Connect with us

Profiles

“Integrity in whatever religion, tribe, gender, stands tall” – Mrs.Patience Akyianu

Published

on

Ghana’s banking industry is beginning to experience a new sigh of relief of the male dominance and this jinx was broken when the first female CEO appointed in Ghana was a foreigner. Ghanaians started questioning, when will our female executives demonstrate their leadership prowess? All of a sudden, the quake began and the country’s female leaders began to assume their positions.

She rose through the ranks of the industry, garnered experience and became the first female Ghanaian CEO of an international bank. Mrs. Patience Akyianu, who currently heads the team at Barclays Bank Ghana as the Managing Director robs shoulders with the men in the men’s world.

Patience Akyianu, is one of the torchbearers in bringing change to this strategic sector and through her open, firm, fair, decisive judgements, she’s led the bank to regain its position as the number one bank in both revenue and profitability in the 2017 accounting period.

In this revealing, more insightful and captivating engagement, the Vaultz Magazine tells her story.

The Business of Banking in Ghana

TVM: How would you describe the business of Banking in Ghana currently?

MPA: The banking industry, is an intensely competitive sector and remains exciting. In recent times we’ve had a few challenges and the regulator has responded by instituting measures like the increase in the minimum capital requirement. You may be aware a few banks have been taken over by the central bank but, the regulator has assured all of us that the worse is over and the public shouldn’t be unduly worried. As a bank, our focus is on exploring the new innovative opportunities that are emerging with non-conventional players like the Telecommunications companies and FinTechs coming into the game.

TVM: Ghana’s banking landscape has, for some time, been experiencing various reforms including new capital requirement, stricter governance policies etc. What impact(s) do you think these have on the industry in the near term as well as the long term as a whole?

MPA: There is a lot that the banking industry can do to drive economic growth in our country. So, you will understand the importance of having well capitalized and highly liquid banks. What the regulator is seeking to do is to strengthen the environment and setting a higher capital requirement is one of the ways that would lead to having stronger banks in our country. I think the regulator is in the right direction and it’s to the benefit of the banking sector and the country at large if we end up having stronger banks. The new corporate governance guidelines recently issued by the central bank and the Deposit Protection Bill which was passed into law by Parliament in July 2016 to protect depositors from unforeseen circumstances that may result in loss of funds, should all contribute to creating a more robust banking sector and restoring confidence.

TVM: Lending to SMEs and Corporate organizations is a big part of banks’ duties. So, why is it difficult for these institutions to access loans from these banks to boost their operations?

MPA: Interestingly, a lot of people when they think about looking for finance just think of banks. But there are alternate sources of finance and, for me, if debt which banks do is not suitable for them, businesses must go out there and look for other solutions. For us banks, we take into consideration the repayment ability of the entity we are considering lending money to. We are very much sensitive to the high risk of most startups because we take depositors money and need to ensure we use it wisely.

For instance, assuming you entrust your money to me and I take a risky decision and gave your money out and lose it, will you be happy? You would not be happy right! So, we need to be careful. Many of these SMEs are startups and it’s very difficult for them to convince the banks to lend them money. In addition to that, those that are not startups may not have the kind of structures that give banks comfort to lend to them. A lot of these SMEs don’t have the right governance structures in place. Also, most of them have one man making all the decisions and banks look at key man risk.

For example, if the owner or the CEO were not to be around, what would happen to the business? The bank needs that kind of comfort. The more SMEs invest in building the right structures in their organizations and putting the right governance in place, the better it will be for all of us. We would then, as banks, have confidence in them and their businesses will also grow in a sustainable manner.

TVM: The Capital Market is becoming attractive to debt issuers as a channel for raising debt capital due to pricing and repayment terms. Do you think the introduction of the Ghana Reference Rate positions the banks to provide competitive pricing to corporate debt issuers?

MPA: I think it’s a step in the right direction. Yes, we all understood the parameters that we had to consider in deriving the base rates in the previous system. But, how are you able to explain one bank’s base rate being 17 and another one being 24. Except that probably the one with the higher base rate may have sourced their funds at a higher cost and they have higher operating expenses. This means that sometimes you price your inefficiencies into the lending rate at which customers borrow.

With the introduction of a reference rate, which is uniform across board, banks just have to add on a risk premium which will have a range. This will ensure more transparency as banks will clearly spell out how they came up with the bands. For example, if you started with a Ghana reference rate of currently 16.74% and added 5% as the risk premium, the regulator will need to understand why you added 5 percent. This kind of transparency is bound to lead to a very developed market for banks, lenders and borrowers altogether. This is definitely the way to go.

TVM: Does Barclays Bank Ghana participate in the Ghana Reference Rate?

MPA: Oh yes. It’s the regulator’s policy directive and we as players need to conform as well as collaborate with them to help further develop the sector.

TVM: Does Barclays Bank Ghana participate in purchasing corporate debt on the Capital Market?

MPA: It’s a question of whether we want to take the credit risk on the particular corporate in question. Depending on our view of the corporate, we will participate. We are committed to developing the capital market and in various ways we’ve played our part in driving market development. For instance, we took part in the recently issued ESLA Bond (the energy sector bond) even though we were not the ones that led the transaction. When the bond came onto the market, we bought our fair share. Depending on the credit worthiness of the corporate in question, we will participate in corporate bonds.

TVM: The advent of Technological innovations and financial disruptions has become more of a complement than a bother in the activities of the financial sector. How do you see the future of banking as a business entity in the wake of these disruptions?

MPA: It’s exciting if you ask me. I hear lots of conversations around telecommunications companies (telecoms) coming to eat the cake of banks and the questions of who should be afraid; telecoms or banks? I see an opportunity. Banks traditionally, do not invest heavily in technology in the same magnitude as telecommunications companies. If a bank doesn’t have the funds to do that, you can always partner with telecoms or fintechs to tap into the vast, currently untapped opportunity.

Ghana’s unbanked is actually about 60% of the population. That is opportunity starring at us and that’s where the telecoms come in, bringing into the formal sector what hitherto banks did not have the capacity to tap into. For us, as banks, cost to serve is very important. We’ve talked about financial inclusion, mass market etc. but if it doesn’t make financial sense it becomes a difficult task. Partnering with telecoms and fintechs would actually bring down the cost of doing business with the masses and it becomes a win-win for the industry.

TVM: How well positioned are banks?

MPA: We at Barclays are very well positioned to partner Telecoms and Fintech companies to explore the growing opportunities to deliver innovative services to our customers beyond what we are already doing in the area. It will be unfortunate for some banks to feel telecoms are taking away their business because the data and the trend that we see don’t support that kind of feeling. We need to understand that the regulator has not given banking licenses to the telecoms. Some even argue that a telecom can form a bank.

Of course, to the extent that they can meet the minimum capital requirement and the regulator gives a license, nobody can stop any telecom that wants to set up a bank from doing so. But, there’s more than enough scope to partner with telecoms in the current environment in which we are in.

Barclays Bank changing to ABSA Bank

TVM: Barclays Africa Group is transitioning to ABSA Group and shall reflect in all regions of operations including Ghana. Your aspiration as a bank, by 2020, was to see about 70% of your banking activities digital. What happens to this aspiration in the wake of this change?

MPA: It’s even become more real. Currently, we have three priorities as unveiled in our new strategy. On the 1st of March, our Chief Executive released to the market, information about what our new brand was going to be and also a bold new strategy. This strategy includes three key priorities: we aim to build a thriving organization, regain leadership in core businesses and to be digitally led. So you can imagine the amount of investment currently going on to make us more innovative into the future. The focus is to make doing business with our clients very easy.

TVM: Currently, Barclays Africa Group is rebranding to ABSA Group. Also, there’s an ABSA Bank that operates as an entity in South Africa. What is the correlation between the two?

MPA: ABSA is the brand name that the Barclays Africa Group business in South Africa uses. ABSA and Barclays have been in the same family, since 2013 when Barclays PLC combined its business operations in Africa through a special transaction to form Barclays Africa Group Limited, which is listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. ABSA together with our operations in 11 other markets – Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia, including representative offices in Namibia and Nigeria, therefore, form the Barclays Africa Group. The formation of the Barclays Africa Group gave Barclays Plc a 62.3% shareholding in the group.

In the recent sell down, the shareholding for Barclays Plc in Barclays Africa Group Limited is now 14.9% and as a result of that there is a need to rebrand or change our brand. Effective, 11 July 2018, Barclays Africa Group Limited will be rebranded to Absa Group Limited. The rest of us outside South Africa, have up to June 2020 to rebrand to Absa. Being a strong brand that is already part of the Barclays Africa Group family, it makes sense to leverage on this existing brand, given the eminent brand change.

The change in shareholding has therefore given us the opportunity to roll out a brand that reflects our identity in Africa and unites all our operations on the continent behind one name. But this is not just about a name change. It is about building a banking group that all of Africa can be proud of; a forward-looking African business, rooted in Africa and recognizing our African heritage.

TVM: How, as a bank, do you intend to address the challenges this change comes with, especially with those who are ‘obsessed’ with the previous brand name “Barclays Bank”?

MPA: Barclays is a well-respected brand. It is well loved by many and we understand just how attached our customers, clients, colleagues and other stakeholders are to the Barclays brand. It is a brand that has been in the hearts of Ghanaians for over 100 years. However, changing to ABSA provides a great opportunity for us to do things differently; a truly pan-African Bank with our destiny in our own hands. What this means is we are now better positioned to pursue opportunities that make us more relevant to Ghana and the continent at large.

We have a rich heritage in Africa as Barclays across the region and we actually have a strong network with over 42,000 employees, 10,000 ATMs and about a 1200 branches across Africa. We are going to leverage our strengths and even become more daring because our purpose currently is ‘bringing your possibility to life’. So, we will stretch ourselves and challenge each other to bring our customers, clients and stakeholders possibilities to life.

TVM: Banking business is currently facing a number of challenges such as new technology, changing demographics, and tighter regulations such as we’re experiencing in Ghana. How does the new brand intend to position itself to continue the legacy Barclays Bank Ghana was known for in terms of its technology-savvy?

MPA: With the unveiling of our bold new strategy, we intend to go out there in the market and take it by storm. We are investing very heavily in technological innovations and we will be digitally led. This is a space to watch as we partner with telecoms, fintechs and technology companies to make our service offering even better and our brand even stronger.

TVM: In a recent interview, you stated that “… a new brand for a new banking group”. What new experiences does the new brand bring in the wake of its change?

MPA: Although we have been doing some great things in the digital space I’m sure there is much more we can do. Our new brand is closely associated with innovation, digitization and customer-centricity. Our customers should be ready for new experiences as we build a thriving digitally led business and introduce pioneering propositions.

TVM: Barclays Bank Ghana currently posted a strong financial performance in the 2017 financial year results – raking in GHc 550m of profit before Tax. What can you say accounted for such an immense performance?

MPA: This is due to our ability to spot opportunity and go for it, and that’s why opportunities excite me. We did a number of big trades; some with the government, some with our customers and that culminated in that impressive performance. Our impressive financial performance was also driven by a strong revenue growth and an operating cost which reflected our commitment to pursue efficient banking operations that deliver value for our customers. We also kept our strategy simple and concrete whilst focusing on executing the agenda to be the bank of choice for our chosen customer segment.

TVM: Your vision in the next five years after rebranding in 2020 is to double your share of banking revenues on the continent. How do you intend to achieve this considering the rather highly homogeneous and very competitive industry you find yourself?

MPA: By becoming more relevant in the markets in which we operate. We are going to build a thriving and commercially driven entrepreneurial organization. Our goal is to lead in our core businesses: retail, corporate and market. Our plan is to deploy the right solutions to our customers and lead in our core businesses.

Personality Profile

TVM: Undoubtedly, you are the first Ghanaian female CEO in Ghana’s banking industry. So, we would like to know; who is Patience Akyianu and how was growing up as a child like?

MPA: I’m the first of three girls. I lost my mother quite young so I was raised by my father. Actually growing up I never thought that, as a lady, I should do less or I should think of myself as inferior to men. My father just expected the best from us. He never encouraged any thought of us being softer because our standards were lower and all that. So when I grew up and interacted with other people, I realized that not everyone had it the same way we did, I was surprised. I thought everyone had equal opportunities to be the best that they could be. Unfortunately, my father is no longer alive; I wish he were so I could show my appreciation to him.

TVM: What is your earliest memory as a child?

MPA: I was actually very competitive from day one in school. I really liked being among the top three if not the number one. Any time that didn’t happen, I was pretty miserable. I recall a time in my lower primary days, after working very hard to be the number one, the teacher whilst calling the high performers, for some reason, rather called me for the third position. I was quite upset and I have never really forgotten this incident.

TVM: It has been observed that while growing up you went through most difficult times as a child. What influence did this path have on your early development?

MPA: Having lost my mother at the age of eight, I was the de-facto mother of the house and was expected to look after my two younger sisters. Without knowing, this placed in me a position to take up responsibilities and it developed in me a sense of ownership. So naturally, wherever I go and whatever I do, I actually feel responsible for whatever has been entrusted to me. I therefore usually step up as the leader and take up the responsibility wherever I am.

TVM: You currently operate in an area formerly seen to be the preserve of men. You mentioned in an interview that your “entry into banking was not a premeditated one”. What was your initial aspiration while growing up?

MPA: To be the best at whatever I did. By some twist of faith or divine guidance, it ended up being banking. I say it was divinely guided because I trained as an accountant with the Coopers and Lybrand. I did an MBA and then joined Ernst and Young. Then I got an opportunity in Lincoln School. While there as Finance Manager, I realized that there was more to me than just finance. I wanted more; there was a hunger for more.

So, after the expiry of my contract with the school I informed them that I was not renewing it. This came as a shock to them because they were very happy to have me. Through my network, one of my colleagues at Coopers and Lybrand informed me of an opportunity in Standard Chartered in the Finance department and suggested I put my Curricular Vitae (C.V) through which I did. We had a conversation and one thing led to the other. I worked there for a couple of years and became the Financial Controller. Later I moved on into the business functions and here I am today.

TVM: If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?

MPA: Not much frankly! Because I think the finance path that I took played a huge role in getting me to where I am today. Well, I know that not every accountant has an aspiration to become a Managing Director or will be a Managing Director. But what this did for me was to give me the skills, the experience, the education and helped me build the competencies that got me where I am.

TVM: You defied all odds to rise to where you are today. Can you narrate how the journey to the top of your career has been?

MPA: Hard work has been very key. In addition to that, is having the right networks and striving to be outstanding in your given task most importantly. Hard work needs to be combined with other important variables and that’s what people call providence. But when opportunity and being prepared collide it gets you where you aim to be.

TVM: You strongly believe that being committed to an idea or a company enhances the prospects of success. What accomplishment are you most proud of in your career?

MPA: I think the greatest is what we’ve been able to achieve as a team, bringing Barclays Bank Ghana to number one in profitability once again. I recall those days when I was at Standard Chartered, looking at Barclays and wondering, what do they do to earn so much revenue. Barclays Bank was known as the number one bank, then we went through some difficult patches and we dropped in both our revenue and profitability position. Now, I feel a sense of pride in the fact that we’ve led this business together with our committed staff to regain our past glory in the market.

TVM: How will you describe your leadership style?

MPA: Open, Firm, Fair, Decisive!

TVM: What are your ideals in life?

MPA: My ideals include having “a sense of ownership”. It surprises me how many people lack ownership. Once you’re given a task, know that everyone is looking up to you to bring it to completion. However, you often find people expecting somebody else to take it up or to do some bit of it. No! Just understand that you’re the only one responsible from start to finish. With that kind of attitude and mindset, people are bound to choose you because you know how to execute.

The second thing is integrity. Maintaining integrity irrespective of one’s religion, tribe or gender is important and that’s what makes success. People will want to work with those they can trust, people whose word they can rely on, and people who will do the right thing whether you’re looking at them or not. Respect! There are certain times you have to make hard decisions. There are certain times that people will not like your style but the foundation of every human relationship, is respect. Showing respect whether the person is younger than you, older, senior, more junior than you, is the key to successful relationships.

In addition to that is Humility. There’s nothing that we have that we’re not given. The Bible accounts that “what do you have that you were not given”. So, what’s the reason for being proud? Reflect on it. In every relationship if humility undergirds your actions and interactions, you’ll have a successful relationship. Next is excellence. Whatever you do, put in your best and do it well. Standout! If there are five people standing here, you should be the best and the one that’s chosen because of your excellence. So, these are a few of my ideals in life.

TVM: Sitting at the top of affairs of an international brand like this simply connotes busy work-life. Describe how your typical day looks like?

MPA: Normally, it’s interesting and a mix of many things. I do a lot of travelling as part of my role, especially to our Group office in South Africa, to give account, participate in strategic sessions and also request for some support to help drive our strategy. Being part of a group also means there are a number of group decisions that can impact local operations; therefore, there are some networks that I’ve had to develop internally as well to be able to get things done easily.

However, when I am in Ghana, I’m the face of the bank so I represent the bank at a number of stakeholder functions, events and engagements. This also enhances the brand and makes it more visible. My roles also include dealing with customers, clients, the regulator and other important stakeholders like the government. Together with my colleagues, I go on customer visits and attend business meeting with our strategic partners to build and deepen our relationship and sometimes negotiate business deals.

The big part of what I do also is engaging with staff and working together with colleagues to create the kind of environment that’s conducive for the growth, development and progress of employees as well as the business. We create that together with unions, staff representations etc. I also engage with colleagues from Head office, branches, and across the entire business sharing our vision and strategy with focus on driving performance because our license for doing business is to remain sustainably profitable.

Lastly, being in charge of the business, I chair and attend several committee and adhoc meetings to understand the direction our business is taking and give a strategic guidance to keep it on track. So, I cannot predict completely what the day will bring except I have meetings lined up. Apart from scheduled appointments, I engage in all these things that will move the business forward; which maybe either planned or ad hoc to occupy my day.

TVM: What skill or expertise do you feel you’re still missing despite your position?

“Once you’re given a task, know that everyone is looking up to you to bring it to completion.”

MPA: Well, I’ve grown a lot in the role as the Managing Director. When I took over the role, to be honest, I was surprised at the reservoir of skills, strengths, competencies that I had acquired overtime. Therefore, from Finance Director to Managing Director, it almost felt as if that was what I was being prepared and groomed for all along. I just fitted in naturally and started running much to my surprise. I was a typical finance person and “cost, cost” was all people thought I knew and so they thought I’ll struggle with the engagement that comes with the breadth of interactions with being in a role as the Managing Director. But, I rose to the occasion and hit the ground running. The only thing that came as a bit of a surprise to me was how much media attention it came with. But, I’ve come a long way in my engagements with the media.

TVM: You averred your husband is your greatest cheerleader which is interesting to know. So, who is your role model, and why?

MPA: Yes, of course! He is my greatest cheerleader. In terms of role model, one of the things that a lot of us, growing up as ambitious females, missed was having the right role model. I recall my next door neighbor being Mrs. Sylvia Boye, who was the Head of Examination Council, inspiring me very early on in my life. Maybe, through my interactions with her, seeing her to be a strong female leader and being one of the few in those days, I probably unknowingly acquired from her the desire to standout and lead. It was an indirect and an unplanned sought of relationship. In retrospect, I can say she influenced my path towards female leadership and where I am today. Apart from her, I haven’t intentionally picked out anyone as a role model but broadly I see people doing great things and I aspire to be where they are.

TVM: What do you do in your leisure time?

MPA: I like spending time with my family a lot. By the nature of my work I spend a lot of hours outside home. I have a lot of engagements outside the office like accepting invitations to business events and other important functions. Travels, also take me away from home quite often. So when I have time on my hands I like to spend it with my family at home doing anything you can think of that mothers do, because I’m a wife and mother first before anything else. I’m concerned about their academics so I go through their school work with them. I travel with my kids, I shop with them, eat together and all the other things that families do. I’m also a very active person in church. So, I do a lot of church work as well.

TVM: Do you have hobbies or sport you engage or love most?

MPA: Not really. But I’ve tried golf couple of times, nevertheless, I cannot say I’m an avid golfer.

TVM: What genre of music do you listen to?

MPA: I like gospel music a lot. I also like inspirational things; things that uplift the spirit. So if the music is positive, inspirational then I like it.

TVM: What kind of a wife/ mother are you?

MPA: I love my family to the extent that I try to spend all the time that I have available with them. I’m the first they all call on when they are in some form of trouble. I think they value me as a mother or as a wife. I don’t want to mark myself and say I’m a good mother so I leave it at that. I know I’m not perfect but I try my best.

TVM: What advice and message would you give to Young Female Executives as well as aspiring female executives?

MPA: They should just focus on delivery and excellence and the rest will follow. In my personal experience, I have not felt that I’ve been discriminated against in my work place on the basis of my gender. If you ask many managers, heads of organizations or leaders, they will tell you that the most important thing is excellent delivery. And whether you are a woman or a man, once they can count on you to come to the table with the values you bring and contribute significantly to the performance of the organization, you will rise. So for my female colleagues out there, I think we are too consumed with being female. If you want to progress in any organization, go for delivery and show them how good you are and your being female will not matter!

TVM: What message would you give to Customers of the bank?

MPA: These are exciting times and we are on a growth trajectory. They should watch out as the story unfolds …we are bringing possibilities to life!

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Profiles

One thing that the oil money should have offered the nation is cheaper money for investment in agriculture – Dr. Abu Sakara Foster, Executive Chairman of Sakfos Holding

Published

on

The Role of Agriculture in Economic Development

TVM: What is your general assessment of the current state of the Ghanaian economy?

ASF: Our economy in its current state is one in which the essential transformation of its nature has still not happened. It is still an economy based primarily on production and export of raw materials and not one predominantly described as a value added economy. The service sector has grown but not by servicing Ghana’s industrial sector; it is rather servicing imports. So the nature of the economy really has not changed much. However, in terms of the performance of the economy, what you are seeing essentially is a stabilization of the currency, the building of our reserves, which basically has contributed to the stabilization of the currency and steadying of the national inflation. All this not withstanding, bank interest rates (generally above 20%) are still too high for many primary producers and manufacturing industry to maintain and expand operations competitively in the domestic market. Also liquidity is very, very tight!

On the latter point,  recent enforcement of rules in the financial regulatory sector has meant an even tighter squeeze on the liquidity of funds. This action is however indeed good in one way because it will help bring interest rates down to a more realistic level as entrepreneurs progressively turn towards incentives to do more sensible business and turn away from more risky businesses. But in the short term these measures have dried up access to funds from banks, as they themselves have struggled to find money quickly to meet their obligations with the central bank.

So in terms of macro economy, there is a good turn around in terms of the fact that you have a stronger foundation for improved performance mostly from improved fiscal management. But when I say foundation, I’m relating to the performance of the economy, not the structural nature of the economy per se. By and large, it is a more predictable economic environment; but in terms of evolution from one kind of “creature” to another kind of “creature”, we are still where we are, an economy based on production and export of raw agricultural produce,  raw minerals, raw timber, raw fish, raw unconventional products and crude oil even when we have a refinery. This is where then major challenge of our generation lies.

TVM: Ghana’s economy has been predominantly agric-led for decades. For about two decades ago, there was a boom in the service sector and its continuous growth has seen agriculture over taken. What in your view might have accounted for this?

ASF: Of course the growth in the service sector naturally means that somewhere in the total GDP pie, some other portion of that pie must give.  The reduction in agricultural sectors’ GDP contribution relative to the increasing size of service and manufacturing industry and the mineral mining industry does not necessarily mean that agriculture is doing badly. After all in the final analysis, we want to have the agriculture sector reduced as a portion of it’s contribution to GDP if the manufacturing sector grows in return. We want to have the manufacturing sector grow because it is based on growth of domestic productivity growth and will most likely increase jobs and incomes more significantly. However the service sector can do grow without much domestic productivity increase in fact it may hurt domestic productivity growth and stall our competitiveness in our own domestic markets. That is not any guarantee that increased service sector growth in economies such as ours will increase the good paying jobs for any sustained period. Ultimately the wealth has to be created from somewhere and that in our situation is mainly from transforming the primary to secondary processed products.

In my view the service sector can grow but by only as much as the manufacturing sector is growing and it is servicing the domestic manufacturing sector. But if the service sector growth  is only servicing imports and the manufacturing sector is not growing very much, while agriculture sector is declining, then that is a problem!! Because it means that we are actually going backwards in terms of progressive capacity to have a home grown economy that is more robust and less susceptible to external pressures.

The increase in income from the oil sector has also brought about a new dynamic in terms of proportions of GDP contribution by various sectors, including agriculture. The impact of oil income on national GDP is not perhaps as big as one will imagine, but it has certainly influenced growth of the service sector because we had no previous history of a service sector for the oil industry.

All this recent growth means little if there is no evolution of the economy.  Metaphorically speaking if you are an eight-year-old child and that looks the like the size of a teenager, it doesn’t mean you’re grown yet, it just means you have only expanded in size. The evolution has not yet occurred. So we need to look more closely at how agriculture is contributing to transforming the economy basically from a raw material producing economy to a more value added agriculture. We must also closely observe the changes in all the technological innovations that comes along with investment in agro processing. It is happening, but too slowly. It needs to happen at a faster rate to effect that sorely needed evolution.

 

TVM: As a country, we’ve kept believing that agriculture is the back bone of our economic development. But then, unfortunately, the hypothesis has been disproved by the continuous decline of the agricultural sector’s contribution to GDP. Should we still continue to bank our hopes on agriculture as the basis for economic development?

ASF: The hypothesis has not been disproved at all; and we’ve not been believing. If we really believed, it would have happened. And that is the exact problem with agriculture. We say that agriculture is the backbone of the economy, but then when it comes to the allocation of the pie of the budget to it, sometimes it gets less than three (3) percent, or even a tiny little amount. You don’t need to go to Harvard Business School to figure out that in trading, the thing that is bringing you the most money is the thing that you have to spend your money on, in order to turn over more of it, to make even more money.

 

TVM: What in your view do you think are the main challenges confronting the sector from achieving its maximum impact.

ASF: There are three areas. The first is in the area of national policy which creates the medium within which everything happens including agriculture. The second area is the limits of knowledge base within the sector. Finally there is the service industry associated with the agricultural sector that provides it with inputs and marketing of its outputs. If we take these three areas, all of them have different kinds of challenges.

The main challenge in the policy area is a dysfunctional democracy that is not closely allied with the real things that matter in the economy. We can’t blame politicians alone. They have to get elected. So they respond in short term ways that the populace will appreciate but ultimately are ways that are detrimental to real growth of the agricultural sector. For decades people have called for a reduction of rice importation by any and all means possible. However the same people will scream to the high heavens if rice prices went up a pesewa because tariffs on imported rice were increased. Ghana has also seen the rise of “middle class political activism” that demands more accountable government and better balance of trade to reflect growth in made in Ghana products of which processed agriculture products should have the lion share. However policy makers have encouraged and boasted about the mushrooming of shopping malls filled with mainly imported goods that are consumed by the same “activist” middle class. It appears the need to win elections has dulled the capacity of governments to act more firmly in favor of the national interest to stimulate growth in the domestic agricultural sector.

The second issue associated with national policy is conviction by the leadership. There needs to be a very firm conviction among leaders that agriculture can indeed work sufficiently to give us the take-off we need the next phase of our national economy.  This will make us commit to it for long enough to make it work. Leadership needs to convince themselves and the populace that we can and will make it work!! Every country that has successfully transformed their economy from an agricultural base at the end of their colonial period did so with a very strong commitment and sometimes with only a single single crop. The Malaysians that we admire so much did it with only palm oil. And yet we have palm oil, yam, gold and so many other things. Mauritius transformed an agricultural economy based on only sugarcane to a modern value added economy.  

Fortunately or unfortunately, because we’re blessed with so many good things, we have so many choices. We have consequently dissipated our efforts trying to exploit all of them at once as and when it dawns on us. It is like a drummer with too many drums in front of him and trying to drum all the drums at once. There has to be a coherent medium to long term plan and a focus beyond four year terms of office. In addition to a national focus and we need to learn to live according to our pocket, a good manager should always tries to live within their means. The country and its citizens are carrying too much debt. We need to renegotiate terms even as we  work our way out of debt. Our national debt is not insurmountable given our resource base and it is in our debtor’s interest to give us more conducive terms to work off our debt.

Talking about the knowledge base, we have to have a system where we start looking at the variety of crops that fit our farming systems rather than the mono crops we relied on during the colonial economy that is still with us in great measure. The truth of the matter is that we know a lot more than we are actually applying because our researchers have come up with different varieties that fit many more farming systems, crop patterns and types of farmers. This sometimes leads farmers to make the wrong choices by opting for technologies that they cannot sustain. It’s like choosing a BMW car over a Volkswagen car but you can’t drive faster than 60 km/h because you lack the skills and experience. In spite of that you still want to join in groups talking about the pros and cons of a Ferrari versus a Ducati.  Farmers need to be educated to choose the right technologies for their level of capacity and at the same time take advantage to upgrade their investments to match their capacity through extension and farmer to farmer learning. Farmers that opt for high end technologies beyond their capacity can be likened to ordinary drivers that choose to run a Ferrari car but do not have enough fuel, a good road to race on and also lack the skill to control a fast car in the first place. Just because collapse of farms are not as dramatic as car crashes does not mean that they have less of an important effect on the national economy.

Our operators themselves (the famers and value chain actors) need to assess their capacity and know-how relative to the investments that they can make. I don’t think our farmers are ignorant, they know a lot and they’re quite experienced. If a farmer is not using a particular technology, it is not always because he hasn’t heard about it, sometimes it is because he/she has figured out that it doesn’t make any more money. This is because our marketing system does not always give them sufficient incentives. Also, the transaction cost are so high that sometimes they leave significant portions of the products in the bush.  We need to resolve that through development of farm track roads and greater use of appropriate rural transport to reduce the costs of the first aggregations and homesteads and subsequently at village markets.

 

TVM: In this age of technology, how crucial is agriculture to our economic development

ASF: Agriculture is still very crucial because it must form the platform that serves as a foundation for take-off of our industrial and manufacturing sectors. Agriculture is also where we have the greatest comparative advantage.  However three things need to happen to establish this foundation in sufficient measure. First, we have to intervene to turn our comparative advantage in agriculture to a competitive advantage. We cannot go and start competing with producers of space technologies and all of that very high end stuff. We don’t have even have comparative advantage for that yet.

In Ghana, especially the northern part, we have in abundance arable land, surface and ground water and a varied climate suitable for many crops and livestock.  With good climate it is a question of choosing the right combination of crops, applying the right technology both in terms of the physical equipment and inputs, and also the management know-how. Then we can be competitive in the market place. If Usain Bolt was sat in his lazy chair all the time, he could have never been a world champion in spite of his great potential. He has to go out and train to realize the potential is already there. Our policy makers profess our great potential all too often but what are we doing to realize even a little of that great potential?

This is basically where we have to make more effort and a very deliberate effort at that!  Beyond effort in agriculture, other parts of the economy have to be tuned to support the agriculture sector as the main point of thrust for the economy. When we do that for a consistent period, we get to a stage where we lift the whole economy and then other sectors can then start growing to then exceed agriculture in their contribution to the economy.

TVM: Do we need to reinvent the wheel as other developing countries are doing by focusing on agricultural development as a basis for economic development?

ASF: I don’t think we need to reinvent the wheel. The matter is we haven’t pushed the wheelbarrow far enough to the stage where economies can take off. So we need to push the wheels more and faster to get to the stage where it agriculture becomes a foundation for other sectors to take off organically in synchrony and yielding the greatest synergies. The other Countries like Malaysia and Mauritius did not forget about agriculture and then come back to it. Instead they rode on the back of Agriculture. They developed agriculture first and then it formed the foundation for their investment in other sectors. Also we have to remember that one of the key things that we use for development is human resources. So we need to empower and retool the people for productive engagements. That is another important reason agriculture must come first, it helps build the technological innovation skills needed for the other industries. We have to build agriculture as a foundation first.

 

TVM: But then, the government has rolled out several policies to revamp the agricultural sector with the flagship of Planting for Food and Jobs. What is your take on this and do you see this programme succeeding in the long term?

ASF: I think it is going in the right direction. Of course, there are teething problems with it and there are major challenges. It’s success is contingent on the determination to ensure that the fundamental things that have normally failed previous programmes don’t fail this one. So we must all resolve not to let it fail. If there is a threat that there will be no funding for it, policy makers should to sit round the cabinet table and raise the money for it by taking cuts from elsewhere, it is as simple as that. Why? Because agriculture is what is driving the economy and it must take precedence over consumptive expenditure that does not bring immediate income.  That is the kind of leadership direction that we need for initiatives such as PFJ to succeed. The fundamental thing that it is addressing is the availability of seeds and fertilizers at farmers’ doorsteps, using our own local seed producers and fertilizer distributors. Of course some seed is still are being imported, but we hope that will change in time in favor of locally produced seed. It doesn’t just change overnight, nor will it happen without persistent effort and investment in local seed producers and seed systems. We don’t yet have the domestic capacity to meet our full seed requirement. We have to build seed production capacity alongside growth of effective demand to ensure that the seed business is financially viable. For a viable seed system the seed produced must be sold. If it is not bought, producers will reduce seed production and some seed growers may get out of the seed business altogether.

We must strengthen the seed distribution for farmers to be able to buy seeds at their door steps. This means that seed dealerships between seed producers and farmers must be tackled effectively as a national priority and maintained as a national asset. The incremental gains that will accrue as a consequence of the dealership system will exceed its value for access to seed and inputs alone. It can also serve as a point of interface for output markets and evolution of the remaining agro-industry. We need to make these seemingly simple things happen for our agricultural system to work sufficiently well to support interventions and programmes like PJF sectors to succeed. I believe we can do this and already the early signs of success are showing. PFJ will succeed if we don’t blow it by taking things and people for granted.

 

TVM: In Ghana, the old folks practice subsistence farming. Being the executive director of the Rural and Agricultural Development Associates, how can the rural folks be empowered to turn the woes of this sector into fortune.

ASF: I think first of all when you describe our agriculture; it is a composite of different types of farmers. You have the small scale farmers who are subsistent farmers. You have the emerging medium scale farmers that are people who have determined that agriculture is where they are going to make a living and extra money from. Then there are the commercial scale farmers who have decided that they are going to put their lives to it for big time returns to investment. So our agriculture has a spectrum of farmers like an accordion. It is not a one single thing or type of farmer.

Now, it is true that small scale farmers in the past have formed a large majority of where we get our food from and are also the majority in numbers. Together small scale farmers make more money than the medium and large scale farmers. This trend will not however stay as it is in future. If agriculture evolves as we expect it to, then as numbers of the medium and large scales farmers grow, small holder farmers’ numbers will decrease. Small-holder farmers won’t be eliminated all together. Instead the remaining small-holder farmers will become more efficient. Even if they are still on small-holder allotments, they will become more productive and efficient. What we expect to see is that the medium scale grows significantly and maybe the large scale will also grow in a highly specialized market driven manner. Irrespective of the variations and specializations of different types of farmers there exists a relationship between them. That relationship and interdependence will grow stronger through linkages to market networks so let us not divide them artificially.

TVM: You spoke about you knowing older people that started farming and they falling out, so how do we now get the youth to be interested in this? How can the state make agriculture appealing to the youth?

ASF: Agriculture has to be appealing to everybody. If it is not appealing to the old people, it will not be appealing to the youth. And the greater appeal about agriculture is not as a hobby. It is as a business. No one has ever asked how we can make shop keeping appealing to the youth. If you have the capital, you go there and you make your money just like any other business.

Agriculture is however not an easy business like sitting and selling in a shop. Agriculture involves a certain level of difficulty because of its specialized knowledge and physical involvement, especially when one does not have the right equipment and tools. So one of the ways we can make farming more attractive to people starting is to have service centers for tools, equipment and specialized know-how. This applies not just for the youth but also for other farmers and value chain actors because it reduces transaction costs for ownership of equipment and use of services. It also makes service providers more accessible to farmers and value chain actors in rural areas.

TVM: A few years ago you cautioned the nation to focus on the soil not the oil. Can you explain why you did say that?

ASF: When the oil started flowing we were all dreaming and salivating about how this oil was going to change the whole economy. I’m glad you’ve raised that question. We’ve seen the oil sector come and stay. So what has changed?  Not so much and that is why I said at that time, focus on soil not oil. It was on the basis that if we were to see a big transformation then what ever income was coming from that oil, should go into the soil! At least the interest from the saved oil income should go into the soil to address all these challenges we’ve enumerated above to give us that quantum leap we expected from a completed foundation in agriculture.

“One thing that the oil money should have offered the nation is cheaper money for investment agriculture.”

It should be used to make sure that we have the range and volume of seeds and equipment needed to make productivity higher on a big scale. We should not be relying on donor funds that may have their own priorities, areas of focus and limit on the scale of investment.  With sufficiently expanded scale of intervention in agriculture, would come many fold increased incomes from agriculture. Concurrent scale of investments of the cheaper money in improved agro processing would have also pulled up price incentives to sustain the production because higher profits from the added value goods can be shared as price incentives to sustain flow of raw materials to factories. Currently, operators have mills that are not getting enough rice because cost of financing operations greatly limits their capacity to share slender profits. The price structure of commodities across the entire value chain must be scrutinized to ensure a strong incentives for operators either as producers, farm service providers and aggregators. There are many jobs in agriculture apart from production.

The second thing I meant by that was, when you focus on the oil, how many people will be employed into that sector? How many towns can be touched by that sector? If you are not in Takoradi, you won’t know that there’s oil in Ghana. You don’t feel anything. But if we invest those monies in the soil and there’s soil everywhere in Ghana, the impact on people’s lives will be far more pervasive and we would have all felt it by now.

At the time, I said categorically that the best way of managing that money was to pretend we did not have it. In other words, all of it, not one drop should have been brought into the normal economy. All of it should have been kept out of the economy in an investment fund. And we only use the interest from that fund to reduce our rate and cost of borrowing. We could also fund specific turn key projects that are arranged in a hierarchical order of priority setting and they feed into each other. It would have helped us know just how much we take each year taking as chunk of money. In return for that money we must see at the investment period its end product and its value for money on the ground. For example if it is a railway we want to build to reduce transportation costs, we take the chunk of money and build the railway. We would not borrowed the money from anywhere and the railway is in place.

 

The Personality profile segment

TVM: When I started the interview, I did say a lot about who you are and your personality. When you go onto the internet you can read a lot about yourself but then it is always best to hear it from the horses own mouth. So who is Dr. Abu Sakara?

ASF: Well, I’m a family man.  I have been married for 36 going on to 37yrs with the same woman and I have four grown up children. The eldest is 35 years, the next is 32, then 29 and the last is 28yrs old. They are now adults, three ladies and one gentleman. We basically are a very close nucleus family and I’m also close with my extended family too. I come from a family of 22 children and 5 wives. We are the first generation of truly monogamous people but marriage in our culture is still predominantly polygamous.

I had initially had a village upbringing. I was born in Damongo but lived in Kpembi near Salaga for the first 6 to 7 years of my life. I grew up in my great grandfather’s house (the Sinbung royal household of Kpembiwura  Lanyor I). I learnt so much form the village life and my character benefited immensely from their culture of sharing and caring. Above all it left me with a strong identity and high self esteem.

My first crossover happened when I went to live with my father S.S. Sakara, the then Distrct Commisioner for West Gonja in Damango. Living with him in his European style bungalow with European accoutrements and affectations was very restrictive. I liked my freedom in the village  and felt like a prisoner in the bungalow life. But of course it had its benefits for learning academically and struggled to learn how to sleep in the afternoon, siesta!.

Then I went and visited my other cousins in Western Gonja who taught me the differences in culture between Western and Eastern Gonja, so I learned to become a cultural hybrid with capacity to cross over in accent and names of things. Capacity for cultural crossing over has been a major theme in my life. I have  lived between cultures both East and Western Gonja, African and European culture and Eastern and Westen Africa.

I  left for the UK when I was 12 years old. I went to school and grew there so I had to learn to live in that environment. When I became older I started travelling to other parts of the world like Latin America. My experiences have shaped who I am, because life is a sum of all our experiences.

 

TVM: You are one the few celebrated personalities in your field of endeavor. Was this what you always wanted to do?

ASF: When I was younger, I was very active. I was always dong one thing or another.  I initially struggled academically because I wasn’t paying enough attention but one day I was sat down by my foster parent and I learnt  and fell in love with the art of reading and that changed my world.

When I was in England I started doing a lot of sport and I got very much involved in judo. I rose very quickly through the belts and I won the England school boys at 15 years old. Later on I served the national judo team for the u16 and u18 at the same time. And when I was a bit older I was in the u18 and u21 men’s team at the same time. So that took a lot of my attention and at that time I thought my career was going to be in professional sport.

Unfortunately for me I tore a cartilage when we were at the Junior European championships in Bad hamburg, Germany in 1977 and I was required to take some time off and it came just at the right time because I was between 6th form and the university. As a matter of fact, I tried to overcome that and my attempt to get back quickly splitted the stitches so it took a longer time to recover. Thw long lay-off helped me make up my mind to actually go to the university because at the time, though I had a university placement at Reading, I hadn’t quite made up my mind to go yet.

I got into agriculture not because I made a deliberate decision in terms of career choice. It was simply because I had the sciences under control and that was the course that gave me an intercalated year abroad. So I was looking forward to this year abroad because when I saw the brochure, it was somewhere in the Philippines.   I thought if I do this course, I’ll get to go abroad for one year. So I chose the soil science course, only after the second year to find out that I had to win an award scholarship first.

I initially lost hope of going abroad because I didn’t think I had a fat chance of getting that Scholarship considering a student population of more than 18,000 at University of Reading at that time. But, my tutor was very insistent so he went and brought the forms and asked me to fill the forms and bring it back. I filled the forms and on the appointed day went to sit the examination for the scholarship. After leaving the examination hall I just took if off my mind because of the multitude of students that sat the examination.

It was a few months later when the result came to my surprise and I won it. The Dean called me to his office and asked me where I was going with the award? I wanted to go to the  Philippines but he advised IITA in Nigeria because he had been working in Nigeria as a researcher. So I after my seconds year at University I went off to Nigeria for one year as a research scholar.

When I came back to England, I was completely sure that I wanted a career in International Agricultural Development as a Scientist. So may career choice did not happen in a day. It took a period of two years. But by the end of that two-year period, I had submitted my research work and people had gotten to know me and I knew what international agriculture was about. After graduation, I applied for a post graduate training awards with ODA and went off to do my masters at Wye College London University and then off to Mexico for another year that turned out to be three years and  Ph.D. Since then I have been travelling with my work until I arrived in Ghana from East Africa via Washington.

 

TVM: You sought to become the president at some point in time. Given the opportunity for you to assume that position or that portfolio, what key things would you want to do as a president that would change or transform this country.

ASF: The way I’ll approach it is to ask: what can I do as an ordinary person? And then, what can I do as a president that I can’t do as an ordinary person? I will then as a President address those things that I cannot do as an ordinary person.

As an ordinary person, I’m within the policy environment created by others. All I can do is to try and do my best to make whatever I’m doing work well within the limits set by the policy makers. But as a President I can change the limits set by policy makers. This is especially true for developing countries where institutions are weak and policy is still maturing and not well defined. There is obviously less room for maneuver at ministerial level than at the presidency level where the President has the greatest influence toset that policy environment for everybody else.

We have institutions in Ghana and we shouldn’t belittle them because there are  in countries where they are almost non-existent. So I have great respect for our country and what we have achieved as a democracy of sorts. But nonetheless, we are a developing country, not a developed country. Sixty (60) years in the life of a nation is like six years in the life of a man. The countries we admire so much and try to emulate have been around for hundreds of years and yet we want to fly at the same pace. Yes, we can all aspire to shared values but the rate at which such values become an integral part of our society will differ. Values demand an understanding and common acceptance of certain ethics in the society. There is need a cultural adjustments take time to make between generations.

I think that there’s still opportunity to mold or shape our country in a different way along a different path. When I think of the role of a president, what is important is the opportunity to mold and shape the country not just for the present but more for the future. I’d like to be able to address those things that are fundamental to the system of governance, the architecture of our economy and the kind of society that we want to become. And these are three separate areas that all must be worked on in tandem with each other.

I think naturally, one will ask: “So what would you do differently?” For me, I perceive that you can be a president that presides over the most efficient incremental gains but you leave with nothing really fundamentally unchanged. Or you can be a president that seeks to restructure, recreate so that the country can have big quantum leaps thereafter. Those are big challenges. Of course it is not one or the other because there is a graduation in between the two options. One must however pitch camp decisively towards one of them as the totem pole for a presidency.

I think my desire to see some big changes and be able to count them off the tip of your palm is a driving force for any ambition I had to be president. I would definitely want to go with referendum agenda for governance (one six year term limit), organize Ghana into 25 regions as units for decentralized government and abandon the farce with local government a district levels, change nature of the economy (scrap export of unprocessed cocoa beans, timber, Gold and oil) and achieve self-sufficiency in rice production in five years and sugar production in 15 years. Ensure renewable energy for 20% of our energy needs and grow our jute (kenaff) for bags so that we can completely ban use of plastics as bags. And have a compulsory two year army service for all 18 to 29 year olds.

Normally when you ask people what they’ve achieved, they start mentioning so many things but many of those many things are not fundamental changes and will be swept away in the sands of time. This is not to praise the president because he’s my friend but when you look at what has transpired over this short period, what I like is that I can count some fundamental things.

  1. He has tackled a big challenge in the education sector at a fundamental level free universal education up to secondary level
  2. He has began the journey for change in architecture of governance by the creation of five new regions
  3. He has achieved a monumental task of peace in Dagbon which eluded so many for so many years. Yes many others were involved but without his steely determination it could have easily gone on for another five years.
  4. The progress with rail transversal rail transport and industries is too early to count. So I will hold back on that for the moment, the reopening of Obuasi mines not withstanding. We must wait for the commissioning of an oil refinery that stops export of our crude oil and a Gold refinery that stops the export od unrefined Gold and indeed makes it illegal.

 

TVM: The free education?

ASF: Yes the potential  impact of free secondary education is huge. Because free universal education to secondary level will restructure the numbers of people in education and it will have a long term impact if we do it well. It help to prepare Ghana to be able to absorb those people that will come off the farms and give them the  technological skills that we need to transform the economy in a significant way.

Secondly, the recreation of the regions will fundamentally change the architecture of governance in a sense that you will have 16 region. For example, in the Northern Region we had one region covering 30percent of the land mass of Ghana, now we have three regions having 10percent each. What it means is that it will bring the higher caliber of people that one needs at the regional level to stimulate the growth and development of the region.

Also is, the long standing Dagbon crisis which has now been resolved. Again I mention these only to highlight the fact that the hard things are the ones that are worth doing and they make the biggest difference.

TVM: Should Ghanaian still be considering you as a potential presidential hopeful?

ASF: That’s a difficult question to answer. I think if something is in your destiny, it will come to pass. I think every person that has a public spirit will answer that call if it comes to you, at the right time and in the right way.  As I said, for me what is important now is to focus on building a strong agribusiness as an example of what people in agriculture can do to help people in a qualitative way, not just a quantitative way; because if I don’t do that who else is going to that?

Above all, I think there are many people who can answer that call so at the right time, if we’re lucky and blessed, we’ll get the right person to answer that call, it could be me or it could be someone else, I don’t rule myself out. In the meantime I am doing what I advice all technocrats to do, excel in your area of expertise in the private sector if you can. I like the example of the proprietor of Asheshi University.

 

TVM: How would you describe your leadership style?

ASF: I am a fairly open person because I was brought up that way. I’m also somebody who believes in systems and their principles. I tend to find my patience with people who want to bend the rules is a little bit short. I believe very much that you can only make headway if you follow the principles.  One of the things I’m not very tolerant of is that in Africa, we believe the there should be different rules governing our conduct with regards to time, seriousness and morality as if the law of gravity doesn’t apply in Africa. Time is the same anywhere. Whether you are wearing a Rolex watch or a Timex watch, it is still the same time. Whether you are in Ghana or somewhere, same is the same  in its amount. We have to give time a higher value.

It is very important that our country works and follows systems that have been proven and tested. And my leadership style is always to make sure that I push people in that direction.

 

TVM: What kind of books do you read?

ASF: I like to read biographies of people that have achieved a lot. Their lives are very instructive and also gives one a firm conviction that if one persists, one will succeed. I think sometimes, reading about other people’s lives helps. I also read science fiction and mega trends in the world.

 

TVM: what genre of music do you like?

ASF: Generally, I like cool music. I also like cool jazz as well as modern music because I’ve children. I know what Busta Rhymes sounds like. Not that I like it much but I follow what is happening and of course I’ve seen the trends and the genres of new music coming.

 

TVM: If you had the opportunity to right a wrong, what would it be?

ASF: I am somebody who has always moved on. My attitude has not always been not to cry over spilt milk and that is one of the things my foster parents built in me. My frame of mind really is always getting on with the present and the future, so I don’t like to dwell too much on the past.

TVM: A lot of Ghanaians know you as a politician, an agribusiness entrepreneur, an agronomist, what else do you do?

ASF: That’s more or less the sum total of my life. If I’m in consultancy, it’s an agricultural and development consultancy. If I’m in politics, yes it’s about society but I would like to drive the emphasis on the role agriculture can play in shaping the country because I never let go of that part of my life. I don’t try to be something that I am not, you know, I think I have a fairly broad education that allows me to integrate sources of different knowledge and use it but when I want specialized knowledge, I go to the person who has it if I don’t have it.

 

TVM: In your lifetime now, what would you want to be remembered for, as your legacy?

ASF: My legacy would not be complete without being successful in agribusiness. Because, the intellectual and development part  of my career have been done. But I want it to be punctuated with tangible success in agribusiness as an entrepreneur. I want to leave that as my flagship of an intergenerational wealth creation industry. I want to be remembered for taking a successful risk with my own resources and savings  legacy to create not just a production industry but a processing industry that is sustainable over time. I want to be remembered for putting my money where my mouth was. I hope it will be successful, if it is it will be a real legacy. As you know it is important because we can decide that from today, we’re not wearing any make-up, we’re not buying any Brazilian hair anymore. We can even decide not to buy Lexus cars or not to wear expensive suits any more, BUT we can never say we won’t eat!

 

TVM:  Interesting, now with everything that you said, I would want you to advise the government, especially, on what to do to make agriculture more productive and make the economy benefit more from agriculture, make the sector more valuable.

ASF: The real issue about agriculture is that we must walk the talk. If I would give advise to anybody, I’d say walk the talk. Let’s not talk and we don’t walk. If you walk the talk, we know what we need to do and it’ll be done. But we cannot leave it for one person to do it because that person needs help and we have to make sacrifices in other areas for it to happen.

 

TVM: How about advice for the youth and your parting message for Ghanaians?

ASF: To the youth, they should decide what they want to do; decide where their passion is, cultivate their skill set and the relevant industry experience. Rise to the zenith of their profession and then get into policy making to expand their impact. Also, they shouldn’t believe that certain things are not achievable either because they don’t have money or they come from a certain background; the human potential is vast.

The opportunity to change, the opportunity to adapt, the opportunity to overcome are always there for the taking for the person who has the courage to dare. So be somebody who dares. Don’t accept the status-quo. Push the boundaries and I’ll say for African youth that is very important because our societies are changing but not necessarily in the way we want them to change. We are subject to so many influences and we’re copying many things we shouldn’t copy, but find out who you are. Interrogate yourself: who am I? You cannot be who you are separate from your cultural identity. Put faith in your character not your degree. Don’t be rude and arrogant because it is fashionable. So just build your identity, character and passion.

 

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending