The expression ‘wears many hats’ is often bandied around quite loosely. Sometimes, it is used to refer to interests without visible competences; at other times it is used to describe mundane, even superficial roles.
But for Dr. Kwame Baah-Nuakoh, currently the General Manager, Sustainability and Stakeholder Relations at the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), it barely scratches the surface for one who has and continues to distinguish himself in a number of high-profile roles – oftentimes simultaneously.
Traversing the entire spectrum of sports, most notably football – from playing to administration and promotion to media, academia, industry and commerce, few have had the range or the impact of Dr. Baah-Nuakoh. Below, we explore his exemplary life as we discover what shaped him, what spurs him, his projections for the future and everything in between as the man marks the milestone of half a century on earth.
Background and early life
Kwame was born on March 27, 1971 to renowned professor of economics, Prof. A. Baah-Nuakoh and Hannah Afriyie-Boafoe (née Antwi) at Ofoase-Kokoben in the Bekwai Municipal District of the Ashanti Region. He enrolled at the Ofoase-Kokoben Local Assembly Primary School (OKLAPS), beginning in ‘Class 1’ as he did not attend nursery school due to a speech impediment which prevented him from speaking until the age of five.
Kwame left Ofoase-Kokoben at Class Five as his father had returned from England after pursuing a PhD to continue as a lecturer at the Department of Economics, University of Ghana – Legon. Coming to Accra for the first time, he had a brief stint at the Prince of Peace Academy, Madina, as the University of Ghana Primary School (UGPS) would not admit any student midstream.
Recounting a memorable incident which exposed his lack of understanding of the English language at the time, he says: “For my very first exams at the school – class five, third term – it was announced on a Friday that exams will commence the next day, Saturday; so we should inform our parents. Unfortunately, I did not understand what was said because it was in English. When I arrived on Monday, all the papers had been written except Mathematics and History. I ended up as number 30 of 33 students that term.”
The problem with the Queen’s language persisted as he failed the subject during the entrance examination into UGPS and had to repeat the class. It came as little surprise, then, that his report card for his first term report card read “He is uncouth” – a detail he remembers vividly.
The problem was addressed when his father set up a private library, requiring him to read one book of literature daily in addition to his school quota. This singular act by his father made him fall in love with literature, particularly poetry, which definitely served him in his days in secondary school and university.
In 1984, with his father relocating to Liberia for work, a 13-year-old Kwame had to choose a secondary school near Kumasi so could be closer to family. Upon consultation with his class teacher, he chose the Opoku Ware School over Prempeh College and Bekwai SDA “because the name sounded nice”.
Assigned the identification number AL3, it was here that he was to explore his love for sports as the students who exercised supervisory duties over him were all sportsmen. Beginning as a sports equipment officer, his role required him to ensure that the equipment – jerseys et al – were clean and accounted for.
Fast-forward two years and he had risen to the rank of Team Manager for every sports discipline in the school; determining the routine for sportsmen three years his senior. His time at Opoku Ware also saw him emerge the best student in English for five consecutive years.
Following his O-level examinations when members of his set – himself included – recorded the best results in the school’s history at the time, he transferred to Konongo-Odumase Senior High School for his Sixth Form. Here, he also scored the first B grade in English Literature in the school’s history, while serving as House Prefect and the de facto Sports Prefect.
University of Ghana
He followed in father’s steps in 1993 when he joined the University of Ghana to study for Bachelor of Arts (B.A) in Economics. At the end of his first year, he was awarded the Shell Award for the best first-year performance in economics for acing all six economic courses. This served as a precursor to his graduating with a First Class degree in 1997.
The younger Baah-Nuakoh’s penchant for sports soared at his time in university as he honed his coaching skills – first at Legon Hall (where he was JCR Secretary) and subsequently coached the university’s men’s football team to second-place finishes at the Ghana Universities Sports Association (GUSA) Games in 1997, as well as the West African University Games.
Contemporaries and acquaintances of his at the time include some of Ghanaian football administration royalties, most notably former Minister for Youth and Sports, Elvis Afriyie Ankrah, who served as Student Representative Council (SRC) President; current President of the Ghana Football Association (GFA), Kurt Edwin Simeon-Okraku; as well as secretary to the GFA, Prosper Harrison Addo.
Voice of Legon
As with his introduction to sports administration, Kwame’s foray into broadcasting began while he was actively pursuing his academic endeavours. With a wave of media liberalisation gaining momentum in the country, a joint venture among the Office of the Dean of students, headed by Prof. Kwesi Yankah; the School of Communication Studies, with Prof. Kwame Karikari at the helm of affairs and the SRC birthed the first university-owned radio station, the Voice of Legon-now Radio Univers, in 1995.
Invitations were extended to interested would-be broadcasters and Dr. Baah-Nuakoh heeded the call. He began as a Disk Jockey (DJ), and as listenership grew introduced the sports segment and consequently became the station’s first Head of Sports. On account of the quality of content and presentation, Prof. Yankah encouraged him to specalise in the area of sports.
Upon graduation, he was invited to work at Radio Gold by one-time frequent panellist and Head of Sports at Radio Gold, Fiifi Banson. He continued in his capacity as a sports journalist while undergoing his National Service in the Department of Economics at his Alma Mater as a Teaching Assistant. He then proceeded to enrol for a Master’s Degree in Economics.
Following the exit of Fiifi Banson, he was promoted to the Head of Sports and set the bar for sports broadcasting on radio under the tutelage of the late Tony Owusu Amofa – at which point he had begun to lecture simultaneously at the University of Ghana.
Owing to his training in critical analysis, he transcended his specialist role and started the first newspaper review on the station, Media Digest, to great acclaim. Following a growing difference in ideologies with the operators of the station, he departed to the Multimedia Group’s Twi radio station, Adom FM, in a similar capacity as Head of Sports.
His time at Adom FM was immediately preceded by hosting Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBCs) Flagship morning sports programme Bonjour Soccer in 2002 as well as the First Twi programme on TV3, ‘Asem Sebe’.
In his time as Head of Sports at the station, in addition to lecturing at the University of Ghana, he took on expanded roles within and beyond the station, including serving as President of the Sports Broadcasters Association of Ghana.
His indelible mark on sports broadcasting in the country was however as a result of his avant-garde show: Kwame’s Diaries. The show departed from what was considered the convention at the time, when broadcasters were expected to be ‘objective’ by only stating the facts and moderating panelists – but never giving their opinion.
Convinced that broadcasters had a plethora of information and could also serve as analysts, he grew the show to prime time listenership and was duly adjudged Sports Broadcaster of the Year in 2004. In that same year he applied for and gained admission to the University of Ghana to pursue his Doctorate degree in Economics.
The King in Harvard
In 2005, he applied for and won a fellowship from USAID to undertake coursework at Harvard University as part of his PhD. At the beginning of 2006, the Asantehene Otumfuo Osei Tutu II arrived in Harvard to deliver a paper on chieftaincy and development. Following the presentation, the Otumfuo sat in-state at the Boston Museum of Arts and Sciences to receive homage.
During his meeting with the king, Kwame indicated that he was pursuing his PhD in the Economics of Sports, to which the impressed Asantehene asked that he visit the palace upon his return to Ghana later in 2006. Unbeknown to him, the King had been an avid listener to Kwame’s Diary and sought his expertise.
Upon his return he was summoned to the Manhyia Palace, at which time he was informed that the Executive Board of Kumasi Asante Kotoko was to be dissolved and a new Board instituted, for which the Asantehene wanted him.
He accepted the position and served as Communications Director of the club. Following internal wrangling, he offered his resignation from the Board in 2009 – which was duly accepted and the Board subsequently dissolved.
Kotoko 2 – The return
Following dissolution of the Board the late Alhaji Njie was appointed as Chairman of the newly constituted Board and the new team requested for Dr Baah-Nuakoh to help them as Accra Representative of the club. Upon recommendation of the Asantehene, Dr. Sarpong extended an invitation to him to join the new board as Football Association and International Relations Manager when Dr Sarpong was appointed the Executive Chairman in 2010.
With his academic pursuits suffering due to the toll of his sports duties, Dr. Sarpong advised that he return to complete his doctoral thesis – and urged him to do so outside Ghana to minimise distractions. Dr. Sarpong duly offered financial assistance in that regard and fully-paid for Kwame’s PhD from his personal resources.
Kwame thus applied to the sports-centric University of Stirling, Scotland, as a transfer student from Harvard. Here, he was able to complete his thesis in record time – 22 months: that is, two months clear of the minimum two years required. He continued with his role on the Board of Kumasi Asante Kotoko until 2013.
Following his return to Ghana after viva voce examination in January 2014, he joined the Royal Bank on April 1, 2014 first as Senior Vice President responsible for Strategic Planning, Research and Corporate Affairs; and later, Senior Vice President in charge of Marketing, Research and Corporate Affairs.
Dr. Baah-Nuakoh also doubled as the Chief Operating Officer for the Royal Bank Foundation, which he was instrumental in setting up. The foundation was responsible for the Corporate Social Responsibility endeavours of the bank. Key interventions undertaken during his tenure include the construction of boreholes in and across the northern regions.
Barely three months after he began at Royal Bank, the bank was embroiled in controversy when a report on customer service of financial institutions which had branches in the Osu enclave gave the bank the worst possible grade – F.
Calling for calm heads, Dr. Baah Nuakoh initiated a customer service policy and training scheme for every single member of staff at the bank. The rigorous training bore significant fruit, as a year after the damning score the bank was awarded an A- for customer service; and was also adjudged the Best Bank, Customer Care category at Ghana Banking Awards 2015 while sweeping four other awards.
Kwame resigned from his position at Royal Bank to take up the role of General Manager responsible for Sustainability and Stakeholder Relations at the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation in 2017, a role he continues in.
Kwame married his wife Lily Baah-Nuakoh (nee Tetteh) in 2003. She is currently the Claims Manager at Vanguard Assurance Company Limited. Together, they have three children: AJ, who is following in his father’s stead at Opoku Ware; Naana who has her eyes set on Wesley Girls High School; and Joojo, who is in Class 4.
Regardless of his undeniable passion for the game, Kwame maintains a tradition of going to the stadium early and leaving early due to a tragedy that befell a neighbor in his teens. He is an ardent supporter of Kumasi Asante Kotoko Fotball Club as well as English powerhouse, Liverpool FC. Despite his time away from the classroom, Dr. Kwame Baah-Nuakoh expects to return to impart knowledge soon, bringing his wealth of experience along.