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BY Abu Mubarik, 5:30pm July 01, 2024,

Sam Jonah: How this Ghanaian businessman broke rocks to become one of the richest in the country

Sam Jonah. Photo: samjonah.com

Sam Jonah is a Ghanaian statesman, corporate governance expert, and businessman. He is globally known for his leadership as the then-CEO of Ashanti Goldfields Corporation.

Born in a military camp in Kibi, Ghana, his journey in the mining field started when his father, a sergeant major and World War II veteran, set up a construction company and moved the family to Obuasi in Ghana’s Ashanti Region.

Jonah started his education in Obuasi, and after high school, he decided to work underground at Ashanti Goldfields Corporation’s (Ashanti) Obuasi mine while his friends were going into law and medicine, according to Forbes.

His involvement in mining opened his eyes to the fact that whites dominated the sector, and he was determined to change the narrative to make Blacks key players in the mining sector, even if it meant going to the bottom to survive.

“You learn quickly how to get what you want from people who are better equipped, who are better skilled, who are better experienced, who are much older than you are,” he said to Forbes.

He would win a scholarship to study mining engineering at the Cambridge School of Mines, in England, which later awarded him an honorary doctorate. Upon his return to Ashanti Goldfields, he moved up the ranks.

After a brief period in his new position, he returned to London to study business at Imperial College, now the University of London. The mining company appointed Jonah as its vice president in 1979.

In 1986, Tiny Rowland, the founder of Lonrho, which owned Ashanti, appointed Jonah as managing director. He assumed the position at the time the company’s single mine had deteriorated and the mining industry had yet to see a black man leading.

It was in his new position that he implemented his long-held vision to “Africanize the mine.” He changed the trajectory of the company from being white-led. Unpopular among expatriates, he was unfazed and led the mine to the path of growth.

He led the mine into a $1.48 billion merger between Ashanti and AngloGold. At the time, Ashanti was the seventh-largest gold producer, and AngloGold was the second-largest. The merger resulted in Jonah becoming the merged entity’s executive president.

He eventually retired from AngloGold Ashanti at the age of 58 and went on to sit on at least 18 company boards. He is a former member of the board of Ashesi University in Ghana. He previously served as Chairman of Equinox Limited (Australian and Canadian listed), Moto Gold Mines (Australian and Canadian listed), and Uramin (London and Canadian listed). He was previously chairman of Mauritius-based Bayport Financial Services. He served on the board of Vodafone UK from 2009 up to July 2019.

In 2003, Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Head of the Commonwealth conferred on him an Honorary Knighthood as Knight Commander of the Civil Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE). In 2006, he received Ghana’s highest national award, the Companion of the Order of the Star.

What is more, CNN and Time Magazine ranked him as one of the world’s top 25 most influential business people, and he was also the recipient of five Lifetime Achievement awards, with the most recent being in 2019 by the Albert Nelson Marquis.

Meanwhile, Jonah is the founder and chairman of Jonah Capital, a private investment holding company, based in South Africa. The company has interests in mineral resources, real estate, agriculture, construction materials, financial services and oil and gas services.

Jonah has been an Advisor to many African Heads of State including Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and Olusegun Obasanjo (Nigeria).

Although there is little detail about his actual net worth, Ghanaian media and tabloids list him among the top 10 richest individuals in the West African country with a net worth of between $500 and $600 million. 

Jonah, born on November 19, 1949, and educated at Adisadel College in Ghana, is the Chancellor of the University of Cape Coast Ghana. In December 2005, Ashesi University College awarded Jonah the Honorary Doctor of Humanities degree.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: July 2, 2024

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