An inspiring purposeful afternoon with Kofi Annan.

· His art collections and auction to benefit Mfantsipim.

The words of Chinua Achebe [1930 – 2013] resonated on that inspiring occasion: “When there is a big tree, small ones climb on its back to reach the sun.” The African sage and Nobel Laureate was to add that “You cannot plant greatness as you plant yams or maize … The great tree chooses where to grow and we find it there, so it is with the greatness in men.”

Kofi Annan’s trajectory speak to the spirit of Mfantsipim – from its infant years – when the intentional minded Irish [headmaster from 1925 – 1936], Rev R.A. Lockhart, envisioned that one day the world will be astounded by the greatness of some local Gold Coast boys who will be transformed and propelled into towering heights in the global arena. In the fashion of Alex Quaison Sackey [1924 – 1992], who was to become the first African ever to preside over the United Nations General Assembly after the birth of Ghana, Kofi Annan serves as a most eloquent exemplar of that vision today.

kofi annan

In an address to the schools and colleges in December 1969, another alumnus, Ghana’s Prime Minister Kofi Busia said, “the best test of an educated man is the width and breadth of his heart … the kind of sympathy which makes him do something for others to alleviate suffering [and] extend opportunities for others to live happier, nobler lives.”

Kofi Annan’s collection of artworks for the exhibition and auction were to serve that “happier, nobler” purpose for the school on whose hearth he was raised, having graduated in 1957, at the dawn of Ghana’s independence. The personal collection was part of the many tokens of affection and support he received over the years from around the world, which have helped and sustained him. He said, “I have always been touched by the thoughts accompanying them. The gifts hold a special place in my heart and so does Mfantsipim School which helped prepare me for the journey.” He donated the collection to benefit the students of today in the hope that the revenues from the auction will support and encourage them as they embark on their own journeys with their own hopes and dreams.

Moba Ebusuapanyin

Captain Paul Forjoe (Rtd) [Moba 73], the brain behind the Ebusuapanyin Lunch (which premiered at the Kempinski Hotel, 10th August, 2017) declared that the event was to continue as a yearly fund raising event to support the school in two ways. He said, “The first is to create a unique and much anticipated annual event that engages corporate bodies and discerning patrons in a forum that provides networking opportunities and discussions of national relevance over lunch with an internationally respected personality.”

Ebusuapanyin Captain (Rtd) Paul Forjoe

The second purpose was to raise money for the school’s Endowment Fund. The growth of the fund over the coming years is expected to be a significant vehicle to support the school in diverse ways. It was the hope of the Ebusuapanyin that the vision of MOBA National – as the pre-eminent network for all Mfantsipim alumni – is to become a unique standard setting brand for all alumni associations in Ghana. He said, “It is our prayer and hope that other alumni associations would emulate our efforts.”

The event was chaired by Dr Andrew Arkutu (Moba 55), a former Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, and later a technical adviser to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Ambassador W.G.M. Brandful (Moba 69) with a life of 35 years as a French speaking career diplomat assigned to Benin, Germany, Mali, Zambia and Japan, and author of “Personal Reflections of a Ghanaian Foreign Service Officer” – served as the master of ceremony. In attendance was former president J.A. Kuffour.


Dr. Andrew Arkutu 


Ambassador W.G.M Brandful

Leadership and Public Service

The lunch and interaction with Mr Annan evolved around his address, “Leadership and Public Service”.  He preluded the speech with an encounter with the then Russian ambassador, now minister of foreign affairs Sergey Lavrov, who admonished the new secretary general Annan by joking that in the Bible God created the whole world in only six days but Annan had failed to reform the UN in six weeks. To which Mr Annan responded, “Yes, but God had a distinct advantage; He worked alone, without the Security Council.”

On a serious note, he said the year of his graduation from Mfantsipim, 1957 “was a time of immense hope for Ghana, and for Africa as a whole … Heroic young African leaders like Kwame Nkrumah and Gamal Abdel Nasser were prevailing over Western colonialism and showing a bold and articulate face of Africa to the entire world … Monumental change became possible, and Africans were its catalysts.”

He lamented that every year these days, “it hurts and shocks me to see thousands of our young people drown in the Mediterranean in search of a better life, because they do not think it is possible at home. It is profoundly disturbing to see so many Ghanaians included on the 2017 counts of migrants who attempt to make the dangerous crossing across the sand and sea to seek a new life in Europe.”

“More than ever,” he continued, “we must harness the potential of our youth. [The] key to our continent’s ability to chart the turbulent waters ahead will be the quality of our leadership.” To a question, he advised that, one is never too young or old to serve. Nasser of Egypt was 38 years old in 1956; Nkrumah was 48 years in 1957. [Rev Martin Luther King was only 39 years when he died.] But he rebuked the tendency to avoid action and say “Fama Nyame” [to wit, Leave it to God]. In his view, we tend to be a bit too tolerant and too respectful. At the very least we need to help God to help us. Don’t leave it all to Him.

[“The Kofi Annan collection” will be seen at BERJ Art Gallery, No. 7, Third Norla Street, Labone, Accra from 17th – 31st August, 2017. Mr Annan opens the event on 17th August 2017 @ 3:00 pm.]

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Art for auction

The absolute imperative for intentional minded agriculture and agri-business.

  • Some supportive responses from readers.

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Speaking on agriculture at the West Africa Fertilizer Agribusiness 2017 conference at Movenpick, Accra

The Daily Graphic (August 4, 2017) headline, “Ghana’s high rice imports: AfDB decries $400m annual bill” is a noteworthy serendipitous response to last week’s column where I referenced the miraculous rice fields of Thailand. The Graphic headline quoted the president of the African Development Bank, Akinwumi Adesina: “Ghana absolutely has no business at all importing rice. You are spending US$400 million a year importing what you should be exporting.”

Year after year, Ghana’s lack of leadership foresight to come to grips with that common sense reasoning is mind boggling. The responses to last week’s column were so numerous, I have selected a few to share with readers. The first one read as follows:

“Thank you my brother for this hard truth. I read your article with tears in my eyes and my head heavy with thoughts. I remember the Operation Feed Yourself and the Green Revolutions with its associated backyard gardens. Hmmm, I wonder everyday where we are heading as a country?”

Agriculture and jewellery in Thailand

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The miracle of rice fields in Buddhist Thailand

Another said, “Great article. It particularly hit home because I too have visited Bangkok and the real back story is that the King of Thailand is a very educated man and his love of agriculture and his leadership in that area is what spurred Thailand into becoming an agricultural heavy weight. So as your title states, their success was ‘intentional’. But that just goes without saying because the success of advanced economies in every area of endeavor has been based on ‘intention’.

“I was even more fascinated by the Thai precious metals industry. When I landed I was approached by a government sponsored tour guide who convinced me to purchase a tour package, which made sense because I was only there for 3 days. They dropped me off at my hotel and came back that evening to be taken to a tailor shop (at his suggestion) …

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Galamsey destruction of Ghana’s natural vegetation

“Then check this, the next day he picked us up to where they make their jewellery. First they showed a movie of the history of precious metals in their country and the different kinds of sapphires and rubies. And at the end, we exited into a room full of jewellery and stones where they served us free champagne as we browsed looking for something we could take with us. Who wouldn’t buy? And as I experienced this I thought about Ghana and our missed opportunities with [our gold and diamonds].

Needed: vision and creativity

“Problem in Ghana is that we think that if someone has graduated from school particularly with an advanced degree or schooled and worked abroad or for the United Nations or World Bank somehow that qualifies to them to lead. The truth is, and it bears saying, that many of these people were and are just cogs in the machinery, just that some are higher level cogs in a machinery not of their own creation but technicians simply trained to stoke the fires of the engines, so that the real owners can turn their attention to more creative ownership matters and enjoyment of their wealth.

“But to expect them to have vision or a spark of creativity or genius is not forthcoming. The new crop of leaders and visionaries, though they exist, are turned off by the dirty politics. The political appointments are not given to the creative types with the knowledge and vision to make things happen.”

Frequent flying ministers and government officials

Yet another reader responded, “Anis, you travelled that far out on your own to appreciate this phenomenon, ‘the specter of hectares and hectares of lush green rice and other agricultural fields in Bangkok’.  Human beings did this! The sad part is that there has never been a year since our independence when we did not have a Minister of Agriculture and other Senior Government Officials in the other sectors of the economy. All these people are frequent flyers, freely attending conferences everywhere in the World.

“The see it all: the serious and disciplined efforts to do the right things in some of the developed (and sometimes not so developed) countries they visit. They come back and fail to replicate any of the good things they saw elsewhere. I am of the view that the Airport Press, must be empowered to stop and speak to every Minister / Senior Government Officials on their return from these Workshops and Conferences for them to tell Ghanaians about the lessons they learnt on the trips and how they intend to implement aspects of these in Ghana. In the absence of these feedbacks / reports to Ghanaians, these trips become essentially costly holidays and a drain on our poor economy. Our leaders must be fiercely competitive.”

Conclusion: Isaiah 54:2

So the question is simply this: “Is this as good as it gets? Are we going to re-think, act intentionally and get better, or is this it?” If African nations must be led to change, this must be the question the leaders must ask of themselves every blessed day. Eradicating poverty requires commitment and persistence. That is what it takes to stretch and lengthen opportunities for greater prospects.

It’s worth remembering and acting on the possibilities from this verse from Isaiah 54:2; “Enlarge the place of your tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of your habitations: spare not, lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes; for you shall break forth on the right hand and on the left [for you and your] descendants”.


Intentional minded agriculture and agri-business

· A most serious imperative for Ghana and Africa

Genius is a result based obsession. Flying over Thailand, about to land in Bangkok, the specter of hectares and hectares of lush green rice and other agricultural fields – some in eye-catching geometric order – is nothing short of a man-made miracle. The lush fields are no wishful miracles from heavenly prayers, nor lazy incantations for free lunches propagated by profiteering prophets; it is the very effort of a cultivated intentional mindset of a people and a country intent on eradicating poverty and succeeding.

Lush green agric
Lush green agriculture in Thailand

Without doubt, the specter must be most pleasing in the eyes of God. A profound miracle made by man! Effort and commitment demonstrate classic examples of how the Almighty – no matter one’s religion – helps those who help themselves!

Similarly, veering off the Pacific Coast Highway, on route to the Silicon Valley in California, the lush agricultural terrain – sporting rows and rows of marketable crops and greenhouses – attest to the fact that God truly appreciates people who take care of their own practical needs.

Huge agricultural lands idle in Ghana

On the home front, a little while back, on a Starbow flight to Tamale, for a teacher training session in the north, the sight of miles and miles of good arable land with rivers in between, lying idle season after season, is an indictment on the mindset of a nation bragging about its independence, but in serious debt from over borrowing. Add to that deplorable specter the wastage from the galamsey operators and a key question prevails: Has the nation had true leaders after over sixty years of independence?

Such were the concerns expressed in my presentation preluding a panel discussion on the role of the youth in agriculture. The conference at the West Africa Fertilizer Agribusiness 2017 (Movenpick Ambassador Hotel, 10-12 July 2017) had attracted many key international players. I noted that in 1957, at St Peter’s elementary school on the Roman Hill, Kumasi, we each had a small plot of land on which we cultivated vegetables: tomatoes, peppers etc, on Fridays.

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Anis Haffar

The role of the youth at school sites

It was quite ironic that in secondary schools that had much larger pieces of land to continue the interests some had accrued as small boys to feed themselves, Latin and Greek had replaced and dimmed the initiatives in practical agriculture.

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Possibilities of rice production in northern Ghana

Does it make sense that students in both secondary and universities are able to secure As in Agricultural Science on paper, and yet are unable to grow tomatoes and other vegetables in the schools to supplement their daily nutritional needs, or complement the school feeding programs in the country? The anomaly raises obligatory notes for the nation’s curricular developers, policy wonks, and schools that it is time to sound out new prospects for examinations that test candidates not by what knowledge they can memorize or rehash, but how they create products of value through purpose and initiative.

Such possibilities may sound far-fetched. They may draw apprehensions of various hues from managers of the status quo, but they are worth mulling over now than ever before. The proper approaches will, without doubt, distinguish functional literacy from rote learning. When minds move into action, the youth respond. For education to be handy in Africa, academics have to merge with applications.

Agriculture to end Africa labour and poverty challenge

In his delivery, Pierre Brunache, Chief Agri-Business Officer, African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP), said, “For Africa to help its people create wealth and end youth unemployment, many individuals and institutions believe that investing in and modernizing agriculture hold the key.”

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Pierre Brunache

He said, “Starting with going into market-driven agriculture, precision farming is based on the demand of the various facets of the market … The only thing that is going to help reduce poverty, I prefer wealth creation, is when you start going into market-driven agriculture.

“Now when the information starts flowing through the value chain that is where you are going to be able to have proper businesses that will take people out of poverty and help them to create wealth and at the same time guarantee productivity.

“The capacity of agriculture to be the game changer in Africa has never been in doubt owing to its fertile lands with input companies beginning to turn attention to the region, to help African farmers increase their yields as well as create jobs in the sector through the adoption of modern agronomic practices.”

Agriculture as inputs for industry

Brunache advised that “The other aspect is not to think about agriculture as food only. You have cosmetics, which is agric. Shea butter, nim oil which is all agric, and you also have pharmaceutical commodities that come from agric … To be able to create the type of commodity that the market has asked for, you will know how many jobs will be created or how many people you are going to employ.”

He projected that with these done, there are going to be jobs created even through distribution of inputs alone [including fertilizers] at the plants to blend it; going down to the farmer with the mechanized equipment; to do soil testing; to help with post-harvest losses among other activities.”

Brunache believes there is also great potential in the post-harvest side supply chain management to transport the goods to the warehouse, to conduct traceability test, to transport processed goods to the warehouse or to a hotel or to restaurants, to hospitals or schools or to supermarkets. He urged African governments to invest in building the right kind of capacity.