Nii Osae-Dade fell in love with computers at an early age.
By the time he was six, he was taking out computer hard drives and motherboards to figure out their composition and how they worked.
Soon, he was able to fix them.
At the Presbyterian Boys Secondary School, Legon (Presec), Osae-Dade joined the computer club and would go on to become president in his final year. The club gave him an opportunity to learn to write programming codes. His interest in programming fuelled a desire to become an innovator.
“I wanted not just to experience technology. I wanted to create it,” he says.
At Presec, Osae-Dade met Kofi Genfi, also a member of the computer club and as curious about how things worked.
In the case of Genfi, though, half the time, he’d fail to put the gadgets he’d open and got scolded for it.
But he learned what he wanted to through this adventure.
Aside from his passion for computers, Genfi developed an interest in business, influenced in part by his parents who were both entrepreneurs.
Their shared obsession with computers and interest in entrepreneurship would create a bond between Osae-Dade and Genfi. They began to brainstorm ideas and to discuss how they could use technology to solve problems and improve society.
Osae-Dade focused on technological innovation, with Genfi focused on how to commercialise these innovations. Osae-Dade’s technical skills paired with Genfi’s business acumen would eventually result in an idea to set up a company (CYST Company Limited) which they went on to form in 2013, while they were both only 19 and still in university, Genfi studying Business Administration at Ashesi University and Osae-Dade studying Computer Engineering at the University of Ghana.
The CYST story
CYST is an acronym for Creative Young Smart Technology.
Osae-Dade and Genfi explain that the words ‘creativity’, ‘young’ and ‘smart’ represent the ideology behind the technology they set out to create.
They emphasise that whatever technology the business produces should be S-M-A-R-T. (Specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely).
They believe that those values, together with their youthful and dynamic thinking, make creativity inevitable.
Guided by their vision to create world-class technology to solve Africa’s problems and impact lives, CYST created a mobile payment app, named Mazzuma, which allows users to make online payments instantly, as well as mobile money payments across all networks in Ghana.
“This was a step taken by CYST to accelerate the pace of disruptive innovation in making payments in the country,” Genfi says. Mazzuma has since its launch in 2017 recorded over 11 million Ghana Cedis with over 30,000 subscribers worldwide.
The partners insist that in creating technology, they preserve a dogged faith in the power of possibility.
“We believe that even though something might sound uncertain, it is achievable,” Genfi says. “Shoot as far as you can with whatever resources you have at your disposal, and even if you are not able to hit your target, you should keep trying.
You may be one connection away from a big break in your life.” It is, thus, not surprising that the plaque that hangs on the company’s reception says: “Nothing is impossible”.
Osae-Dade says the nursery rhyme, ‘Good, Better, Best’ resonates with him.
CYST continues to evolve in its scope and relevance. It has designed an artificial intelligence engine they call ALICE - Artificial Learning Intelligent Cognitive Engine.
ALICE operates on the Mazzuma app by monitoring and preventing fraud, providing business intelligence solutions and data analysis, fostering automated customer services and tracking transactions.
Osae-Dade and Genfi cite bureaucracy as the biggest challenge facing their business.
They tell me approvals for projects take too long to be granted by the government agencies they work for.
Osae-Dade’s biggest inspiration is the Marvel Comics fictional character Tony Stark. Stark is a genius inventor with the gift of creating anything he thinks of.
“Though fiction is based on unreal things and things which haven’t been done before, I am constantly reminded by the comics that there is no limit to what I can create and achieve,” he says.
Genfi, on the other hand, takes inspiration from a real life hero - Strive Masiyiwa, the Founder of telecommunications, media and technology group Econet Wireless and Kwese TV. Genfi says Masiyiwa’s business foresight and expertise as exhibited on the global stage spurs him on to reach for greater heights.
Both religious, Osae-Dade and Genfi credit God for how far they have come with CYST.
They, however, do not downplay the role hard work and discipline have played in their success.
While both are happy with the progress of CYST and its impact, they aspire to much greater heights and to be considered symbols of possibilities by the youth of Ghana.
Having both just been recognised in the technology category of the 2018 Forbes “30 under 30” in Africa in recognition of their exceptional work to improve development through technological advancement, Osae-Dade and Genfi are both, undoubtedly, symbols of possibilities. — GB