At the age of 11, Kevin Okyere was already showing interest in entrepreneurship as he sold iced water to football supporters in the Kumasi Sports Stadium, Ghana to make extra cash.
This surprised many considering he was from a wealthy home.
Coming from the Ashanti region of Ghana, his father had made enough fortune in construction, steel manufacturing and large-scale cocoa farming before being enstooled as a traditional belief.
Yet, Okyere, with his entrepreneurial spirit, would take on jobs with textile companies in the U.K. during his family’s annual summer vacation trips to London, according to an article on Forbes.
He would later, within 12 years, become the founder and Chief Executive Officer of the billion-dollar oil company, Springfield Energy.
Springfield Group has an 82% interest and operatorship in the block which covers 673 square kilometres in the Gulf of Guinea’s Tano Basin and in developing the much promising West Cape Three Points Block 2 offshore Ghana (WCTP2).
Founded in 2012, Okyere has been able to build the Springfield Group from a $70 million investment into a $1 billion (annual revenues) multifaceted Ghanaian oil giant, achieving this remarkable feat at just 38, according to Forbes.
The company, which employs hundreds of people in Ghana and Nigeria, trades in and transports hydrocarbons, gas stations, and recently, oil exploration.
This is the first time a homegrown Ghanaian company is exploring for oil.
For Okyere, this means that his company is in “a unique position to set a precedent for indigenous companies looking to participate in the upstream sector”.
“If we succeed, then we’d have sent a strong message – that Ghanaians are just as capable. That’s really important to me,” the oil tycoon told Forbes recently in an interview.
Born in 1980, Okyere completed his high school education in Ghana before moving to the United States where he studied Accounting at the George Mason University in Virginia while doing varying jobs including working as a security guard.
By the time he was done with his degree, he had been given a job offer from one of the leading commercial banks in the U.S. with a $72,000 payment for a year.
Yet, Okyere decided to return to Ghana as he knew that there were so many opportunities to explore in his home country which could make him more successful than abroad.
When he came back to Ghana in 2004, he first worked with his sister in her business in order to understand the country’s business terrain before he established Westland Alliance Ltd, a telecoms company that provided international call routing services for AT&T and several international calling card companies.
Despite the company’s success, Okyere soon got tired of the telecom business. While still operating Westland Alliance, Okyere, in 2006, started working with a business acquaintance who supplied crude oil and condensates to the Tema refinery.
That is where he realized that there was a gap in the availability of storage facilities for petroleum products in Tema.
At just 26, Kevin ventured into that sector when he acquired a piece of land and built a storage farm for crude supply to Tema Oil Refinery.
He later invited officials from Ghana’s National Petroleum Authority to inspect his construction project. They were so impressed with his project that they asked him to apply for a Petroleum Product import license.
This ultimately led to the birth of the Springfield Energy Group.
Since then, the company has been importing refined petroleum products such as gasoline, dual-purpose kerosene, gasoil, naphtha and jet fuel to Ghana.
The company is also currently the dominant importer of fuel products into Ghana with revenues of more than $1 billion in its trading business alone.
In 2011, Okyere and his partner, Geena Malkani expanded their operations to neighbouring country Nigeria.
With the new company they formed, known as Springfield Ashburton, Okyere and his partner applied to the state-owned oil corporation, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), to be included among the international companies to be awarded crude oil lifting contracts.
After three years, Springfield Ashburton, after partnering with BP PLC, got enlisted for the 2014/2015 Crude Oil Term Contract.
This was the first time a Ghanaian company was awarded such an oil contract and this did not go down well with Nigerian media, which made allegations that Okyere had a close association with Nigeria’s former Petroleum Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke.
Okyere would later deny such claims and even sue such media houses in court while winning some financial judgements in the process.
“I was not the minister’s associate or acquaintance and we did not have any sort of relationship. Springfield Ashburton was awarded the contract strictly on merit, and because of our sheer persistence. For 3 years since 2011, we had been visiting the NNPC offices every week, liaising with officials of the Crude Oil Marketing department, demonstrating our capacity. They saw our track record in Ghana; we had a turnover of more than $800 million in 2012 even before we won the Nigerian contracts and the records are there. We had the financial capacity and a strategic partnership with BP that gave us an edge to win after our first two attempts. Those media stories were sponsored by our competitors who were unhappy with us,” he said.
In 2012, Okyere set up Springfield E&P after expressing interest in the oil block, WCTP2, and after four years, the government awarded Springfield the rights to explore for oil on WCTP2 and was ratified by parliament.
Meanwhile, the 36-year-old does not forget to give back to society what he has achieved.
With his Kevin Okyere Foundation in partnership with the Springfield Group, Okyere funds the hospital bills of poor patients in an arrangement with the government.
He also pays the fees of hundreds of primary school children in Ghana while sending the brilliant ones to further their education in North America and Europe.