritise what the youths of other continents prioritize above solving problems. Let’s understand bumps on the road to excellence is only a sign of how important the journey is. Let’s impact Africa our own way.
Older folks and current leaders have key roles to play also. If good leadership prevails in Africa now and if collaborative efforts are developed by governments, private sectors and civil societies to invest more in young people and their ideas, we shall tell a better story of Africa’s future.
Ify: What was your reaction to your recent JCI nomination?
Prince: (Laughs) Well I was surprised. Selected as part of top 20 outstanding young people in the world is not a small one. It says a lot about people globally understanding and believing in the 1BA Vision. The entire 1BA team was inspired by this and I’m certain it’s an inspiration to the African Youth – that true recognition rather comes when you don’t seek it, when you keep doing what you love.
Ify: What’s a typical “lazy Saturday in” like for you?
Prince: Well this does not come by often but when I get the chance to grab one, sleep a lot or watch smart movies. 24 series remains my best and I can watch it over and over.
Ify: Words of advice for budding social entrepreneurs.
Prince: You need to accept that social entrepreneurship is a major way forward for our communities and countries to advance. So your idea is important no matter where and how you have started it. Understand this is not a smooth journey but one worth taking. Your vision or idea may be very big but start small and scale up wisely with time. You will/may be rejected and denied many times but KEEP GOING. Let that rather become your fuel to move forward. Be proactive and take advantage of the technological and information age. Genuinely love service to others and don’t make money your only motivation. Finally,I say get mentors and coaches, because you can’t be the ladder and the climber at the same time.
Watch Prince’s moving TEDx Accra talk on 1Billion Africa here:
To join/support the 1Billion Africa movement, kindly visit www.1billionafrica.org.