Bringing sustainable power to rural Ghana: Nii Ayertei Tettey ’10 & Rose Aba Dodd ’09 share their story

“When you work for a startup company you have to be flexible and think on your feet,” Nii says. “There are always new problems to solve, and the days can be long. But it is also very satisfying. Work hard; have fun—much like Ashesi, actually.”
- Nii Ayertei Tettey ’10, Assistant Branch Manager, Burro Ghana.

Founded in 2008 by Whit Alexander, a former Microsoft Group Program Manager, Burro is a rechargeable battery and service that supplies affordable power throughout rural Africa. “We’re passionate about Burro’s mission to empower our clients to do more in their lives,” says Burro’s founder. To help drive this mission, he is making sure Burro is able to “attract and retain Ghana’s best and brightest talent.”

Two Ashesi graduates were hired by Burro to help lead the company deliver their products and services to Ghana’s Eastern Region. Business Administration graduates Nii Ayertei Tettey ’10 and Rose Aba Dodd ’09 are applying their skills to fuel Burro’s growth, with aspirations to expand the company across Ghana and the continent. From its pilot branch in Koforidua, Nii and Rose, together with Burro, are helping provide affordable products to enhance the productivity of low-income customers, mainly in the Eastern Region’s rural areas with no access to the electricity grid. Burro’s flagship high-quality rechargeable battery service offering, is being put to use in lights, radios, and Burro’s own mobile phone chargers.

Rose Dodd, a cum laude graduate and recipient of the first Princess Awoonor Williams Scholarship Award (in honor of the late Ashesi professor), was one of Burro’s first employees and is now the Pilot Branch Manager. In two years on the job she has worked on everything from marketing campaigns to product development and operations management. “Burro is still a small pilot branch. Things change fast in a startup environment, so you need to think creatively and work hard to always improve,” Rose says. “You can’t just sit at a desk and wait to be told what to do. After four years at Ashesi, I was prepared for the daily challenges my team faces bringing the Burro vision to life. Ashesi gave me the confidence that I can make a difference if I put my mind to it.”

(Click here to watch a short documentary about Burro)

Nii Tettey, who was part of Ashesi’s African Renaissance Movement, was also recently promoted to Assistant Branch Manager. However Nii still spends a lot of his time in the field, recruiting new resellers, ensuring Burro clients are satisfied, and scouting new locations to introduce Burro’s expanding product line. He also spends a lot of time educating Burro’s prospective clients on the benefits of Burro’s offerings. The latest offering is an innovative battery-powered light that provides superior illumination at an 80% lower operating cost than the region’s more popular kerosene lantern. “When you work for a startup company you have to be flexible and think on your feet,” Nii says. “There are always new problems to solve, and the days can be long. But it is also very satisfying. Work hard; have fun—much like Ashesi, actually,” he adds with a smile.

Burro’s founder, Whit Alexander, is excited about the work Ashesi’s graduates are doing in his company and looks forward to working with more. “With so many values shared between Ashesi and Burro, I expect Ashesi’s exceptionally talented and motivated interns and graduates to play an expanding role in Burro’s bright future.”

Whit is a former Microsoft Group Program Manager who went on to co-invent a smash-hit board game in America called Cranium. An African Studies major, he spent a year studying abroad in Ivory Coast, and then worked for several years on a variety of donor-funded projects across West Africa. After his success back home in American business, he decided to return to Africa to launch a new kind of company.

Burro’s expansion continues with plans to introduce vision-correcting spectacles and foot-powered pumps for dry-season vegetable production in October. Self financed by Alexander to date, Burro is now seeking outside capital from impact investors who want to accelerate its growth, share in the success of the Burro brand, and help impact the development of Africa’s rural communities.

Click here to read more about Burro.