The African Hacker

With home-brewed code and a little help from Microsoft, a programmer in Ghana launches Africa’s first software empire

15 min read
photo of Hermann Chinery-Hesse
Photo: Eric Don-Arthur

The first time I meet Hermann Chinery-Hesse, he is pouring diesel fuel from a plastic jug into an electric generator. I am in the West African country of Ghana, visiting his software company, Soft Tribe Ltd.

Chinery-Hesse is chief of the Tribe. He’s made a small fortune writing software, working as a systems architect, and selling computer code to hundreds of businesses in his country of 21 million people. He drives a Mercedes. He wears imported Birkenstock sandals. He hails from a prominent family, was born in Dublin, and went to college in the United States. He could be working anywhere on the strength of his Irish passport, yet he’s spent the past dozen years in Accra, Ghana’s coastal capital and one-time slave-trade hub.

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4 min read
A collage of a headshot of Marc Raibert who is an older man with a beard and glasses in a flower print shirt, and an large black and white Atlas humanoid robot
Photo-illustration: IEEE Spectrum; Photos: Boston Dynamics

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Clarivate
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