Wednesday Winners goes on tour to Ghana with Samuel Leeds

Property Investors’ founder Samuel Leeds describes entrepreneur Nana Kwame Bediako, popularly known as Freedom Jacob Caesar, as his ‘billionaire mentor.’ They met up when Samuel interviewed him in Ghana for a special Winners on a Wednesday edition. The two men have much in common. They discuss how they both made their first £1m in their twenties and share many of the same visions about business and the power of property to transform lives. There is a family association too. Nana’s nephew trained with Property Investors.

‘I’m selling green spaces’

Freedom Jacob Caesar is arguably the most colourful character to be featured on Samuel’s YouTube Winners on a Wednesday series. He keeps two tigers at his home, dresses in princely robes and once gave his wife two luxury cars wrapped in red ribbons for her birthday.

Samuel introduces him as the man who is changing the face of Africa with his commercial and residential property developments, having started from nothing to become a ‘multi-millionaire.’

He adds three more multi’s to sum up the wealth of his mentor as they sit in Number One Oxford Street, a luxury hotel apartment block in Accra.

“It’s one of my buildings,” says Nana proudly, as they sit down to sip wine in the plush surroundings of the hotel which dominates the skyline of the Ghanaian capital.

What makes it stand out, apart from its eye-catching, futuristic design, is the fact that its 108 suites are fitted inside a building that occupies a plot of just 1,500 square meters – slightly over a third of an acre.

Nana says he got the inspiration for the cubicle design from a game where you twist a box until you get all the colours on one side. The architects and engineers were then challenged to produce the pod-like framework. Some 124 beams were used in the construction, providing a space of 20,000 sq.m which can accommodate around 300 guests on 14 floors.

Explaining the concept behind the hotel, he adds: “I realised hotels consume 40 per cent of accommodation costs worldwide. People pay $300 dollars for a night. That is someone’s monthly rent. 

“I’m the type of businessman who only understands numbers. That’s how my mind works. So, I said I’ve got to tap into the hotel industry.”

That’s when he came up with the idea of providing a place where families can enjoy living in what he calls an ‘uber home’ for the price of hotel room. The facilities allow visitors and corporate travellers to work and play during their stay.

The suites, with Internet access, contain lounges and kitchen and dining areas, as well as sumptuous bedrooms and balconies, some with views over the Atlantic Ocean. The communal areas include restaurants, a gym, a sauna and an outdoor swimming pool.

“Creating this niche was very important for me in the industry because I know that in 10 years hotels will start turning their rooms into this sort of stuff.

“There’s no option because in the modern world people cannot live in a box anymore. They need their wi-fi which is by far the biggest drug right now. They also need social distance to be able to live right. They want privacy in their room, to sit there and have their conversation and turn on the TV. And it better be a smart solution so they can have their presentation.

“They want to be able to have a cocktail on the balcony and have a lifestyle – a chef to come and cook for them and eat with their friends. So, these spaces that I’ve created can consume six to eight to ten to 12 to 14 whatever people in one space, whereas if you talk about the hotel room you can only bring one person upstairs and that’s probably your girlfriend or your wife.

 “If it’s three people coming to look for you, they have to wait downstairs and when you go downstairs you have to spend money in the bar or the restaurant. So, in a way I’m saving money and energy and I’m selling green spaces.”

Samuel Leeds, who is married with three children, approves of the business model and the apartments which he believes are the best in the West African country. 

“If you’re like me and you’ve got kids, how do you take your kids on holiday and stay in a hotel room?

“You can’t. You need a lounge, a second room. Some of the apartments have three bedrooms and you’ve got a balcony view over Accra. They’re absolutely amazing. So props (proper respect) to what you’ve done. I’m super impressed and inspired,” he tells Nana.

The Property Investors chairman, who has been talking to the CEO of Wonda World Estates, about investing in Ghana, is also seen visiting other building projects with him. 

Samuel says there are endless opportunities for development in the country and has been inside more of his mentor’s huge, luxury buildings to gain an insight into his work. Freedom Jacob Caesar, as he is otherwise known, is equally admiring of Samuel’s developments in England, and what he is contributing by training people to become wealthy through property.

Returning the compliment, he says: “I’m very proud of you and what you are doing. It’s such a great value you’re giving back to society, and I like to encourage you to keep doing that.

“You’re reminding people that you’ve got to get successful at a younger age. For the people you are impacting right now they’re probably in their thirties and they’re thinking how they can start like you. So, you are their mentor. They’re looking up to you.”

Nana reveals how his nephew attended a Samuel Leeds training programme and learnt about the rent-to-rent strategy. He told his uncle about Samuel and is now employed by Nana as his executive assistant for his business group which includes a diverse range of interests.

‘I started a chicken farm when I was nine’

Samuel and Nana’s conversation touches on subjects close to their hearts. They both started out young in business. Samuel, who is still only 31, boasts that he was 25 when he made his first million.

“Way too old! I made my first million pounds at the age of 21,” his interviewee responds, laughing.

Samuel jokes: “How slow can you get.”

They demonstrated the entrepreneurial instinct early in life. Samuel used his paper round earnings to learn about property investing. Nana relates how he made money from a chicken farm which stood him in good stead when he was sent to England to be educated.

“My capital when I was going to London was $6,000. Out of that $6,000, $700 bought me a Peugeot 205 GTI which at that time was my dream car. It was 1994. I remember it very well and I bought a Panasonic phone. I was like the new kid on the block.”

From there he started selling clothes from the boot of his car and then graduated onto selling scrap metal in his late teens while growing up in Hackney.

“I already understood what business was. I’d started making money from a chicken farm that I created when I was just nine years old, and I knew the value of money. When you are born into poverty you want to come out of it.

“It’s like a disease and a curse at the same time. If you can come out of it, that’s your strength. I hold that strength and I hold it to my chest and my soul. So everywhere I go I need to survive.”

Next was a telecommunications business which gave him real wealth. 

“That’s when the cheques started growing. By the time I was 21, I had £1,079,000. And I had just had my first son too. So, I invested the money in Hawaii in a tea farm and I came to Ghana with £20,000.”

Back in his homeland, Nana used that money to open a nightclub in Accra which attracted an international clientele.

“When I did that, I made $75,000 in three weeks I took everybody’s money from their pocket. They were buying champagne and Hennessy.”

When he later closed the club, he convinced the owner to sell him the building for £75,000. Two months later someone offered him £150,000 for it. When the cheque cleared, he decided to go into real estate, buying a second building which also made him a six-figure profit.

“I kept selling and selling and used the money to buy land. Within four years I’d made a million again and I started using that to build the real estate empire. 

“Five years after I got offered £5.5m for my tea farm. It was supposed to yield in seven years. This guy wanted to buy it before even the seven years. I was so shocked. I never understood the value of the investment at that time. When I put in the £1m, I even thought sometimes I had lost it. So, this is how I understood investment.”

These days most of his money comes from real estate, says the businessman who has a family house in Knightsbridge and a mansion in the exclusive Los Angeles suburb of Bel-Air which was featured on the Netflix series, Selling Sunset

He operates on the principle of ‘maximisation.’ It came to him one day, he remembers, while visiting some of his land.

“I’m very spiritual and I used to go onto the land and pray all the time. One day this voice I’ve been listening to since I was a kid just said why don’t you build two houses on one plot. I was supposed to build one house. So, I decided to build two houses and that’s how maximisation started.”

Using space efficiently to make the most of the land at his disposal was a key consideration in the design of Number One Oxford Street. Number Two will be coming soon, he promises, with Number three also in his sights.

“I keep doing it not because I want to be more successful or wealthier. I just feel there’s much room that hasn’t been developed in Africa and I saw it as an opportunity. It’s become my great passion and vision to be able to fill these spaces.”

From the outset he has used crowdfunding to raise capital for his projects, rather than borrowing funds due to the high cost of obtaining development finance in Ghana. Investors become partners, while he shoulders the risk. He says he lost his fear along the way and was taken over by courage. 

His tigers epitomise his fearless spirit. “I bought two tigers. I wanted a black and white tiger and a white tiger. Sometimes in life we achieve a lot and we build wealth. We think we only have to spend it on materials. But this time I wanted to invest in a living thing. I had to find a living thing that wasn’t in West, North or East Africa.”

He bought one from South Africa and one from Dubai, bidding against a Sheikh for it. His plan is to breed them and set up a zoo to boost the country’s tourism. 


Nana’s tips

  • You can make and build wealth on any land. The safest place mostly is where you come from because there is sometimes a great spirit behind you when you invest on your own land. You have your family around and the people who can relate to you. You can create wealth from where you belong to and start to spike out to other places.
  • Learn from the ones who are doing it because those who can’t think it can be done should not get in the way of those who are doing it.
  • You can’t be too scared of what you dream of. You can’t be scared of your own vision, of thinking higher, thinking smart, thinking excessively. There is nothing to lose.


Samuel Leeds’ verdict

“It was a privilege to hear Nana’s story. As he says, you can make money from property anywhere and more and more people across the globe are understanding how it has the power to change their lives.

“While I was in Ghana, I was stopped all the time by people who had been watching me on YouTube and wanted to get into property investing themselves.”


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