From lecturer to businessman

MASERU — When 74-year-old Frank Baffoe swapped the university lecture hall for the cut-throat world of business 25 years ago, his friends in academic circles called him a suicidal fool.
His friends, he said, could not understand why he would swap the security and stability of the academic field for the unpredictable world of business.
Baffoe was a senior lecturer in the Department of Economics at the National University of Lesotho (NUL).
But Baffoe was not dissuaded by the withering criticism from friends.
He says he was determined to make things happen in his new chosen career.
Today, Baffoe is the proud chief executive of Baffoe and Associates, a consultancy management firm.
From relative anonymity, Baffoe and Associates has risen to a major force in Lesotho providing employment to 68 people.
The firm has diversified into the construction, marketing and the information technology sectors.
Last Friday it was time for Baffoe and those closely associated with the company to celebrate the achievements of the past 25 years.
The company celebrated its 25th anniversary at a colourful ceremony held at ‘Manthabiseng Convention Centre in Maseru.
But what drove Baffoe into business?
He said he saw that most of his former students “who were occupying top posts in government were not effectively moving the development process fast enough to address the needs of the suffering majority”.
He said when he left NUL in 1984 all his five children were still in school. He said taking the big jump into business required faith and vision.
“To be an entrepreneur in Lesotho is to have an idea, vision and do everything to follow those ideas and visions without trying to expect assistance from the outside.
“You have to believe in yourself and trust other people,” Baffoe said.
He said most Basotho held back from entering into business because of fear of failure.
“People are afraid that they will fail,” said Baffoe.
“(Besides) young people do not have people to look up to and people who can inspire them (to enter into business).”
He said it has not been easy to run the business citing the political disturbances of 1998.
He said the business has only thrived because of the good working environment and culture they have cultivated and encouraged.
“Baffoe and Associates as an organisation was founded on the firm conviction that people’s lives change when they change everything they do every day.
“Besides, opportunities exist but only a few recognise them. From those few, still fewer exploit such opportunities,” he said.
Baffoe said he was planning to enter the publishing business by running a newspaper in Lesotho.
As part of its social responsibility,   Baffoe and Associates awarded two            high school students, Keneuoe Monyatsi, 15 and Mosa Makhakhe, 18, full scho-        larships to help them through their studies.
The company said it was already sponsoring 10 other students from primary school to university.
Baffoe encouraged prospective entrepreneurs to dream big and have the courage to turn their ideas into reality.
“We have got so many opportunities that exist in this country; however we complain too much and blame other people for our weaknesses. We need leaders in business from this country,” Baffoe said.
Respected businessman and former secretary-general of the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party, Mpho Malie, said the experiences of Baffoe and Associates proved that with hard work and determination people can achieve their dreams.
“It takes a visionary to start a business . . . and (despite) the tough environment others saw a rosy spectacle into the future and continued to sweat and work hard.
“It takes a lot of guts to move from a paying job to venture into something that is unknown and full of insecurities,” Malie said. 
The Ghanaian-born Baffoe, who is married to Emelia, moved to Lesotho in 1974 and is now a permanent resident of Lesotho.
The couple has five children.

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