Following the death of his uncle, Nana Osei Yaw Akoto, Kwaku Dua I become the eighth king of Ashanti. Kwaku Dua's legacy today lives on in his relationship with the Dutch, wars of expansion against the Gonja and Dagomba empires to the north, and agitation of the British on the coast. On March 18, 1837, his contract with King William I of the Netherlands chartered the recruitment of 1,000 African soldiers within the kingdom to be conscripted in the Dutch East Indies Army. These soldiers became known as the Belanda Hitam (Indonesian for "Black Dutchmen). After this deal was made, Dua sent two Ashanti princes to the Netherlands to be educated. The story of Kwasi Boachi and Kwame Poku is recounted in Arthur Japin's novel The Two Hearts of Kwasi Boachi.
While Dua forged strong relationships with foreign traders, he was known domestically for his authoritarian and "sultanic" style of rule. Many in his line of succession suffered a premature demise due to mostly unconfirmed circumstances. After a tumultuous series of events, his only sister--and mother of his heir--Afua Sapon, is believed to have been killed on the orders of the king, as she was accused of wanting him off the throne prematurely, in favor of her son. In the aftermath, his nephew Osei Kwadwo, was ritually executed after being accused of conspiring to become the Asantehene. Following these deaths, Dua lived in sorrow of his departed kin and died a very troubled man. He was reputed to roam the streets at night, because he was haunted by having had his sister executed. Following his death, his grandnephew Kofi Karikari whose mother had been behind the palace intrigue that resulted in the death of Osei Kwadwo, was chosen by the king-makers.