The entrepreneur wore glasses which ticks the perceptional box for wisdom in Ghana. His neat tie ends gently curving over his stomach to indicate a decent almost attractive potbelly – that ticks the box for bankers in Ghana.
With the height of Napoleon, the President of Ideal Groupe of Companies sat behind the Joy FM Personality Profile console without an ideal height.
And proceeded to share his life in the backside of Lolonyo in Ada brought him to the limelight of business – and lately a seat on the Council of State, as the youngest man.
Success may be an eraser of memories of poverty but for Dzani some very low points in his life were written with indelible ink…like losing his fisherman father as a boy.
Like the day he was so hungry before an examination and left with his brother to go roast some plantain in a farm. The papers had delayed in coming and the hunger pangs had magnified this delay in their stomach so it left such a long time waiting for the examiners.
The two brothers returned to find, it left with only five minutes to the end of the exam. For the boy, missing a paper had the same mental depression as missing a flight.
“I wept like a baby,” Dzani recounted the day his stomach was full of food but his eyes were full of tears.
Having lost his father, Dzani had always felt that education was his only real shot at escaping labouring on farms while his elder brother laboured on the lake for fish.
Today the only relic of his boyhood farm life is seen in his arms. Short, thick and quick.
When host Lexis Bill dug for more memories, the man who owns eight business subsidiaries remembered the day he stopped asking his mother for anything.
He was in class five when he was sacked from school for owing fees, something he saw coming because he had told his mother a day before to find him his fees.
Disgraced in class and angry at his mom for her inability to get him the cash, Dzani said, “I didn’t want to talk to my mother” and his mother could not bare the silent treatment from a class five son. She disappeared from sight for a while.
Dzani would later find his mother crying inside her bedroom in an emotional breakdown of her utter helplessness in pushing his son through school.
“I saw my mum crying and that was the day I prayed to God, I will never ask my mother for anything…and God has been faithful,” he reminded a mental vow and got to work trying to carve out his own struggle for “independence now.”
He recounted his second-degree homelessness – moving to live with one family member to another. Each stay was short-lived as the credit line of the magnanimity of his aunties and cousins waned.
“I stayed at so many places….if you stay with somebody for a while and the person gets fed up with you, you have to move out,” he pointed out mistreatments which now.
“It is part of the training process. God will make you go through fire so that you can become a better person” he found value in unfair treatment Biblical Joseph style.
From farming-to-school model of living, Kotei became a pupil teacher at Mamobi prisons and gained admission to the University of Cape Coast in the Central region – psychologically crossing the finishing line of penury and pity.
Destiny would have agreed to re-negotiate his ambition if he felt that work at Barclays Bank Ghana is a height to settle for.
Barclays is a place to stop and settle. And yet this tranquilising mentality of cheap and easy satisfaction would have robbed him 2015 Banking & Finance Entrepreneur, Boarch chair of TV Africa, owner of eight companies, a seat on several boards and lately, a seat at the Council of State.
In short, the light of this country’s talent would have been a blurrer burn, the living would be poor but the grave richer for unrealised potential.
“…the opportunities for growth at Barclays Bank was not there. They train you well but I was hungry for more” he said.
He had saved GH27,000 as at 2009 and later after quitting Canal as Business Development Manager, he set up a business advisory center renting space at Kingsway Shopping Arcade.
“The money couldn’t do anything. you go to work every day and you are hoping for something to happen,” he said.
His capital looked like all he had, but today he says the most important capital was his integrity.
That was how he set up Ideal Finance, which later acquired troubled Ezi Saving and Loans and saved jobs. It is now FirsTrust Savings and loans.
That was how he set up Ideal Trade, a commodity and trading firm. That is how he set up Westfield Offshore Consult, an offshore mining firm, and consultancy services
That is how he has an asset management firm, an Insurance brokerage firm and a pensions trust firm. All eight subsidiaries of Ideal Groupe assembled at a dramatic breath-taking space of five years.
That is how GH27,000 has grown into a net asset base of GH300 million and a total asset base of GH1 billion.
“You don’t need capital to start a business. What you need is integrity. I did not inherit anything from anybody…I didn’t go to a school of influence. But with a little integrity, people from all walks of life have supported me,” he said.
An artisan fixing his window at his house in Ada sent in a text message praising his client’s generosity.
Looking back on his struggles Kotei Dzani has a lot of gratitude to show to his uncle, CEO of NDK Financial services. And he owes great gratitude to even his feet.
Those pair of anatomical equipment that agreed to drag him through his sorry struggles.
“I had only one pair of shoe…my feet would be dragging itself in the shoe. I had to cut Keysoap and fit it into the shoe’.
He would later need to wrap cellotape around a bar of key soap, stuck it into his tired wearing shoes just to prop up the sole enough to walk a few more months.
“I said one day I will buy shoes,” he said.
Kotei Djani says today he has under 600 pairs of shoes to honour his feet for a choiceless faithfulness in a choiceless struggle.
And the feet in the shoes don’t walk about when it can drive around. After journeying to school for many hours, nearly missing an exams, treking to find a new home, Mr. Dzani confesses his love for cars.
“I wake up at 1 am, pick my car and just drive and in the process of driving I will get ideas and when I come I just put them down and get to work”
“I have alot of cars. I love cars. I have alot of car” he bought time to count the number and finally settled on at least 20 cars,” he said.
The last of eight children, the boy from Lolonya in Ada, the hassler in Nima, the Barclays bank employee has become an owner of a business empire.
And yet when you ask him his secret he stresses countlessly that “it is by the grace of God.”
A complete answer for those who know it is but an insufficient explanation for others. A wholesale answer with the details in the retail.
It says it all but yet says little. Yet that it what it is.
The Lord has been my strength, I am nothing without God, God orders my steps’, a constant refrain that punctuated every sentence of his own progress.