Eric Agyemang, Award for Community Service

Focused on social impact, alumnus gives best of himself

Eric Agyemang
Deeply committed to creating meaningful social change, Eric Agyemang (BCom ’15) turned to international trade and community-based volunteering — to use his knowledge in entrepreneurship to serve underrepresented communities.

In work as in life, Agyemang radiates quiet strength and leadership, giving those around him the tools they need to succeed. 

As a strategic alliances manager with Export Development Canada, he assists tech startups and SMEs looking to break into the international market. He is also responsible for an initiative to highlight the cultural mosaic at work at EDC. 

Since 2014, Agyemang has also been involved with the Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization’s (OCISO) leadership and career mentorship services. This is an organization that directly serves about 10,000 local immigrants and refugees each year by providing multi-faceted integration programs and settlement services, in over 50 languages. 

Agyemang saw in OCISO an opportunity to use his skills and experience to engage with new Canadians put down roots in Ottawa  by celebrating their respective strengths, experiences, and talents. 

“When I first started international trade at Algonquin College, I got to see how much support from organizations like OCISO means for newcomers,” recalls Agyemang, a Ghanaian by birth who arrived in Canada in 2009. “I myself already had a bit of a network that I could rely on, but some of my friends didn’t.” 

When he started with OCISO, Agyemang helped those supported by the organization to put their best foot forward when searching for a job. Now chair of the OCISO board, he’s leading the organization through one of its most strategic shifts in history, to take into account new social realities. Whether it is moving services online, increasing digital access, or re-tooling programs to account for lessons learned from the pandemic, OCISO is innovating to better meet the evolving needs of the populations it serves, and to do so, it relies on community funding and volunteering at its core. 

“Volunteering has always been very close to my heart,” he says, “part of where I’ve drawn meaning in life. I think we’re all privileged in so many ways that volunteering is that unique opportunity for us to take a pause and give back, and to also appreciate people who’ve helped us so we can pay it forward.” 

In giving Agyemang its 2022 Award of Excellence for Community Service, the uOttawa Alumni Association wished to highlight his important work in our community. For his part,  Agyemang acknowledged feeling surprised by the award and the spotlight that came with it, but he hopes that his story and the great work of community groups like OCISO will encourage the next generation to not only get involved, whatever the cause, but to see the value in regular volunteering for the betterment of others, at any stage of life, even if only for an hour a week. “I believe that in everything we do, there is a global implication,” he says. “Don’t underestimate what you can do to help and how much you have to offer.” 

As for what his future holds, Agyemang hopes to apply his personal, professional and volunteer experience to other projects dear to him, such as stimulating entrepreneurship in Black and immigrant communities by facilitating their access to startup capital. 

After all, he says, the world isn’t short of causes to be part of and opportunities to make a difference in peoples’ lives.