3. From Cocoa to Soccer, Abdulai’s plan to be a bridge between Ghana and Japan

From Cocoa to Soccer, Abdulai’s plan to be a bridge between Ghana and Japan

Abdulai, a Ghanian Ashinaga Africa Initiative (AAI) Graduate, is committed to revitalizing the economy in his home country through trade partnerships with Japan. His relentless academic excellence and commitment to his professional development set him up for a successful start of his career at Big Wave Kawasaki, an Oita-based company. Their purpose is to promote sustainability in the Japanese car industry by dismantling and selling used auto parts. A cornerstone of their business is protecting the environment, incentivizing the adoption of used automobile parts over new ones, and contributing to a recycling-oriented society. Currently doing business in Cameroon, Big Wave Kawasaki is interested in further expanding in Africa. Abdulai’s role focuses primarily on this, contributing to his personal understanding of the market in Japan and Africa.  

The role presents a unique opportunity for Abdulai to work towards his kokorozashi, or life-goal, which consists in creating more trade opportunities between Japan and Africa. “I plan to gain all the skills and experiences necessary to start my own business related to my kokorozashi eventually.” Abdulai believes that Ghana can maximize its revenues from Cocoa exportation by increasing its processing instead of exporting it as raw materials. Abdulai added:” I will be working closely with local farmers to produce Cocoa, process it into finished goods, and then export it in the finished state.” 

Abdulai’s journey with Ashinaga dates back to 2017. During his last year of high school, he volunteered at the orphanage where he grew up. The orphanage director shared the Ashinaga flyer and application with him, prompting him to apply. After the selection process, he successfully got an offer to join the AAI. 

Abdulai recalls his experiences at Uganda’s study and preparation camps with fond memories. He was the manager of the sports activities in the camps and took part in various social events that allowed him to develop strong friendships with the other AAI Candidates. According to him, the exposure to other young people from numerous African countries was the highlight of his experience. He said, “We still check on each other, we have phone calls, and organize online game nights even though we are all in different parts of the world.” 

Besides the fun and socializing, Abdulai also shared that “the process of preparing for the ILETS and SATs was very intense but immensely rewarding when all students passed the exams. I was also able to study Japanese, so by the time I arrived in Japan, I was already familiar with two of the Japanese alphabets, hiragana and katakana.” 

Abdulai completed his undergraduate degree in Business Administration at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University (APU), where he received an award for the best thesis. Alongside his studies, he was part of the APU Soccer club, which he considers one of the best experiences he had at university. “In the soccer club, I worked with Japanese students and learned more about Japanese culture and how to communicate well with Japanese people. We won the Kyushu Prefectural University Soccer League tournament and were promoted to the second division.” 

During his last year at university, Abdulai was coached by the Professional Development team at Ashinaga during his job search. His interest in learning about trade opportunities between Japan and Africa led him to join Big Wave Kawasaki. Lucky for him, two AAI Scholars have previously interned with the company and helped him prepare for the interview.  

Reflecting on his journey, Abdulai shared: “Before joining Ashinaga, my goal was to go to university, get a respectable job and take care of my family. Ashinaga’s leadership program broadened my horizon and made me realize that I want to make a bigger impact and improve my country and, why not, the whole continent.” 

Addressing current AAI Scholars, Abdulai added, “Use the Ashinaga network, events, leadership training to your full advantage. It is easy to stay in your comfort zone and be content. I would advise you to reach out to people, look for opportunities and remember that Ashinaga has everything you need to start your career on a strong foundation.” 

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