Oteng Kuffour Amani Kwarteng II is the traditional ruler of Dote town, a suburb of Kumasi. The businessman, who is based in the western German city of Duesseldorf, talks about his title, how he came about it, the responsibilities it entails and he advises prospective African entrepreneurs in Germany, among other issues, in an exclusive interview with our correspondent Ousainou Bayo.
Could you please tell us about your background?
My name used to be Kenneth Kwarteng Hoffmann. Since I was crowned in 2012, my name has been Oteng Kuffour Amani Kwarteng II. I come from Dote town near Kumasi and I am the Otumfour Brepong. This means Senior Chief. There are different levels of chieftaincy in Ashanti culture; the highest, Otumfour, is responsible for the district, followed by the Manhene and then the Brepong. In the Ashanti tradition, we are the Kyidom Stool (children), whose role is to protect the king. In the olden days the Kyidom Stool was either in front of or behind the king during wars to protect him against the enemies.
How were you selected?
In the Ashanti culture, inheritance comes from the mother’s side. My mother is the eldest of the seven children of my grandmother. The tradition is that when a chief dies, the replacement is chosen from the senior daughter’s side. So, in 1983 when our chief passed away, the elders decided to choose a successor from the three children of my mother, even though my father had many children from other wives. I was selected but I turned down the position because I had an elder brother before me whom my mother also supported.
My brother was crowned chief. After his death, the elders appealed to me to fill the position because, according to tradition, the next in line among the brothers takes over the position. So the elders of the family selected me and presented me to the Kyidom Group. The leader of the Kyidom Group presented me to the Otumfour (the overall king). The Otumfour accepted my selection by the Kyidom Group and I was crowned the chief of Dote town in 2012.
How did you feel when you were selected?
I was happy that the family had chosen me for the position. But at the same time I was conscious that the position carries great responsibilities.
What are the functions of the chief?
They are, among others, to be there for the interests of the community, to bring development to the people such as schools – sanitation, health centres, water supply etc – and to work hand in hand with the town’s development committee and sub-chiefs, who are subordinate to the chief.
How can you carry out these functions when you are far away in Germany?
Right now my functions are executed by an overseer who is called Nkosuoheme, a chief among the development committee members. He takes care of everything in the town in my absence. Anyway, I plan to go back home soon and settle down permanently to take up my responsibilities.
You are also a businessman involved in cargo shipping. What are your challenges?
Business in Germany is not easy, especially for foreigners. That said, many Africans who are into business expect patronage from their compatriots and the larger African community for support but unfortunately that is not in most cases forthcoming.
Some would prefer to patronise other people instead of their brothers and sisters. And when they patronise you, they always try to bargain, even though the price may be the same everywhere or some may want to buy your service or goods on loan which may not be repaid for a lengthy period.
What advice would you give to Africans intending to go into business?
You must know what type of business you want to do very well. The location is very important because of accessibility. And do not set up a shop in an area with many other shops selling the same products.