A sense of purpose and lifelong learning

·  An address at Academic City College’s 7th graduation ceremony

A message – purportedly posted at a certain university – was sent to me on Whatsapp. It read: “Destroying any nation does not require the use of an atomic bomb or the use of long range missiles. It only requires lowering the quality of education …” It cautioned against low standards: “Patients die at the hands of such doctors. Buildings collapse at the hands of such engineers. Money is lost at the hands of such economists & accountants. Humanity dies at the hands of such religious scholars. Justice is lost at the hands of such judges … The collapse of education is the collapse of the nation.”

[The gas explosion at the Atomic Junction (Accra, 7th October, 2017) is a most gory case in point. The lack of qualified supervision in the delivery and storage of such explosive materials confirms the need for the appropriate education for all across the whole chain of service delivery. That caution goes for every service provider – from big government officials to the wayside mechanic fitting brakes on vehicles.]

The value of good education

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Africa’s new graduate for the real world

It was an honour to have been invited by Academic City College (ACC) to address the 720 graduands at the College of Physicians and Surgeons [Accra, October 7th 2017]. In the company of Dr Kapil Gupta and Dr Abhishek Tyagi of the Governing Council of ACC, Professor Paul Buatsi, the rep of Nigeria’s High Commissioner to Ghana – H.E. Olufemi Abikoye, and Professor Abdulai Mohammed-Sani, my address to the graduands went as follows:

Congratulations for clearing a hurdle that is likely to be the most important challenge so far in your young lives. I remember how I felt, many decades ago, having finished the last paper towards my first degree. I was driving home on the freeway in Los Angeles, screaming and thanking God that it was all over for now.

It took me a while to complete all the requirements for the reason that I had to take breaks in between terms to work, to make enough money to pay the school fees. There was hardly any menial job I didn’t do to accomplish the task of paying the fees. I learned through manual work that a good education included the discipline and ability to take care of one’s own self. That principle shuns the folly of expecting others to do for you what you could do for yourself.

Lifelong learning

But my real business here today is to congratulate and remind you – through my personal experiences – that there are more hurdles ahead of you; and they have to be cleared, one by one. In other words, though you seem to have finished now, you are still not finished completely.

Let me share with you three essential things for your journey outside these walls. The first one is something called LIFELONG LEARNING. No sooner have you learned something than something else – more modern and more applicable – appears. As I speak to you, I recently turned 70 odd years – the biblical “three score and ten”; and know that I am studying more today than I ever did. Why? Because I have to keep up with new ideas, new ways of thinking, and new ways of getting things done.

A sense of purpose

The next point, then, is to HAVE A PURPOSE: a sense of purpose is that which will drive you the rest of your life. And if you don’t have a purpose now, find one. It is that purpose that will attract good things to you, but you have to work for them. There’s nothing in the world like a free lunch. The so called miracles you hear about from prophets can be misleading; good things do not just happen in a vacuum of indolence; you have to work daily for them; they don’t happen through mere prayers.

The American writer, Arthur Miller, once said, “The world is an oyster, but you don’t crack it open on a mattress.” In other words, whatever you want, you have to work for it.

So how do you find a purpose? Consider the following: What is the product you can produce as a result of your education and interests? What is the service you can provide for other people to make their lives easier? And again, what societal problem can you solve as an entrepreneur, and hopefully become rich in the process? It’s never too early or late to begin to ask yourselves these key questions even if you don’t have the answers now.

Be the very best

My last point is simply this: Whatever you find yourself doing – whether for yourself or for someone else – do it to THE BEST OF YOUR ABILITY by going the extra mile. In the process, you learn the right habits of leading yourself. Yet another way of saying that same thing is to exemplify that thing you will be known and respected for.

In whatever you choose to do, do it so well that you become a brand in your own right. You deserve to be recognized as someone special in the noble deeds you choose to do. Be the “Go to person”. If not you, who? If not now, when?

On that note, congratulations for a well-deserved accomplishment. Take good care of yourselves, and I wish you all a most productive and enjoyable life. God bless you!

Email: anishaffar@gmail.com

Blog: http://www.anishaffar.org

 

 

Empowering the nation through digital literacy.

· United Way and IBM offer to help the Zongo communities.

This is our moment in time to shine to become more than what we thought we could ever be; this is the nation’s time with destiny to be free of illiteracy in all its forms. In promoting World Literacy Day 2017 (at the Muslim Counselling Centre, Kawokudi Park, Kanda, Accra, September 7, 2017), this thought was racing through my mind in my address to the Imam, chiefs, elders, and parents of the Zongo community on “The role of digital literacy in realizing one’s potential”.

September 8th was proclaimed International Literacy Day by UNESCO in 1965. This year being the 50th year celebration, the program was planned to encourage people to appreciate literacy and adult learning in a digital world.

Digital education for global citizens

It was a great honour to have shared the dais with the chairman of the Zongo chiefs, Chief Imoro Baba Issah, his vice Chief Osman Jackson, Mrs Alhassan Andani, and Angela Kyerematen-Jimo, the country general manager for IBM. What a delight it was to have met Angela, a proud product of both Wesley Girls High School and Achimota, and the first woman in Africa to be appointed managing director of IBM!

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The writer with the chiefs and elders of the Zongo community

Generally, literacy is the ability to read, write, speak and listen in a way that allows one to communicate effectively with others. I noted that the ability to write and read especially in this digital era is key to being both a national and a global citizen. One can be as eloquent as kings’ and chiefs’ linguists; however, without the ability to read, write or share one’s ideas, we leave scant reflections of our thoughts and deeds for posterity.

Additionally wider communities everywhere needed to be sensitized to appreciate and advance the skills to use digital tools among students, teachers, government officials, civil society, and so on.

Protecting children

Of course, there are legitimate concerns about the uses and abuses of IT everywhere, even as they relate to children. That creates the necessity to educate teachers and other stakeholders to guide children with the discipline and protocol in using the internet and social media. Access to a world of information and ideas is the order of the day for every country, without exception. Countries that have succeeded first taught and guided children with the discipline and the appropriate behaviors in the uses of IT.

IT facilitates problem solving abilities and creates a lifetime of opportunities to develop the gifts and talents of everyone. It was so refreshing to hear the elders themselves express the desire for their generation to be taught those skills which I shared my interest to partner with IBM Ghana to do.

United Way Ghana

United Way Ghana is dedicated to supporting individuals and communities to achieve their potential through quality education. Considering the busy state of Zongo communities on Fridays, it scheduled its event on Thursday 7th September, a day earlier, to enable maximum participation by community members. The main objective was to increase the awareness and importance of IT in education, and to help redirect the negative use of digital devices to laudable causes. It sought to empower children to use technology to improve basic education in East Ayawaso, and to sensitize community members to appreciate the role of IT in improving basic education.

United Way’s volunteers were to engage the children in various activities and talk with them about learning to become proficient in technology and skills that could lead to rewarding careers and futures. The focus was to include a seminar on the advantages in the use of digital devices; launching on to the internet with little or no assistance based on the childrens’ grade levels; a demonstration on how to use the online search engine and office application tools; exposing the children to online resources (courses, books, templates, etc); and opening up a social media account using a digital device.

This year’s World Literacy Day event was an opportunity to advance the knowledge of digital tools among young people and expose them to digital processes they can employ to improve learning and research in deprived areas.

IBM Ghana and CoderDojo

CoderDojo is an initiative by the CoderDojo Foundation based in Ireland with the vision to promote ICT and encourage learning and development in a fun, friendly, safe, supportive, and enjoyable environment. [Check information about the CoderDojo Foundation: https://coderdojo.com/]

IBM Ghana CoderDojo started as part of the company’s goal to champion the advancement of ICT skills in Ghana which is in line with the “IBM Africa Skills Initiative” aimed at enabling the existing and future African workforce to develop skills in the new disruptive technologies.

Since October 2016, IBM Ghana has run weekly coding classes at the IBM Ghana Office, which have been attended by local children aged between seven (7) to seventeen (17) years. The training is conducted in partnership with IBMers in Ireland and in Ghana.

These students, referred to as the Ninjas, are trained in basic programming and coding languages like HTML, JAVA, CSS, etc. The company’s aim is to extend this to under privileged kids and to this end the 3rd session of the coding classes commencing in October 2017 will include kids from the Nima in the Ayawaso East Sub Metro of Accra.

(Email: anishaffar@gmail.com)

Exploring opportunities in entrepreneurship.

· A final year capstone course at Ashesi University.

It was an honour to have been invited by Dr Sena Agbodjah Agyepong for a panel session with her cohort on opportunity spaces in entrepreneurship, and to “charge students to be disruptive as they think opportunity” (30th September 2017). Sena and I shared a faculty office when I taught Leadership Seminars at Ashesi University, so that request was my command. I was to meet on the panel the young brilliant Ekow Mensah – a serial entrepreneur named one of the “50 Most Influential Young Ghanaians”.

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(From 3rd left front row) Dr Sena Agyepong, Anis Haffar, Ekow Mensah.
Kojo Botsio (1st right, second row)

“What is Your Mission?”

To begin the conversation, I entreated the students to consider what each might ponder as a mission based on the following definition: “A Vision is what you see through an imaginary window; it starts in the head. A Mission is what you do; how you get there on your feet.”

The definition is aptly supported by a call for Africans to be diligent problem solvers, active doers, suggested by James Kwegyir Aggrey in the 1920s, when he charged the intellectuals of his day: “I don’t care what you know, show me what you can do.”

Re-iterating the importance of education in creating problem-solvers, I contrasted a 2015 article that bemoaned the high number of unemployed graduates in Ghana, with a later response article that asked these “unemployed graduates” to be problem solvers.

Three key educational outcomes

A meaningful education at every level must answer three key questions: One, “Is there a product you can foresee and produce?” Two, “Is there a service you can provide?” and Three, “What is a societal problem you can solve with your education?”

The United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provided a generic list of problem areas and targets that demand efforts not just from governments and corporations, but from individuals to step up and provide their support through entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship, and advocacy.

The focus of the “One District One Factory” initiative served notice that every district in Ghana is well suited for value addition in the endowment peculiar to that area including agriculture. With scientific methods these days, one does not necessarily need a huge piece of land. Greenhouses in parts of California’s San Joaquin Valley towards the Silicon Valley, and southern Africa attest to the efficiencies of small scale profitable ventures in vegetables, legumes and horticulture, as examples.

In Ghana, we are not to be pitied

Poverty must never be suggested to the youth considering the rich potential of this wonderful country. Some global exemplars put the nation’s efforts to shame. Why import foodstuffs when rice, chicken, tilapia, legumes and various nuts, for example, can be farmed locally for local employment and profits? Other examples include dairy farming to produce milk, cheese, butter, yoghurt, and so on, as done in California, Wisconsin, Denmark, etc. Equally deserving of attention is the focus on the districts to include cotton production for textiles, school uniforms, female sanitary towels, backpacks; and also corn for corn flakes and syrup, animal feed, and beverage supplements.

Ekow Mensah’s Success Formula

Ekow Mensah confessed his proclivity for mathematicising everything, as he shared what he calls his Success Formula for entrepreneurship: (Awareness + Knowledge + Skills + Experience + Networks) divided by Time, and all multiplied by (Health + Ethics) = Success.

In stressing the importance of Time in this Success Formula, Mensah cautioned that Time is the denominator in this equation, and so the more of the other factors you have, the less time you spend in executing your idea in order to maximize success. He added that the global economic system and the large digital world we live in today “pays for expertise, [so aim to] become the best at what you do.” He hailed Ashesi’s honour code as imbibing the Ethics factor into students, the future business people and political leaders.

Adding value means making your product “more accessible and cheaper”. And it’s important in building partnerships and networks since people are willing to share in your vision and ideas, and corporations are willing to give you money “if you have the right structures in place.”

Papa Kojo Botsio

Papa Kojo Botsio [a grandson of Kojo Botsio of “the Big Three”, alongside Kwame Nkrumah and K.A. Gbedemah on the dawn of Ghana’s independence on the Accra Polo grounds] concluded the session. During his undergraduate years at Swarthmore College – the same liberal arts college that produced Patrick Awuah, Ashesi’s founder – there was a lot of inspiration for beginning initiatives to find practical solutions to various pressing social issues. He identified his passion in Education during those years.

It often discouraged him to discover that other people were solving problems he had identified, but later he realized that there are enough people to be impacted in any chosen problem area, even if you are not pioneering solutions in that field. He mentioned the importance of experience in a field and learning faithfully and deeply in a specific area. Having been inspired by working in the Graduate School Recruitment Office of Cornell University during his Masters program, he’s now set to do a Ph.D to focus on addressing the limited access to higher education for economically and socially vulnerable students in Ghana. Botsio intended to influence policy internationally and locally in that regard.

Students’ takeaways

The students cited the following takeaways from the discussions that fruitful morning:

  1. Be the best in your field or be the “Go-to person”.
  2. Let your business be simple and easily accessible.
  3. Look to serve other people.
  4. Be exponential. Turn your passion into compassion for the many.

(Email: anishaffar@gmail.com)

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.”

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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.

 

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Dr. Andrew Arkutu 

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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.]

 (Email: anishaffar@gmail.com ) 

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”.

(Email: anishaffar@gmail.com)

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.

Possibilities rice
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.

(Email: anishaffar@gmail.com)

 

“Why some nations are rich and others poor!”

·  Time for Ghana to usher in The Age of Digitisation.

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A workshop in Kumasi to update principals in ICT

One of the key questions fit for the purpose of education in this age was launched in no better place than in the Ghana Education Service (GES) syllabus. Serving as a preamble, the syllabus charged teachers to consider the reasons “Why some nations are rich and others poor!”

I stand ever ready to give a monumental hug to whoever had the visionary mind to put that gem in the syllabus. In training teachers in Ghana, that query happened to be my very first port of call, knowing darn well that the cognitive abilities of human beings are the same across the continents. It’s all about how each nation chooses to organize their affairs and manage their time, considering that all countries have 24 hours in a day.

Today’s column is the final instalment of Moses Baiden’s classic keynote address at the Ghana CEO Summit 2017, Kempinski Hotel, Accra, 22nd – 23rd May, 2017. Many thanks to readers for the positive responses so far. Baiden’s address follows:

The four industrial revolutions

The 1st industrial revolution in the late 18th and early 19th century saw the shift from a rural agricultural economy to an industrial one. It was the advent of textile, iron, coal and the steam engine. The world economy expanded exponentially and dramatically.

The 2nd industrial revolution took off late in the 19th century and continued into the 20th century: Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone, Thomas Edison’s light bulb and phonography, Thomas Newcomen’s steam engine, the Wright brothers’ plane, and many other inventions created brand new industries.

In these 1st and 2nd industrial revolutions, spanning over 300 years, Africa and Ghana did not participate meaningfully. First, we were busy fighting amongst ourselves, and later selling off our enemies, and sometimes our friends, into slavery for short term profit. The most visible negatives were the inferiority complex and a stigma with our colour that persists up to today!

The 3rd industrial revolution departed from the mechanical, electric and analogue systems, devices, and products; it ushered in the computer age. From the 1980s, this age saw the emergence of personal computers and then the internet, which created the Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) age.

This 4th industrial revolution – the Age of Digitisation – is the mother of all revolutions and will alter the world fundamentally and dramatically. As a country and as businesses we need to carve out a sound vision and be deliberately involved in a major way.

The digital revolution in Ghana

Let me use a familiar cliché – Government has to ‘create the enabling environment’ so that digital companies can be created right here in Africa, in Ghana. Mr. President, the CEOs of this country – and I think I speak for all of us – would like you to declare a new age of enlightenment defined by vision, passion, values, patriotism and the national interest to create an ethical, meritocratic, transparent, professional, digital, open and performance driven environment in Ghana.

This environment must promote the capable, the knowledgeable, the passionate, the hardworking and the diligent; the pursuit of efficiency and productivity will attract the brightest and the best to Ghana and keep them in Ghana to give birth to the great digital entrepreneurs. We have to expand our economy and move it to the first world. Policy, law and education are needed to create the digitised environment and cultivate the minds of our children and adolescents with the right content, discipline and orientation for the 4th Industrial revolution: the digital revolution.

Politre-preneurs and Tender-preneurs

One of the most significant statements that you have made is that your government is open for business and to promote the private sector. Your proclamation that public service is public service – and people wanting to make money should join the private sector and not your government – is new, fresh and significant indeed. An economy that is based on “politre-preneurs” and “tender-preneurs” will not create any lasting value and will in the end leave a legacy of poverty for our children. Digitally constrained economies are deficient, largely because they have yet to establish an ICT ecosystem that can capitalize on the benefits of digitization.

Alas! Ghana is classified as a digitally constrained economy, but we can change this to become a world leader in 10 years. The government must strive to provide this environment or we risk missing the digital revolution. Let us not create a Ghana in which any initiative that is not pre-authorised by the government in power never sees the light of day. If we do, Ghanaian entrepreneurs will simply stop trying. For those that tried, it has been 60 years of – in the words of Etienne Balazs – “endless paperwork and endless harassment”.

Public Private Dialogue

Critical for this digitised economy is a regular collaboration between business and government. The lack of a serious Public Private Dialogue over the past 60 years – to shape and deliver the economic transformation vision for the country – has been an unacceptable omission. Mr. President, your presence here gives us hope and affirms the seriousness that you attach to the role of the private sector and the importance of a public private dialogue to advance our country in creating wealth, expanding our economy and lifting millions out of misery.

(Email: anishaffar@gmail.com)