Impressive credentials aside, Philippe Ayivor has been at the forefront of economic and social development in Africa since 1995. Whether it is working on water treatment infrastructure for impoverished communities or spearheading the work to bring vocational training to build a strong middle class in Africa, Philippe's work resonates with our Sew Powerful mission to bring the dignity of work to those in need.
Every Country in Africa with Philippe Ayivor
IN THIS EPISODE
Ghana, Togo, Replish Africa Initiative (RAIN), The Coca-Cola Company, Design & Technical Institute, Constance Swaniker, Water Health International, water treatment facilities, vocational training, Master Card foundation, Young Africa Works
The Coca-Cola Company, Africa, https://www.thesouthafrican.com/lifestyle/the-coca-cola-company-in-africa-turns-90-this-month/
Design & Technology Institute (DTI), https://dtiafrica.com/
Water Health International, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WaterHealth_International
MasterCard Foundation, Young Africa Works, https://mastercardfdn.org/research/young-africa-works/
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Host: Jan Cancila
Guest: Philippe Ayivor
Jan Cancila, Host 00:05
Welcome to the Sew Powerful podcast. This is your host, Jan Cancila. You know the sound of my sewing machine means it's time for another episode. So, let's get started.
Hello, today I have the pleasure of speaking with a former colleague of mine from The Coca-Cola Company, and you are going to be amazed at what you're going to learn today. We are going to be speaking with Philippe Ayivor. Philippe is a retired executive of The Coca-Cola Company where he spent close to 30 years leading various functions across the company in the United States and in various African countries. For a decade, he was the General Manager charged with delivering Coca-Cola's business growth objectives for 13 countries in West and Central Africa. Before his retirement, Philippe became the public face of Coca-Cola in nine countries in West Africa, and a representative of the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation in North and West Africa, with responsibility for enhancing the company's social license to operate. Before joining Coca-Cola, Mr. Ayivor was a Management Consultant for Accenture in Houston, Texas. Philippe is currently Chairman of the Board of Design and Technical Institute Ghana, but he also serves on several other boards. He is currently the Managing Partner of AmBIG Ghana. He was formerly the President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Ghana. He was formerly a member of Cosmos Energy Ghana Advisory Council and served on the board of UT Holdings and The Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Ghana. Currently, he serves on the board of the Zawadi African Education Fund Ghana and the United Way, as well as on the Sunu Assurance Nigeria Board. Philippe earned a bachelor’s degree in Economics and Sociology from Duke University, and a Master's degree in Accounting and Information Systems from Virginia Tech. Philippe is a dual US and Ghana citizen. Welcome, Philippe. It's so nice to talk with you today.
Philippe Ayivor, Guest 02:33
Great, Jan. Great to see you again.
Yes. Great to see you.
Thanks for having me.
Oh, you're more than welcome. Philippe and I figured out that we worked together in the late 80s, early 90s and haven't actually seen each other face to face since about 1995. But it just feels like old times, just to talk to you again. So, thank you for doing this.
Thank you, Jan. Thanks.
So I want our listeners to be able to relate to you and to why I asked you to be a guest. Philippe you were raised in Ghana, in Africa [formerly called the Gold Coast until 1957]. Can you tell us a little bit about what your life was like growing up as a child and a student before you left for the United States for your college education?
Yeah, actually, I was born in a neighboring country called Togo. And there's a long history about that, but we won't get into that here. My parents were actually from Ghana, but my grandmother lived in Togo, because our tribe, our tribe was split between Ghana and Togo, so we grew up in various parts of Ghana. My parents are teachers. Eventually, my father became the principal of a Teacher Training College and then my mother became the Headmistress of a middle school. So, growing up, the focus was on going to school and ensuring a successful future for us. So, a lot of time was spent studying.
I'll bet. And so clearly, education was important in your family. And when you graduated from secondary school, you went to Duke University. How did that come about?
Well, in secondary school, we go to boarding schools (secondary schools are boarding schools), so I spent seven years going to a boarding school. So, I started going to boarding school since I was 13 years old. And my friends were all interested in just going overseas for a few years. We heard a lot about what was happening in the US and we wanted to see for ourselves. So, we took the SAT's and all that and we did a lot of research. And most people in Ghana, at least at that time, most people knew the Ivy League schools; they didn't know much beyond Ivy League schools. So, the American Embassy had an Information Services Center, you almost call it a library. So I went to the library, and I was looking beyond the Ivy League schools. And so, I found Duke University, and I thought it was an interesting academic institution. So, I applied and I got accepted, and got some money as well. So, I ended up there.
Oh, cool. And then you graduated with a degree in Economics and Sociology, right?
Yes, I did. And then I moved on to Virginia Tech, and got a master’s degree in Accounting and Information Systems.
And so, you were probably recruited, at the time, Arthur Andersen, now Accenture, right?, to be a Management Consultant out of your graduate program, right?
Yes, in those days, the big eight accounting firms came to our program to recruit us because it was a well-known accounting program. So, when they came, I decided that I didn't want to be an auditor, because that's what it was recruiting people mostly for. I wanted to do something different. And so quite a few of them had their consulting services business as well as other opportunities in the consulting services business, which was mostly systems work, you know, going to clients, finding out what the requirements were, and then writing programs to fit those requirements. That's essentially the work that we did. So, I work for Anderson Consulting from 1981 until I joined The Coca-Cola Company in 1984.
Well, you joined Coca-Cola in 1984, and we never let you go. You and I crossed paths when we worked together for the Minute Maid division in the Information Systems Group under our great friend Paul Wilson, and I hope you're listening, Mr. Wilson. And although you had several different managers, but your last manager was Paul. And in 1995, you were promoted to work in South Africa, from Houston, Texas. So, you, you went to Ghana; you went to Duke University; you went to Virginia Tech; Houston, Texas and now South Africa. And what city were you working in, in South Africa?
Well, I lived I lived in Johannesburg, but my responsibility was for the Information Systems Infrastructure throughout the continent of Africa.
So, I traveled a lot. And you know, Africa has 54 countries. So, in those days, it was somewhat difficult to travel between regions because the airline network hadn't developed, was not that developed to cross regions. So going from say, East to West would take you, in those days, could take you some time. So, it was a learning process.
It was a learning, but it was a lot of fun. I got to see a few countries around the continent.
Because we are the Sew Powerful podcast and have an emphasis on Zambia, did you have occasion to travel to Zambia?
Yes, through the grace of working for The Coca-Cola Company, I got a chance to visit Zambia. When I decided to switch from Information Services to Line Management, Zambia was one of the countries that I went to see what our workers were doing there. So, yeah.
Okay, cool. Well, now, you had a project, and maybe it's more than a project, dealing with water. And I might be understating this, but could you explain to us what your involvement was with the water project in Africa?
Okay. In a lot of, in quite a few of our communities, there are needs, and they're usually infrastructure needs, things that people in the West and most developed countries take for granted; things that are lacking in some of these communities. So, in some of the communities, there was a lack of safe, clean drinking water. The Coca-Cola Company, being the great enterprise that it is, saw the need across the continent and put a program together through The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation to provide safe, clean drinking water to 30 million residents across the continent, touching every country, by the year 2030. And the program started probably around 2010 and it was called the Replenish Africa INitiative, or RAIN. As a result of the fact that I was managing a number of countries in West Africa, The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation allocated funding to us to find communities that had a need for safe, clean drinking water, and then implement systems or put infrastructure in to be able to deliver water to communities.
What we decided to do was to put in place something else quite sustainable. Because what you find when you go around the continent is that there have been a number of charities and non-governmental organizations that have come through and put in solutions. The problem with that is that, if anything goes wrong, the community does not have access to clean, safe drinking water because they really don't know how to fix it. In addition to that, when the initial test is done and the water is tested, at that point, you know the quality of the water and the groundwater that you're using. But over time, as you know, things change, the quality of the water may change. Nobody comes back to test the water. So, we're looking for a solution that will overcome some of these challenges. And we wanted to do it across a number of countries. So, what we found was an organization called Water Health International
Wait, say that again please.
Water Health, Water Health International
So, what Water Health does is they build small scale, municipal water treatment centers, or facilities. So, think about Houston water, Houston Waterworks, I don't know what they call it now, but it's on a larger scale. What these guys do is they take the same elements that go into water processing for the city of Houston, and scale it down to a small community of say, three to 10,000 people. And they either use surface water or underground water and process it and then sell it to members of the community. So, the proceeds, the proceeds from the sale are then used to maintain the system on an ongoing basis. And also, whatever profit, whatever residual that is left, because this is a social enterprise, you know, they reward the shareholders and so on. But whatever residual that is left, is then plowed back into the community.
So, what this does is that it allows for same quality of water that you get in a large municipal water treatment facility. It allows continued maintenance, and it allows for members of the community to be trained to run this enterprise and it allows part of the profit to be plowed back into the community. And so, The Coca-Cola Company, we made a suggestion, we found this entity and we made a suggestion to that Coca-Cola Africa foundation. And The Coca-Cola Company embraced it. And so, Coca-Cola Company's role was to fund the building of the infrastructure so that the water could be provided to the community. Eventually, The Coca-Cola Company invested into Water Health International. Maybe about 5, 6, 7 years ago, they actually became an equity partner in Water Health International. So that's essentially what we did.
When they build the infrastructure, is that still a central location in the town where people go for water, or does it go to the homes?
It does not go to the homes; it's in, it's usually in a central location. But what they also do is they set up distribution points. So, they set up tanks, essentially where they pipe the water to those tanks in various parts of the city, and so people can come and buy the water.
The water is quite affordable. When we started in Ghana it was selling it for, local currency, 10 pesewas, 10 pesewas for a bucket of water. [10 pesewas = ~2 cents in USD)
Just a few liters. Yeah,
That's, that's fantastic. And so, the goal is a 2030 goal. Is that right?
Well, I left the company in 2013. But this was started around 2010. So, I don't know whether that that goal is still,
Whether that program's still in place and whether that goal has been reached or how far away they are from reaching that goal.
Well and the reason that's of interest is because Sew Powerful has a very important 2030 goal which is to provide supplies to all the schoolgirls in Zambia by 2030.
So, when you said that, my ears perked up. Philippe, why don't we take a quick break? And when we come back, we're going to talk about Design and Technology Institute. And you know, I failed to mention when you started talking, that I'm actually talking to you, and you're in Ghana right now.
Yes, I am. Yeah, sitting in my study.
In your study in Ghana. So, the miracle of technology, we're able to talk here. So, let's take a quick break, and when we come back, we're going to explore Philippe's amazing involvement. So, stay tuned, please.
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Welcome back. I have been speaking with Philippe Ayivor, a former colleague of mine from The Coca-Cola Company, who has spent many years on the African continent working on various projects for Coca-Cola, but also in providing infrastructure for water to communities throughout Africa. Philippe serves on the board of many different organizations, but he is Chairman of the Board of Design and Technology Institute. And for our Sew Powerful listeners, you're going to find a really interesting parallel to what we're doing in the Ngombe Compound at the vocational technical school with what Philippe has done in Ghana. So, Philippe, tell us about, you call it DTI, which is Design and Technical Institute, but tell us about that. Tell us about the organization.
Okay, it's actually called the Design & Technology Institute, DTI.
DTI was started by a young lady who broke the mold in this part of the world by getting involved in a male dominated occupation. She set up a company that she led to build infrastructure for homes, so things like using metal mostly, so things like stair, staircases, vestries, window coverings. She also did some artwork. So, if you come to one of the major hotels in Ghana, you will see that a lot of the metal work in that hotel was done by this lady; her name is Constance Swaniker. So, when I was building my house in Accra, in Accra, Ghana, I engaged her and she did some work in my house for me. And then she started talking to me about starting a school to actually provide precision fabrication skills, metalwork skills, to teens and young adults. And so, she started the school in her place of work, in her business where, in her factory where a lot of the staircases and other stuff was was being built. She started a school, bringing in a few students at a time: 1) people who had graduated from high school and couldn't go on to university, 2) university students who were learning academic side or metal work but didn't have practical skills, 3) students in the polytechnic institutes who actually supposed to be having practical skills but the schools didn't have the machinery and the tools necessary to teach so they focus mostly on academics. So, she was bringing all these people in, and she had the tools and infrastructure and she began to train them. And so, she decided that she wanted to, you know, evolve this into a full-fledged school.
And she took part of her investment and started building a campus (and she invited me to come and assist her and made me a Chairperson of her Board, where she accepts students aged 15 to about 25, students that have completed high school or halfway completed high school. And now it's expanded to where you take students that have graduated from universities as well, and the polytechnics. Now the campus is about to expand, and we've been fortunate enough to have two major institutions that have come in and provided financial assistance to the school. The MasterCard Foundation, MasterCard has a program called Young Africa Works. And what they aim to do is to provide employment to the youth in Africa, and they've set a target: by 2030 they want to provide employment to about 30 million, 30 million Africans. So, 30 million comes up again.
And in Ghana, the target is 3 million Africans, 3 million Ghanians, by by 2030. And so, they see this school as an opportunity to scale up teens and young adults who can then go into the workforce, or who can become entrepreneurs and hire this to create the kind of economic impact that we're looking for in this part of the world, so.
Yeah, absolutely. And I understand that there's a commitment to bring women into the Institute, right?
Yes, the target is at least 30% of the students should be women. And so far, we're getting close to making that I think, with this incoming class, the incoming class that will start in August, we should meet the target of 30% of the students being being females. So yeah.
The website is quite impressive. And I'm looking at precision fabrication, and an innovation lab and challenge program and the basic programs, which include some some very academically-oriented course of study, right?
Yeah, I mean, if anybody who's been in most countries in Africa, knows that the educational systems focus on academics, and not necessarily on innovation. And sometimes not even necessarily on critical thinking skills. And of course, they live on vocational skills. Most parents want their children to become doctors and lawyers and that kind of stuff, engineers, you know, so if you end up being aware of that, it's considered a failure. And so, part of what this school is trying to do is to change that mindset, and make people realize that there are various vocations that you can actually do practical work, and still make a very good living. So, part of what DTI is trying to do is to begin to educate the public as well. So it's got a number of roles.
Well, and if I can say, my next-door neighbor is an electrician, and my son's next door neighbor is an electrical engineer. And when my circuit blew, the electrician was a way more handy neighbor than the engineer that my son's neighbor was. A role for both. But yeah, the practical is really important.
Philippe, can you talk to us a little bit about how COVID has had an impact on your circle of acquaintances, and in Ghana, in general, how has it hit them?
But generally, if you've been reading the press, the infection rate across the continent is much lower than the rest of the world. Specifically, why that is? A number of reasons. We don't know for sure, okay. The conjecture is, we have had to deal with infectious diseases, continuously. Yellow Fever, for example: if you're traveling to the continent, most countries, you know, you have to be vaccinated against Yellow Fever. Some require vaccination against Cholera. We've had to deal with issues around Ebola in some countries. So as a result, we've always put protocols in place to address the possibility of a pandemic or why a disease spread. So, for example, even before COVID, if you came through the airport in Accra, they will take your temperature.
And if you, yeah, and if your temperature were high, you know, they will send you to a clinic, figure out what's wrong with you. Because eventually we're always concerned about the spread of diseases, infectious diseases.
So, we try to nip that in the bud. So those protocols already exist, some of these things that other countries are adopting. We talked about vaccine passports. We've always had vaccine passports. You always have to show a Yellow Fever card before you get into a country. So those things are nothing new. So we've had those things, right. So it made it easier for us to combat something like COVID. In Ghana, the first two cases of COVID were in March 2020, and were two travelers that came in. One was an ambassador from Norway, and then somebody else who traveled from Turkey. And then it began to spread. But still it was maybe 30-40 cases a day maximum.
But to stop the rate of infection increasing, we closed our borders. For about two months or more the borders were closed, there were no flights coming in or going out. You couldn't go to neighboring countries, and nobody could come in. So, we were able to contain it that way. But around Christmas time, Christmas time is a big time for family gatherings and festivities here and a lot of Ghanians in the diaspora traveled back. So, I think around October, also the the flights were allowed to come back in. And with that, and with the festivities and everything else, then the infection rate began to climb around January, February, when we were seeing a few hundred cases a day, and I think at one point, it got to about 700 cases a day. Now it's contained, it's come back down again. If you look at any of the world maps on infection rates, Ghana and most parts of Africa have some of the lowest infection rates.
Well, I have to tell you in Zambia, that has been the case and our theory is maybe because there is a lot of immunocompromised people there, maybe people had it and didn't know it, weren't tested, didn't have the facility or medical help to be treated or tested. And just recently, four of our seamstresses just last week were diagnosed with COVID. So, they were sent home with pay, but unfortunately, because of their living conditions, being quarantined at home, and being quarantined with many other family members in a very small house, so.
Yeah, that's true.
Yeah. So, we don't know if Zambia is late to the party. We're hoping that this is an isolated incident and that, you know, things will be back under control. Anyway. Okay, Philippe, this has been a fascinating conversation and it's been just intriguing to hear about the work that you've been doing in Africa, and for our listeners to be able to relate the work you're doing with some of the goals and targets that we have in Zambia. With a population where more than two thirds of the people live in poverty, there's so much that still needs to be done and we're always looking for new volunteers. And I have to thank you publicly: every time I have a little Facebook fundraiser for Sew Powerful, Philippe is always there. And I really appreciate it. And this time, tomorrow, and it'll be in the past when this actually airs, but tomorrow in real time, I will be giving away an apron to one of the donors to the current fundraiser that I'm conducting. So, thank you so much for doing that. It's been a pleasure.
It's really been a real, real, real pleasure seeing you again, Jan. It's been more than 25 years, I think, so.
I know. I mean, we've just picked up like that like it was yesterday.
Really appreciate you inviting me.
Thank you so much.
If what you've heard today inspires you to want to make a difference, I urge you to explore the Sew Powerful website at www.SewPowerful.org. That's SEWPOWERFUL dot ORG. The website has great information about the organization. It's where you can download the free purse patterns or even make a donation. We hope you will join us again next week when we bring you another Sew Powerful story. Thanks for listening. Now, go out and have a Sew Powerful day.
ABOUT THE HOST
Jan Cancila has been making purses for Sew Powerful since 2014. She serves the organization as Director, Global Volunteerism, the Area Manager for Shows and Events-Mid/South USA and as the Houston Regional Coordinator. She was a public speaking major at Hanover College and holds an MBA from Our Lady of the Lake University. Jan had a 25-year career with The Coca-Cola Company before owning and operating a linen and party rental business in Houston. She is married with two grown sons, a lovely daughter-in-law and two remarkable granddaughters. Jan’s published work includes more than 100 online articles for Examiner.com. Reach Jan with comments or suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.