On Tuesday, 3rd December, Ashesi’s Leadership 4 class welcomed Ghanaian music icons Obour (Bice Osei-Kuffour) and Okyeame Kwame (Kwame Nsiah Appau), President and Public Relations Officer of the Musicians Union of Ghana.
The two musicians joined the class to add their voice to discussions on the influence on music on society, sharing experiences on how they have personally helped push social change agendas, and the leadership lessons they have learned through their careers.
Okyeame Kwame, a professional musician for over 15 years, was named Ghana’s “Artiste of the Year” in 2009. In that same period, he was made a Ghana Health Ambassador by the Ministry of Health, and chose to lead the drive to build more awareness of Hepatitis B.
“My music reached people, but I was not sure I was directly affecting their lives. So when the Ministry of Health gave me the opportunity, I decided to choose a cause that receives very little attention when it comes to funding in Ghana – Hepatitis B.”
Ghana is a high-risk country for Hepatitis B and C, with 10 and 15 percent prevalence rates respectively. Though the disease has no cure, early testing can help reduce its effect on a person’s lifespan.
“The test for hepatitis B is more than most Ghanaians can afford, and so I started an NGO with my doctor, and we travelled around Ghana helping spread awareness about Hepatitis B and creating free testing clinics. I have done a lot of interesting things in my life, but this is one of the most important things that I have done.”
On his part, Obour shared the experiences that had led him to his current role as President of one of Ghana’s biggest arts union, MUSIGA – the youngest president in the Union’s history – and a contributor to other social impact campaigns across Ghana.
“At the peak of my music career, I decided to drop the mic and run for the President of MUSIGA,” Obour said. “I felt there was no essence making great music in an industry that would not allow the music to sustain itself. I wanted to put a different kind of effort into building the music industry to a stage where it would be worth our while.”
Obour also answered questions on how he had challenged the status quo by becoming the youngest President in MUSIGA’s history, going up against older musicians, and how he overcame the cultural stereotypes in Ghana that made it difficult for young people to be recognized as leaders.
“I had key industry leaders advising me to drop out of the election, because it was not right to compete with older musicians,” Obour added. “My passion and my resolve were above the cultural difficulty. I felt that I had some great ideas that could change the music industry, and I believed in giving people the option to listen to them, and choosing for themselves if they thought it would be effective.”
In the Leadership 4 class this semester, students have discussed the power of music and the creative arts in influencing society, with conversations moving from Bob Marley and Fela Kuti, to David Diop and Wole Soyinka. The visit by two of Ghana’s strongest cultural icons, was to help provide real perspectives for the students on change leadership and is part of a broader conversation on the many different ways that young people can influence change in their societies.