News / Africa

American Brothers Make a Difference in Ghana

American Brothers Make a Difference in Ghana

x
American Brothers Make a Difference in Ghanai
X
August 07, 2012 10:20 PM
He’s the former CEO of the multi-million dollar game company Cranium. In 2007, he sold it and moved to Ghana to start a company that leases rechargeable batteries to people who live off the electrical grid. Mariama Diallo talks to Whit Alexander and his brother Max who decided to make the trip as well.

American Brothers Make a Difference in Ghana

Mariama Diallo
He’s the former CEO of the multi-million dollar game company Cranium.  In 2007, he sold it and moved to Ghana to start a company that leases rechargeable batteries to people who live off the electrical grid. Whit Alexander and his brother Max who decided to make the trip as well.  

A street vendor in Ghana lights a kerosene lamp in order to stay open a few more hours.  A child in rural Kenya studies by a kerosene lamp at home.  

In Africa, 600 million people live without electricity. Some say it doesn’t have to be this way.

Whit Alexander and his brother Max moved to Ghana four years ago and opened a business called Burro.   

“It’s a rechargeable battery service," said Whit. "You pay a small deposit for every battery you take and then every time your battery falls [dies] you just bring it to your reseller and pay a small fee.”
 
His batteries charge just about anything, including lamps.  

“This takes three of the Burro battery and has four different brightnesses," said White. "You can get 200 hours on the super saver mode we call it. And this we call bright with 20 hours, you might want to close your eyes. And super bright. This lights up a room, gives you 5 or 6 hours.”

But charged cell phones are crucial, he says.

“If you are in a cocoa farm in Sekenya [eastern Ghana], 80 percent of Ghanaians own a cell phone but only 50 percent live on the electric grid.  Keeping that phone charged is a major issue," he said.

For Whit’s brother, Max, chronicling their journey on what he calls "bad roads, with a weird business plan" was inspiring.  

“Ghana is near the equator. It gets dark very quickly after six o’clock every day," said Max. "That's when the flashlights come out. Americans might equate it to a camping trip but it’s every day of your life.”

He says he’s learned that the challenges his brother faced are common and require patience, flexibility, and skill in training employees to do a good job.  He hopes his book inspires people who want to help.  

“A lot of Americans feel like they want to make a difference in the world and maybe have a feeling that just going to a 'Save Africa' concert is not really doing all that much. I think the inspiration is that my brother just went over and did it," he said.

Whit says the people he works with every day inspire him.

“These guys in the face of adversity, when things go wrong and me this crazy American executive going oh my God, the vehicle broke down, we're gonna be late for the village meeting, what are we going to do?  Neal will say “Whit calm down.  We’ll get out.  We’ll call ahead, we’ll get a taxi," he said.

He says his business hasn't made a profit yet but he believes he's on the right track.

You May Like

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid