Melcom Disaster: We Have To Be Proactive

Far major disasters are predictable and unavoidable, but how prepared are we as a nation?

Yes, looming nature or man –made disaster is real because even “sea levels are rising 60 percent faster than previously predicted,” according to a new U.N scientific study. Do we know what that means?

Much has already been written by me and I questioned the nation’s readiness and ability to prepare and deal with disasters made by nature or our own choices. Therefore I’d have assumed that Ghana has prepared for any disaster, no matter how small it is.

Well, I was wrong after watching Melcom supermarket’s disaster unfold in Achimota, Accra. We literally and practically borrowed everything and anything from friends and neighbors. I mean ordinary Ghanaians had to loan the government of their equipment and services in order for the rescue operation to go on.

Interestingly, instead of our leaders and policy makers getting on the TV and other airwaves to rally for support for a full-fledged public relations campaign to adopt a national comprehensive infrastructure strategy—from transportation and technology to energy and environmental protection to telecommunication — they went on shopping spree to buy 12 Toyota Land cruisers for our national House of chiefs. What about building a national memorial for those who lost their lives in that disaster?

Yes, the presentation of the vehicles to our chiefs will probably nudge the needle of the election a point or two, but campaigns still begin and end with the candidates’ ability to communicate a compelling vision to voters. Indeed, the NDC has misused some of its political capital it had after the Melcom incident by failing to rally the entire nation’s support behind the need to upgrade and address the Disaster Emergency Management Administration’s (DEMA) needs and concerns. On that, one could make a compelling argument that the presentation of the vehicles’ impact on the outcome of the election is overestimated to the detriment of NDC because the recipients of the vehicles have no control over the voters.

Nevertheless, I’m not trying to be a prophet of doom ,but greater disasters loom unless we’re proactive and fast to fix our badly broken system—from disaster and emergency command centers in every district to accumulation of emergency logistics and spending money on infrastructures to the formation of civic emergency preparedness task force in every town.

Yes, if we’re to avoid the next major– catastrophe—(and it will come) then we have to be proactive and start paying attention to our dams, rail lines and bridges ,river bodies ,water systems and environment and food production and consumption.

Ghana’s inability to spend time and money on its aging infrastructures has left the country vulnerable to nature and our own made choices disasters like high winds, earthquake, fast-running water and looming bursting dams, public- health disaster coming from lack of proper garbage and sewage treatment procedures, food poison outbreak, Cholera, Bird Flu and Tsunami.

We also have to pay real, undivided attention (and spend real money) to increase physical improvement in our infrastructure—like roads, railways and hospitals .There is a need to work to improve telecommunication lines so that during emergencies and major disasters we can make sure that telecommunication lines can operate when electric grid goes down and cellphones tower batteries run out of juice. There is a need to maintain communication system that could not only save lives and properties during disasters, but withstand major disasters, like earthquakes, terrorist attacks and flood from bursting dams.

National preparedness for disasters should include encouraging Ghanaians to buy disaster protection insurance policy for their homes and businesses, portable generators, and special touch lighting systems with batteries that last longer. It means we need more and better roads than potholes.

There should be emergency food and water storage depots in every district that we could tap into in emergencies situations.

The local governments should create evacuation responders units and at least, there should be one school or a church in every town that is certified and qualified to house families whose houses would be destroyed when nature or man-made disasters hit.

The government should create a special ministry to task the coordinating of our police service, medical personnel, local teachers, civic organizations and transportation owners to practice and prepare every six months on how to handle disasters.

Yes, I know we’re not going to do a damn thing about this issue because we can easily blame somebody else when a disaster strikes. But, if we do nothing the results are predictable and unaffordable with major consequences.

However, considering the good life this country offers to our policy makers, leaders and politicians, doesn’t she and her offspring deserve a little bit security and the Right to be protected from any disaster? Ironically, those who have much to loss when a major disaster hits Ghana are the same people who are going to turn this issue into a political wresting match; with no winner in sight.

I know I’m just a dreamer and ahead of my time most of the time, but I hope I’m not the only lonely voice in the wilderness when it comes to national security issues like this one.

Source: myjoyonline.com written by Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi (Voice of Reason)

Posted on: December 11th, 2012 in Special Report     No Comments »     Continue reading

AGRA: Transforming today’s rural poverty

Millions of African farmers and their families are wallowing in poverty: they lack good seeds, their soil has been depleted and they farm without reliable water supplies.

 

They lack financing, crop insurance and government support.

In spite of these challenges, they produce majority of Africa’s food.

Strategic approach

Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) has a strategy to transform today’s rural poverty into tomorrow’s prosperity by sustainably and significantly increasing the productivity of smallholder farmers. It starts from the understanding that African agriculture can be a powerful and transformative engine for sustainable economic growth.

It is grounded in Africa’s very diverse and largely rain-fed agriculture, prudent use of science and technology.

An African Green Revolution can apply the power of knowledge and technology with an environmental touch: disseminating many crop varieties that will thrive in diverse conditions, improving soil health through integrated soil fertility management and developing technologies that maximize the use of rainwater and deliver small-scale irrigation.

Affordable financing for farmers

AGRA’s Innovative Financing Programme is unlocking millions of dollars worth of credit for smallholder farmers and small agricultural businesses previously considered too risky for lending, giving them unprecedented opportunities to invest in growth.

AGRA and other partners assemble “loan guarantee funds” that leverage much larger loans from commercial banks. The loan guarantee funds are available to insure against a proportion of loan defaults. In pilot programmes, default rates have been less than two percent. The programmes have been launched in Mozambique, Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda

In March 2009, Standard Bank and AGRA signed an agreement under which Standard Bank will offer $100 million in loans to smallholder farmers and small agricultural business-$25 million each in Tanzania, Mozambique, Ghana and Uganda.

AGRA and its partners agreed to put up a $10 million loan guarantee, which enabled Standard Bank to offer lower-interest loans.

The Millennium Challenge Account in Mozambique, Ghana’s Millennium Development Authority, and Kilimo Trust in Uganda and Tanzania are contributing partners for the loan guarantee fund. AGRA aims to work with additional partners to leverage up to $2 billion in low-interest loans for smallholder farmers and small-to-medium sized African agricultural businesses.

Gender and Agriculture

Female small-scale farmers dominate the agricultural landscape in most production environments in sub-Saharan Africa. 

Yet they constitute the majority of rural actors locked in socio-cultural structures that limit their agricultural productivity, efficiency and effectiveness at all points across the value chain.

Key examples are entrenched inequities in access to productive land, limited access to credit, poor access to markets, extension services and agricultural technologies relevant to their needs.

The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) recognizes that to achieve food security and spur economic development, women food producers and rural entrepreneurs must be at the center of all efforts to substantially raise the productivity, incomes and sustainability of the millions of smallholder farmers who dominate Africa’s rural landscape.

Addressing the specific interests and issues of women farmers and male producers equally is crucial to the transformation of Africa’s agriculture and the well-being of the rural populace within the next decade.

AGRA has laid out a strategy that reflects these realities.

AGRA has begun to roll out the elements of a gender strategy that includes gender advocacy and awareness efforts, gender knowledge and technical capacity building, and stimulating institutional change to address the formidable obstacles women smallholders often encounter across the agriculture value chain

Public-Private Partnerships

Jane Karuku, President Alliance for Green a Revolution in Africa (AGRA) is of the view that Global Food Security requires Public-Private Partnerships.

At the recent World Food Prize Symposium in the U.S., she commented: Africa’s farmers are not needy victims. They have something to offer the world – a vast and verdant supply of arable land. Like us, the rest of the world needs to eat. In order to ensure long-term food security, we need to invest in new public-private partnerships in Ghana and across the continent.

“We know the most successful partnerships are those in which everyone has made a tangible investment in the outcome. As conversations on how to feed the future gather momentum – at the recent meeting in the U.S., the African Green Revolution Forum in Tanzania and the Camp David G8 Summit – it has become clear we need to focus on combining government resources with private-sector expertise to rapidly expand African agricultural yields and improve global economic growth.”

Overview

AGRA is an Africa based organization working in partnership with governments, agricultural research organizations, farmers, private sector, civil society and other rural development stakeholders to significantly and sustainably improve the productivity and incomes of resource poor farmers in Africa.

AGRA works in conjunction with various partners to unleash the continent’s agricultural potential. Towards that end, AGRA’s strategy rests on the idea that AGRA’s resources and its efforts with partners should initially focus on where there will be the highest payoff – in Africa’s high-potential ‘breadbasket’ areas.

These are land areas of significant size with relatively good soil, reliable rainfall, basic infrastructure and active smallholder farmers.

These areas are also located in countries with commitment to agricultural development. The countries include: Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia

By focusing our investments in these areas, we can reverse decades of rising hunger and achieve a ‘demonstration effect’ that will spur the scaling up of such investments in other countries.  This strategy will also help us concentrate our resources and not spread too thinly hence failing to bring about the rapid change that is desperately needed.

Vision

To feed the continent’s 900 million people, Africa must achieve its own food security. To do that requires nothing less than a complete transformation of the agricultural sector.

AGRA’s vision is a food secure and prosperous Africa achieved through rapid, sustainable agricultural growth.

AGRA Ghana

Agriculture is the backbone of Ghana’s economy, and smallholder farmers represent about 80 percent of total agricultural production. Yet despite overall economic growth over the past decade, the agricultural sector has declined from 51 percent to 36 percent of GDP.

The rural poor now account for almost three-quarters of all Ghanaians who live below the poverty line. Smallholder farmers, whose farms average just 1.2 hectares, currently have limited opportunities to prosper.

Challenges

Major obstacles faced by Ghana’s smallholder farmers include farmers’ access to good seed, fertilizer and sustainable farming practices, credit, crop storage, markets and strong farmer-based organizations.

The government of Ghana recognizes the urgent need to boost smallholder productivity to combat poverty and spur economic growth.

By Emelia Ennin Abbey

 

 

 

Posted on: December 4th, 2012 in Special Report     No Comments »     Continue reading

Ghana Oil Club-An Avenue For Discourse On The “Black Gold”

Ghana joined the league of oil producing nations in the last quarter of 2010, leading to high expectations from both citizens and international observers.

The production of oil, with its concomitant problems, means that all stakeholders in the industry must work hand-in-hand to ensure that the nation derives maximum benefits from the resource. Whilst the government has tentatively secured approval on what to do with the oil revenue vis-à-vis collateralization, the leaders of the nation still remain divided on the general framework of laws regulating the oil industry.

In response to these and other debates that will surely characterize the course of the lifespan of Ghana’s oil, a group of professionals cutting across the political and other divides have formed the Ghana Oil Club— a club welcoming industry players, academics, civil society organizations and students into its fold.

The club provides a platform for experts and other stakeholders to brainstorm on issues relating to the oil industry including legal matters, economic policy, technical issues and others.

While its interest relates generally to the oil industry, its focal objective according to Richard Hato-Kuevor, a director of the club, is “basically to look at the prudent use of the oil and gas revenues and the management of any possible environmental disaster by the government.”

According to Mr. Hato-Kuevor, there is the need to have in place an extensive developmental plan agreed on by all stakeholders that will guide the government in investing the oil revenue in the productive sectors of the economy.

Whilst the country has been advised by various bodies to steer off the crisis being experienced by countries like Nigeria as a result of oil production, Mr. Hato-Kuevor, speaking for the Ghana Oil Club, articulates that the country does not need to go as far as Nigeria to see the impacts that a mismanaged resource can have on a nation. He thinks that the mining industry in the country, which has been operational for over a hundred years, is the best example for the nation to learn from.

“Our aim is to advise government so that the country does not repeat the mistakes in the mining sector,” he added.

The club, which has made inputs into the Petroleum Revenue Management Act, the Oil Spillage Contingency Plan, among other oil-related bills, is happy with the inclusion of a Petroleum Revenue Accountability Committee in the Petroleum Revenue Management Act, “the committee will serve as a check on the politicians.”

Career In Oil And Gas

Following the discovery of oil in Ghana, there is a cross-section of Ghanaians such as parents, and students at the various levels in our educational system, as well as people already employed in various industries and specializations who are currently debating career opportunities within the evolving oil and gas industry in Ghana.

There are quite a number of career areas in the industry, but by and large one can group them into three key areas as follows;

Careers in E&P companies and their partners
Careers in Oil Service Companies
Careers in third party service providers

This article attempts to sensitize readers on some of the important aspects when considering a career in the Oil and gas industry. The views expressed here should only serve as a guide and readers are advised to seek further information from professional careers officers.

Parent: How do I get my teenage ward to have the requisite training to start a career in the oil and gas industry in Ghana?

First of all it is very important for young people to discover which subject areas interests them and they are naturally good at. When this is known to the child/teenager, it becomes easier to identify which courses to choose in the secondary level that would suite their capabilities. The oil industry comprises sectors that cut across all the various disciplines in our educational system. In effect, there are no special prerequisite in terms of talent that is exclusively needed to work in the oil and Gas industry per se. What is imperative at this age is good grades and excelling at which ever course he or she has chosen to pursue.

Due to the unemployment situation in Ghana at the moment, most university graduates are wondering what to do next in order to enter into the industry? What should they do?

After gaining a degree, one is qualified at entry level into various organizations. However it is necessary that graduates with interest in the oil and gas industry gain additional post graduate education/skill where necessary to specialize or streamline themselves in a particular field in the industry. These additional skill sets include among a host of others in administrative courses, ACCA courses, Environment, Health and safety programmes, paralegal training, etc. An alternative choice however is to pursue a full post graduate degree in Petroleum Engineering, Petroleum Geosciences, Petroleum law, etc
In a nutshell due to the high level of competition for employment in Ghana today, a candidate for employment in the oil and gas industry who possess additional or specialized skill sets in any of the various aspects of the industry will have a competitive edge over his/her peers.

I am already an employee in a field that I think is unrelated to the oil and gas industry. How do I switch to the oil sector with minimum retraining?

While some of the skills and technical know how in the oil and gas industry are acquired in school by professions such as engineering on the job training are mostly emphasized by most oil producing companies. This makes it possible for most skill sets to be transferable into the oil and gas industry. The reality however is that an individual who desires to transfer from an unrelated profession to the oil and gas industry would require an understanding of the knowledge and skills required in the specific area of his choice. Such a person would be required to start at a relatively lower grade in order to grasp the concepts as he advances. His competitive advantage though would be his/her experience in the field.

Although unrelated, most professional disciplines have transferable skills across industries fundamental modes of operating such contracts and procurement.

Is it at all possible for an individual in the technical sector such as an NVTI certificate holder to gain entry into the oil and gas industry as an employee. If yes how?

One of the most common factors to consider when considering employment in the oil and gas industry is the level of safety and precautionary standards that are required to be maintained due the delicate nature of the products. In this regard, most technical employee base in this industry require accredited certification in order to gain entry in any of the technical sector, be it at a high level or low.

This is one major deciding factor for an employer when recruiting a skilled technician to work on the oil fields or rigs. Thus an oil and gas biased certification or training or experience would be an added advantage.

Article By: Kwaku Boakye-Dankwa is a pseudonym for this oil and gas writer who works in one of the oil & gas companies in Ghana.

Source: Business World

Posted on: November 27th, 2012 in Special Report     No Comments »     Continue reading

Reflecting On Africa’s ICT Gains

Haruna Iddrisu

The African Union (AU) has set aside the 19th to 24th of November as Africa ICT week in recognition of the ever increasing relevance of the convergence of telecommunications computer and audio-visuals in the last two decades or so in an information age. The week thus underlines the importance that information, knowledge and technology play in modern socio-economic development by highlighting the importance of ICT as a tool of development.

The World Summit of the Information Society (WSIS) of Tunis in November 2005 adopted  Tunis Commitment and it has become the framework of building the Information Society and harnessing it for rapid development since the effective use of information and knowledge has become the most critical factor for rapid economic growth and wealth creation, and for improving socio-economic well-being.

The celebration of Africa ICT week from the 19th to the 24th of November is, therefore, meant to provide a constant reflection of the gains Africa has made even if minimal in harnessing ICTs to realize a knowledge-based economy in order to ultimately achieve the millennium goals of 2015.

It is generally acknowledged that ICT will pave way for Africa to bridge the digital divide and make a success of its transformation from an agricultural society to a knowledge society.

As is the case, all pan-Africa seminars and workshops engender one basic conclusion-Africa is aware of the obstacles that have prevented its societies from developing to bridge the gap with other developed countries. These include the still too high cost of communications, existence of social barriers (gender, language, culture, lack of social content etc), affordability, lack of access to communications and electricity.

Thus this year’s celebration on the theme-Promoting Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance Through ICT- has a huge relevance to Ghana’s ICT for Accelerated Development (ICT4AD) policy whose major thrust is to:

  • Create the necessary enabling environment to facilitate the deployment, utilization and exploitation of ICT within the economy and society.

• Support the development of a viable knowledge-based ICT industry to facilitate the production, manufacturing, development, delivering and distribution of ICT products and services.

• Facilitate the modernization of the agricultural sector through the deployment and exploitation of ICT to improve on its efficiency.

• Support the development of a competitive high value-added services sector to serve as an engine for accelerated development and economic growth, with the potential to develop into a regional business-services and ICT hub.

• Aid the process of the development of national human resource capacity and the nation’s R&D capabilities to meet the changing needs and demands of the economy

• Promote an improved educational system within which ICT widely deployed to facilitate the delivery of educational services at all levels of the educational system

• Facilitate a wide-spread deployment and exploitation of ICT within the society to support the delivery of social services.

• Support the modernization of the civil and public service through institutional reforms, renewal and the deployment and exploitation of ICT to facilitate improvements in operational effectiveness, efficiency and service delivery.

• Facilitate the development, expansion, rehabilitation and the continuous modernization of the national information and communications infrastructure

• Guide the development and implementation of e-governance, as well as electronic commerce, business strategies and action plans

• Accelerate the development of women and eliminating gender inequalities in education, employment, decision making through the deployment and exploitation of ICT by building capacities and providing opportunities for girls and women.

• Facilitate the development and implementation of the necessary legal, institutional and regulatory framework and structures required for supporting the deployment, utilization and the development of ICT.

• Facilitate the development and promotion of the necessary standards, good practices and guidelines to support the deployment and exploitation of ICT within the society and economy.

The purpose for the celebration is therefore to raise awareness of the need to collectively profit from the possibilities offered by ICTs; to encourage the private sector and civil society to work together to improve access to infrastructure, enforce capacities and increase confidence and safety in the use of ICT, to support and raise consciousness towards developing African cultures and cultural diversity.

Ghana has actualized this ICT4AD policy by implementing pan African network projects as demonstrated by the collaboration between the Government of Ghana and the Government of India to promote tele-medicine, tele-education and closer interaction with Heads of State across Africa and the rest of the world.

The facilities of the projects are located at the University of Ghana, Legon as well as the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Kumasi.

The country has also established direct fibre optic interconnection with Togo and Burkina Faso to provide broadband capacity for ICT development and empowerment to its people.

Markedly, during the pan-African Regional Preparatory Meeting of ITU in Accra in September this year, the nation’s telecoms sector regulator National Communications Authority (NCA) convened a meeting of radio spectrum managers within the sub-region to harmonize frequency allocation to avoid interference in cross-border situations for socio-economic development.

This is in recognition of the fact that Africa’s capability to accelerate its socio-economic development process and its ability to gain global competitiveness and improve the wellbeing of its people will depend very much on the extent to which it can develop, use, exploit and sell information, knowledge and technology in one form or another.

It also underlies the fact that information, knowledge and technology will only continue to become the key to move Africa’s industrially weak, subsistence agriculture based economy towards a knowledge economy if Africa develops and implements comprehensive integrated ICT-led socio-economic development policies, strategies and plans.

As Africa celebrates this year’s ICT week under the auspices of the Africa Union (AU), we believe that if African countries and developing partners develop and implement the right sets of policies and action plans it will be possible for the continent to speed up its socio-economic development process through the development, deployment and exploitation of ICT within the economy and society without necessarily going through an extensive industrialization process.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on: November 20th, 2012 in Special Report     No Comments »     Continue reading

How Serious Are We With Agriculture?

Farmers working on the field

Agriculture, the mainstay of the country’s economy, continues to provide an answer to the unemployment situation in Ghana. It is a source of livelihood for rural folks in the country.

About 75 per cent of farmers rely on traditional methods such as ‘slash and burn’ method, and use simple tools such as cutlass and hoe to produce crops.

About 25 per cent of the farmers also depend on intermediate technology such tractors, animal-drawn implements and irrigation. Tackling the production and marketing constraints of small-scale farmers in Ghana has always been a topical issue among stakeholders.

The contribution of farmers cannot be over-emphasized as approximately three million small-holder farmers with average farm sizes of between 0.5-2 hectares currently produce 95 per cent of the country’s food crops.

Statistics from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and AGRA, a public-private partnership aimed at improving smallholder farming, indicate that agriculture is considered to be an anchor of Ghana’s economy and is estimated to create value of approximately 14.2 billion dollars and employs approximately 4.6 million, representing 56 percent of the workforce.

It is obvious politicians have been paying lip-service to the improvement and development of agriculture.

Celebration of Farmers Day

Ghana has proclaimed to the world that it recognizes and appreciates the role and contribution of farmers and fishermen in national development through the institution and celebration of the National Farmers Day. Even though this is a step in the right direction, there is the need to review the scheme to ensure that it benefits and gives due recognition to the poor rural farmers and fishermen, who dominate the sector and produce the bulk of the nation’s food requirements.

Unfortunately, the current programme makes it easy for only the rich to continue to receive the awards.

In his address at the National Farmers Day celebration at Abokobi in the Greater Accra region on November 2, 2012, President John Dramani Mahama commended Ghanaian farmers and fishermen, whose tremendous efforts and sacrifices had helped to achieve the ‘Better Ghana’ agenda.

The President stressed the need for Ghanaians to be concerned about food security, explaining that agriculture holds the key to reducing rural poverty and gingering development in Ghana.

He emphasized that increasing agricultural productivity by one percent would result in 0.72 per cent reduction in rural poverty and 0.48 per cent reduction in socio-economic indicators in Ghana.

NPP, NDC Pledge to Support Agric

Both the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC) have pledged to enhance agriculture activities in the country in their manifestoes.

The NPP, in its manifesto for 2004 elections, indicated its preparedness to support and promote agricultural activities in the country.

In its 2004 manifesto, it said the sector’s growth rate according to the increased from 2.1% in the year 2000 to 4.4% in the year 2002 and to 6.5% by 2006.

The National Democratic Congress (NDC) promised, among others, to improve agricultural research and technology.

It also promised to create a District Agricultural Advisory Service to offer advice on technology and marketing, among others.

Little has been derived from the pledges of politicians on agricultural issues.

Benefits Derive from livestock, Cash and Other Crops

However, Ghana derives a lot from farmers. Cocoa farmers according to President Mahama provided an estimated foreign exchange of about $2.03 billion through bean export earnings in 2011.

Government, he said, increased cocoa output to 1 million metric tonnes.

On livestock, he indicated that Ghana generates $32.34 million foreign exchange from fish and seafood exports as one of the leading categories of non-traditional agricultural exports.

President Mahama noted that the production of rice in Ghana increased from 181,000 metric tons in 2008 to 295,000 metric tons in 2010 which represents 63 percent increase.

“Ghana now produces 53 per cent of her rice requirement locally up from 30 percent in 2009 reducing rice imports by 30 percent.”

He indicated that maize production had increased from 1.5 million metric tonnes in 2008 to 1.9 million metric tons in 2010, representing 27 percent rise.

Yams increased from 4.9 million mt. in 2008 to 5.9 million mt in 2011 (20% increase) and plantain from 3.3 million mt. tons in 2008 to 3.6 million mt. tons in 2011 (9% increase)

The President said, “Meat production increased by 17 percent from 100,935 metric tons to 118,504 metric tons while poultry production went up by 32 percent from 31,056 metric tons in 2008 to 41,008 metric tons in 2011.”

According to him, fish production increased by 1.3 percent from 416,552 metric tons in 2008 to 421,898 metric tons in 2011 of which aquaculture production recorded 165 percent increment with export earnings from fish and fishery products increasing from US$158 million to US$256 million in the same year.

Seeking Another Mandate

President Mahama indicated that economic transformation will hinge on agricultural modernization in the second term of NDC administration for which they are seeking the mandate of the people in the upcoming December 7, 2012 general election.

Explaining further, he said it would be propelled by two main strategies. The first would involve the implementation of the Food and Agricultural Development Policy and the corresponding investment plan as detailed in the five-year Medium Term Agriculture Sector Investment Plan (METASIP 2011-2015).

Nevertheless many have wondered if these strategies and policies outlined by government are going to significantly transform agriculture in the country.

President Mahama also stated that rising food prices also pose significant threats to Ghana’s macroeconomic stability and overall development achievements.

The Way Forward

Are Ghanaians really concerned about the enhancement of agriculture as stated by the President at the National Farmer’s day celebration.

The time has come for Ghanaians, irrespective of their political affiliation, to open discussions on the future of Ghana’s agricultural sector and work together to develop comprehensive strategies using an integrated approach to revolutionalise agriculture in the country

Ghana should begin to emulate various approaches that developed countries like U.S, Britain, Canada, and Japan by investing massively in agriculture and fishing.

Government would have to stop paying lip service to resolving challenges in agriculture.

Farmers and producers are interested in a comprehensive approach to the issue of agriculture in Ghana.

They are interested in irrigation dams, farm inputs and factories to avoid post-harvest losses.

By Stella Danso Addai

 

 

Posted on: November 13th, 2012 in Special Report     No Comments »     Continue reading

Enhancing Food Security Through Science

Poverty and malnutrition continue to be major problems in Sub-Saharan Africa even though many countries have made significant progress in the last decade.

The 2012 report on the state of food insecurity in the world estimated that between 2010 and 2012 about 870 million people, representing 12.5 per cent of the world population were undernourished, out of which 234 million were from sub-Saharan Africa.

Food security refers not only to the availability of food but also a person’s access to food.

However one of society’s greatest challenges is to find a sustainable way to feed its people.

The situation is being compounded on a daily basis by an explosion in population.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations estimates that by 2050, world population is expected to reach 9 billion and to accommodate this growth, the FAO warns that the world will have to nearly double its current output of food feed and fibre.

However, most scientists are of the view that without new technology and innovative farming methods, the goal of the FAO will be very difficult to meet.

This has led to increased focus on enhancing food security in Africa through science, technology and innovation.

In recent times, the consideration of various methods and factors such as the use of fertilizer, Genetically Modified Foods (GMOs), extension of farmer service have been on the top lists of governments and some experts in most African countries.

Kwesi Ahwoi, Minister for Food and Agriculture, speaking at the 32nd World Food Day, which also marked the 67th anniversary of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), which was held at Gomoa Bewadze, near Winneba in the Gomoa West District, indicated that increasing agricultural productivity in Ghana is a major issue.

As a result, Government, he said, was collaborating with some Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in the adoption of several measures to boost the agricultural production.

Additionally, Mr. Ahwoi said the government under the Millennium Challenge Compact had trained and supported 1,242 Farmer Based Organizations (FBOs) countrywide bringing the total number to 66,400 farmers.

This means that more farmers are being helped to adopt innovative methods to increase food production, but the sad aspect is that many more peasant farmers in Ghana and other countries in Africa who are ignorant about the modern techniques tend to destroy the farm lands or produce unhealthy foods.

Scanty knowledge of improved practices of farmers to increase their yield and productivity and preserve their produce is still a major challenge.

There are varied views on how the crisis could be tackled as scientist, government officials, other experts as well as business operators and the farmers have different solutions.

The Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Program (CAADP) and its accompanying Framework for African Agricultural Productivity (FAAP) is to provide a vision for improving agricultural productivity through enabling and accelerating innovation.

Others are of the opinion that the issue is all about people becoming more enlightened and knowledgeable about the technology and how it works.

Reports indicate that the new plant varieties have revolutionized agriculture by boosting farmers’ profits and food security.

Dr. Bernard Ofori, a scientist in an interview with BUSINESS GUIDE said, “We are aware of the situation as far as it is concerned.”

He further added that “the worry as a country is how to produce a seed to step up production. Since we do not have the Seed Processing Unit for GMOs in the country what may happen if we are to rely on GMOs is that we will eventually kill our seed production in the country and would have to become heavily reliant on GMO seed from abroad.”

To him, “Because if you cannot produce your own seed for more supply and depend on seed coming from abroad, then it can be dangerous.”

Experts at the Crop Researchers at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research Institute, Ghana (CSIR) are extensively divided over the introduction of Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) crops into Ghana’s agricultural sector.

While some scientists have ignored the adoption of GMO crops on the basis of uncertainty about health risks, others are of the view that conventional crop breeding has not withstood the test of time.

There has not been any laboratory analysis that point to the fact that the consumption of GMOs is dangerous to human health, according to scientists.

The recent passing of Ghana’s Bio-safety Act of 2011 would legalize importation of GMOs and research on GMOs.

Furthermore, three genetically modified crops are expected to be tested next year in Ghana. This would include seeds for genetically modified rice, cowpea and sweet potatoes, which would be tested to see which specific traits would be most beneficial in Ghana to increase crop production.

The trials on these crops are expected to last for three years and the project is expected to begin.

With this development, Ghana would join countries like South Africa, Burkina Faso, Egypt and Kenya which are already producing and importing GMOs on the continent.

Contrary to the arguments by individuals and Civil Society Groups such as Friends of the Earth that Genetically Modified (GM) products are dangerous for human consumption, a research scientist at the Savanna Agriculture Research Institute, Dr Ibrahim Kwasi Atokple, claimed they are safe and have no adverse health implications as widely speculated.

Dr. Atokple admitted that there may be a few allergies associated with the consumption of GM foods “but even with the conventional crops there are allergies.”

Genetically modified foods or biotech foods are derived from genetically modified crops or genetically modified fish which have had specific changes introduced into their DNA by genetic engineering techniques.

Jim Dunwell, a scientist at the University of the Reading in the United Kingdom, in an interview with BUSINESS GUIDE during a training programme in Ghana, noted that Ghana has to acquaint itself with the success story of other countries that had gained from genetically modified crops and “decide to adopt or not to adopt them.”

He said some countries in Africa that had adopted GM crops and other hybrids varieties were making breakthroughs in agriculture.

According to him, most African countries have accepted the use of fertilizers on their farm lands despite its unhealthy effects on humans and the environment because the positives outweigh the negative impacts.

“The story of GMOs is not different although it might have both the positive and negative effects,” he said.

Out of 25 countries planting biotech crops, 15 are said to be developing countries while 10 are industrialized countries.

About 30 countries have approved import of biotech products for food and feed use. Egypt, Burkina Faso, Bolivia, Brazil and Australia were the first five countries to commercialize their biotech crops

 By Stella Danso Addai

 

 

 

 

Posted on: November 6th, 2012 in Special Report     No Comments »     Continue reading

Could Third World Debt Relief Pay Off?

IMF boss, Christine Lagarde

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), there are 156 economies that could be considered “developing.”

Calling a country “developed” as opposed to “developing” is a charged topic: no one wants to be told that they aren’t as good as someone else. Being a developing country, however, doesn’t mean that the country is some backwater nation. Quite the contrary; many developing nations are sitting on veritable goldmines of natural resources and with investments in modernizing the economy, these nations could see rapid growth in GDP.

Getting Funds from the Kitty

Countries seeking to modernize their economies face a daunting task. The projects that will push their economies forward – infrastructure, education, healthcare – don’t come cheap. For example, China’s Three Gorges Dam cost an estimated US$26 billion. Building roads to shuttle products and people around requires materials and engineering expertise; hospitals require expensive electronics.

Developing countries often cannot afford to take on these projects without having to significantly sacrifice spending on other priorities.

There are several ways that developing countries can obtain funds from outside their borders. They can get direct loans from other countries through funding provided by private companies or through loans provided by international lending organizations. Obtaining loans from private lenders is a difficult proposition for the poorest of countries since they tend to be economically and politically riskier.

A significant amount of developing debt comes from organizations such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, which pool funds from multiple countries and use their financial clout (and good credit ratings) to obtain low interest rates.

The World Bank lends funds to countries based upon their Gross National Income (GNI). The poorest countries – those with per capita income of less than $1,195 – borrow from the International Development Agency (IDA) because they lack the ability to borrow from the World Bank’s other fund, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD).

The IDA charges little or no interest on the funds it lends out, typically allows repayments over longer-than-normal periods of time and also provides grants to countries in extreme financial distress. The amount of annual funds committed by the IDA – approximately $15 billion per year – is on par with the amount provided by the IBRD.

How Much Debt Are We Talking About?

The World Bank estimates that developing countries owed $4 trillion dollars in external debt as of the close of 2010.

That number seems huge, but when compared to the debt owed by developed countries, it’s fairly small. The United States and the European Union owe more than $25 trillion between the two of them.

Bleeding hearts and boisterous world leaders lament the oppressive burden that external debt (and the rules that often accompany it) has on developing countries.

The evidence points to the opposite, however; debt forgiveness already exists. Debt is as much a political tool as an economic one. Leaders of developing nations, just as leaders of developed nations, want to keep their populations happy (at least happy enough to not cause trouble), and it’s much easier to wag a menacing finger at foreign debt holders than it is to fess up to years of profligacy.

The World Bank, for example, operates both the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative and a Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI).

The MDRI was a 2005 pledge by G8 countries to cancel the IDA debt of countries that have gone through the MDRI program. The total pledge was $37 billion to an initial set of 19 countries, most of which are located in Africa. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Africa Development Fund (ADF) kicked in funds as well, bringing the total to $50 billion.

So what about wholesale debt forgiveness? What if the developed world and the financing institutions they run offer everyone a clean slate? It would be a disaster. It’s one thing to offer the most struggling countries debt forgiveness: it’s a small number of countries, it’s a comparatively low amount of funds and it makes much more sense developmentally (a country in political and economic chaos could cause a humanitarian disaster at home and potentially spark lots of problems for its neighbors). It’s a totally different thing to wipe the debt clean for 156 countries that the IMF considers to be “developing.”

Lending countries could feel less inclined to shell out development money in the future, since there would be a precedent for not getting paid back. Debtor countries could balk at future commitments because they were allowed to start from scratch once before. The signals would be perverse. Additionally, while developing countries are net debtors – they often owe more to others than they are owed by others – many developed countries are owed money by others. If the money they are owed is suddenly wiped clean, then there would be multi-billion-dollar holes in countries’ finances.

Next Time Will Be Different

The key to not getting into the debt forgiveness quagmire is to lend smart. Just as many individuals had lived beyond their means leading up to the financial maelstrom of the 2000s, so too did developing countries spend too much. The first taste of debt trouble came from the 1970s and 1980s, on the back of global commodity demand. Countries borrowed huge sums after finding natural resource bonanzas and crowded out private development. When commodity prices tumbled, those developing countries faced steep debt payments and had no funds with which to pay them. This was not totally the fault of debtors, as donors also provided expert advice that wound up not working out.

Conclusion
“Lending smart” entails injecting funds to develop industries outside of commodities, and to do so at a pace that won’t cause a shock if the means to repay the loans falls short. After all, not all countries that receive developmental aid fall short of repayment. Some of the biggest success stories include China, Singapore, South Korea and India, all of which used funds to diversify away from reliance on volatile commodity exports. You’d be hard pressed to find a world leader who wouldn’t want to be at the helm when a country makes the jump into a modern economic juggernaut.

Posted on: October 30th, 2012 in Special Report     No Comments »     Continue reading

Common Mistakes Of Entrepreneurs

Many entrepreneurs who jump start their own ventures have little or no experience. It is totally ok to screw up at some point. Entrepreneurship is a process of testing, failing, refining and testing again. Most importantly you learn a lot from your mistakes than your successes. Statistics show that the failure rate for new startups within the first 5 years is as high as 50 percent. But these mistakes are certainly not necessary. An entrepreneur is smart if instead of learning from his own mistakes, he learns from the mistakes committed by others. Doing this, he saves cost, time and pain.

Here is a list of mistakes that an entrepreneur commonly makes in his early stages:

19.  Going for it alone

It’s difficult to build a successful business if you’re the only person involved. It is very difficult to pay someone else at the early stage. The solution is to make sure there are enough margins in your pricing so that you can bring in other people.

18. Asking Too Many People for Advice

It is always beneficial to get input from experts, especially experienced entrepreneurs. But getting too many people’s opinions can delay your decision and your company might never get out of the starting line.

17. Lacking a Written Plan

A start-up that needs considerable capital to grow and more than a year to turn a profit should plan how much time and money it’s going to take to reach there. You must spend time thinking through the key areas that make your business tick and building a model for three years of sales, profits and cash-flow projections. You should put some of your creative genius to prepare a business plan. By doing this you actually understand how to transform your idea into a business. Set both short- and long-term goals for the business, so you can check your progress along the way. Without a clear vision of where your company is heading, your great idea can get muddled along the way.

16. A business model that doesn’t make money

Even a non-profit organization has to generate donations to make up for operating costs. If your product is free, or you keep losing money on every one, it will be hard to make it up in volume. Even if you are providing a very great solution, but if your customers have no money, your business won’t last long.

15.  Limited Business Opportunity

Not every good idea is a good business. Entrepreneurs often overestimate the size of their potential market. Just because you believe that your idea is great, and everyone needs it, doesn’t mean that everyone will buy it. So instead of going with your instincts or asking your friends and family, you must do a thorough market research about the feasibility of your idea.

14.  Hire Someone You Know and Trust

Competence is more important than relationships. While hiring friends and relatives can work, it limits the talent and quality. Friends and relatives can also carry baggage. They can also be very hard to manage. So “if you can’t fire them, don’t hire them.”

13.  Keep Expenses as Low as Possible

The key to business is not to keep expenses low. Sometimes it is worth paying more rent if it will generate more customers, if it gives a better image and inspires confidence, if it helps attract the right employees or if it makes it easier to deal with suppliers.

Also don’t save money on professional advices. Spend money to get good lawyers and accountants.

12. Spending too much time on product development, less on sales

A great product is a necessary element to build a great company, but spending too much time building on it may lose customers to a competitor with a stronger sales organization. “If you don’t keep one eye firmly focused on sales, you’ll likely run out of money and energy before you can successfully get your product to market.” Even if your product is faster, better, or stronger than the competition’s, if it isn’t what your customers want, then they won’t buy it.

11. Weak Execution Skills

An idea alone is really worth nothing. The most important thing is its execution. If you are not comfortable making hard decisions, taking risk, and taking full responsibility, you won’t do well in developing your idea into a business.

10. Misunderstanding Resource Requirements

A major resource is cash funding, but other resources, such as industry contacts and access to marketing channels may be more important for certain products. If you have too much cash but don’t know how to manage it wisely, it can be just as upsetting as too little cash. You must not quit your day job until new revenue is flowing.

9.  Bad Customer Relations

The best entrepreneurs know their customers by name. Even web entrepreneurs, who don’t typically meet their customers face-to-face, recognize their customers by their names. In early stages, you should talk to customers any time you’re not building and testing product.

8. Paying for things that could be free

Spend 30 minutes researching the free alternatives to all the great paid products people will tell you about. Even good venture lawyers will give you free advice if you’re nice to them. They know you can’t afford them now but want to build a relationship over time.

7. You don’t have an Intellectual Property

If you are planning to seek investors, or your idea is in the space in which big players are there, you need to register all your patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets early. Intellectual property is also often the largest element of early-stage company valuations for professional investors.

6. You have an Inexperienced Team

Investors fund people, not ideas. They look for people with real experience in the business domain of the startup, and people with real experience running a startup. You must find a partner who has “been there and done that” so that there comes a balance between your passion and his experience in the team.

5.  Research the Competition

Having no competitors may mean that there is no market for your business, but if you can easily find ten or more existing players means this may be a crowded space. If you think “you have no competition,” you’re wrong. Competition is everywhere. Make sure you understand what these companies do and how you’re different. If you find that you have several hundred competitors, it’s ok to try something else.

 

4. Delaying Legal Problems

Many important legal decisions must be made early on. Neglecting to deal with these issues at the right stage can cripple a business. It’s important to hire a skilled lawyer with experience in working with entrepreneurs. He can advise you on the next steps to take as you are growing your business. It can be much more costly and time consuming to fix the legal blunders you made later.

 

3. You Focus Too Little on Marketing

Viral marketing and word-of-mouth are not enough these days to make your product and brand visible in the harsh attack of new media out there today. Even viral marketing costs real money and time. Without effective and innovative marketing across the range of media, you won’t have a business.

 

2. Maintaining Equal Partnerships

When starting a business, entrepreneurs tend to divide ownership equally among the partners. But while partners may agree in the early stages, disagreements will surely arise. Partners also often have different ideas about how much time to put into the business. Ensure that there is a defined leader with adequate authority to make final decisions and sufficient compensation to remain motivated.

  1. 1.    You Give up too Easily or Early

The most common cause of startup failure is that the entrepreneur just gets tired, gives up, and shuts down the company. Many successful entrepreneurs, like Steve Jobs and Thomas Edison, kept working on their vision, in spite of failures, until they found the success they knew was possible.

 

(Pix saved as entrepreneur mistakes, entrepreneur mistakes 1 in bus)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on: October 24th, 2012 in Special Report     No Comments »     Continue reading

SECRET MILLIONAIRE: Only the lazy can’t find work in Ghana – ‘plantain roaster’

Patrick Sosu roasts plantain for a living

Patrick Sosu is a millionaire in the making depending on who you are talking to. This 36-year-old father of three roasts plantain and sometimes corn – depending on which of the two is in season- for a living.

He is in a profession that many have relegated to women and largely the uneducated or illiterate in society.

Sosu is always spotted in a suit with a well ironed shirt and tie with polished shoes to match as a plantain roaster. He does his job with passion and declared, “I’m a professional in my job.”

He has been in this plantain roasting business for about eight months now.

He said before he ventured into it, he was selling other items in traffic and added that he had sold pure water, fruit juices, bread, biscuits, among others for several years.

He revealed that he has always been unique in appearance all these years with his dressing, indicating that “I dress this way every day because it attracts people to me and gets people wondering why I would dress like this.

Some people have come to me to buy my plantain not because they really want to buy but because they just want to talk to me or check to be double sure their eyes are not deceiving them.”

The Weekend Globe spotted this very well dressed man at the Shiashi bus stop around the Tetteh Quashie interchange and engaged him in an interview to find out why he would ‘suit-up’ to roast plantain – a dress code more or less reserved for the office?

Sosu first said he realized that he had to be different if he was to make any progress in his chosen trade which he said he learn from his mother amongst other things.

“I first started this job at Dzorwulu, opposite Fiesta Royale on the George Bush Highway then some officials from the Accra Metropolitan Authority (AMA) came and told me to stop working, pack my things and leave the road side where I was working.

I did not know what they were talking about and why they wanted me to leave the place so I questioned them. The exchanges became heated and they seized almost all my stuff – my big umbrella, tubers of yam, several fingers of plantain and other things,” Sosu recalled.

He added: “All the other sellers around were shouting at them and some were saying I shouldn’t allow them to take them away, but I couldn’t do anything so they took all things away and up till today the things are still with them. So I left the area and came here to Shiashi and realized that it was a good place to start all over again, so that is how come you find me here.”

Sosu said he started with just one suit and now has about three and alternates them.

He added that “I iron my shirts and jackets on Sunday after church and prepare for the week. This is my office so when I’m coming I have to look presentable.

I’m not shy at all of anybody, in fact a lot of people have praised me for my dressing and some have given me all sorts of nicknames like ‘Minister, Bishop, Director, and Manager’… plenty names. I know it has attracted a lot of people to come and buy from me so I would not change my dressing. I have actually made a lot of friends just because of how I dress.”

Sosu told The Weekend Globe that “business is good but sometimes not as much as I expect. I make about GHC40 and GHC 70 worth of profit a day.

After deducting the money I would use to buy charcoal, polythene bags, papers and other things I would need for the job, I still have some good profit to take home. I buy my ripe plantain from Agbobloshie market and days that I have to go to the market I leave home around 5 a.m and sometimes struggle with the women who also do the same business.

I buy about GHC200 worth of ripe plantain and sometimes even the unripe ones and store it till it is ripe to be used.”

From that quantity, Sosu indicated that he shares it with his wife – who is also into the same business of roasting plantain and has been in it for relatively the same period of time. “We both sell the plantain and this is good business.”

He added that the groundnuts (peanuts) which is the perfect accompaniment for the roasted plantain is prepared by him with the assistance of his wife and children.

“Before I leave home for work, I pray that God should bless all those who bless me and forgive all those who tease and insult me for doing what I am doing,” Sosu stated.

“Some people just hate me for nothing for doing this job, but I don’t mind them.
After all I am not a thief or I don’t rob people for a living so why should people hate me? It is this same job that I have done to take care of my children through school.”

Through the period of the interview one thing that was quite clear was that Sosu greeted all his customers with “you’re welcome, how much are you buying?”

Asked about his future plans for the business, Sosu said, “I am planning to open branches around Accra and then spread to other parts of the country. So far I have about three branches and one is being managed by my daughter whenever she is on vacation.

I want to start using take-away packs to sell the plantain in the near future. Very soon I would start preparing ‘kelewele’ (spiced fried plantain) and I would put them in neat packages.

“I am trying to see if I can get a shop in the Accra Mall where I would set up a special business to start preparing special roasted plantain for my customers.

There are plenty jobs in Ghana and I would like to advise the youth that they should not wait on anybody to promise them jobs, especially the government. If even the government promises to create jobs for you, you have to start something on your own.”

“If everybody wants to go and do office work who would go to the farm and plant foodstuff for us all to eat? Who would drive us to work, who would sweep the streets for us? So people should stop saying there is no work in Ghana, there is plenty work here.

“I have through this job financed my junior brother who has passed out from the Ghana Army. I have also helped a friend of mine who is now working with the Customs Office. They call me once in a while to check up on me.”

“This is the time young people must work hard and save towards the future because when you grow like our mothers and fathers we cannot be strong enough to work at that time so we must work hard now.”

At the end of what was a motivating interview, Sosu made a plea and asked for some assistance to effectively grow his business and if possible train other people who may want to start this business and make a living on their own.

By: Martin Asiedu-Dartey, Citifmonline.com

 

Posted on: October 16th, 2012 in Special Report     No Comments »     Continue reading

The Oil Next Door

While Ghana’s oil find five years ago has been heralded with pomp and occasional public outcry, next door neighbour Cote d’Ivoire has been drilling oil for decades rather on the quiet.

The man on the street in Accra might not describe the country as an oil-producer, but with production levels that account for the country’s entire electricity and domestic gas needs, La Cote d’Ivoire is certainly in the league.
According to Ivoirian government records, the West African country discovered oil and gas in 1977 and started drilling in 1980. Like Ghana, the oil found here is offshore. But to what extent are different sectors of Ivoirian society playing their parts? What are the burning issues? Is information readily available?
“Not too many Ivoirians are wondering about the industry figures. What they don’t understand is why their pump price shoots up or why petrol should be cheaper in neighbouring countries that don’t produce oil,” explained Yao Franck, an economic journalist with specialty in the coverage of oil and gas.

Yao’s outfit iPetronews has for more than 15 years maintained media oversight of the sector.
“Over all,’ he observed,’ the average Ivoirian would rather think about his daily bread.’

For a sector that has variously been described in the sub-region as ‘closed’ this stance could be understood. Additionally, over a decade of civil and armed unrest, Cote d’Ivoire has made the sector not the most scrutinized by society.
But the authorities are convinced they are serving the nation well.

“We have resolved to serve our people with this resource as our first President Houphouet-Boigney himself mandated us to,” said Daniel Gnaagni, Managing Director of Petroci, the national oil company, at a meeting held with reporters from Ghana.

According to Petroci, they are well on course though technical problems have brought current production levels to about 40,000 barrels per day. The company believes that by 2013 this figure will triple.

“What we do is for the benefit of the population that is why for example, all the gas goes into domestic LPG use and electricity. We spell these things out to all stakeholders,” Gnaagni added.

Evidently, not every information is available to the Ivoirian public. Petroci admits, for instance, that the Petroleum Sharing Agreements with oil companies are not available though the modalities are. Vanco, Foxtrot and CNG are the established players while Tullow has just entered the Ivoirian oil industry.
According to Kouassi Yao Hyacinthe of Pay What You Publish, a civil society media organization, things are becoming more participatory and information is gradually beginning to flow.
“A lot of things came to light particularly when this new government first came to power. Civil society organizations are also doing their best. But with regards to data, things are not really democratic, you know’.
N’Dri Koffi, Head of La Cote d’voire’s branch of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), believes that some figures being churned out within the local press are suspicious.

EITI is an international body that works to ensure transparency within the oil and gas sector particularly in developing countries.

Koffi is a beneficiary of government scholarship and a trained geologist. Impeccably well dressed and assisted by well dressed officers in a plush Abidjan neighbourhood office, one could easily mistake his office for a law firm. According to the country head, information became more forthcoming since EITI started reporting from Cote d’Ivoire in 2009.

“We deal with audited figures. Every three months, these figures are certified and presented to IMF,” Koffi assured.
Providing an expert’s perspective, Nanan Pierre Kouame-Akpegni said the oil and gas sector is technical and requires to be really understood.
Like N’Dri Koffi, Kouame-Akpegni also benefitted from Ivorian government scholarship to study oil and gas. He has also worked in Petroci for 19 years.

“The first president sent me to Canada to study geology, having retired I am now working for workers’ interest.’ He told reporters in the conference room of the Trade Union Office in downtown Abidjan.

For a man who has retired, Kouame-Akpegni looks good and strong. As a trained geologist how would he explain the current drop in production? The man took in a deep breath and exhaled.

“There are technical issues that must be understood. Yes, projections are there but real output could be affected by operational issues such as oil wells being choked with sand, it is all technical.”

Whether such an explanation would be understood by the local people is another matter. However, some community leaders expressed discontent after some interactions with them.

At Adjue in the Department (District) of Jacqueville, Begre Andre, a representative of the traditional chief had serious complaints.

“There is a chemical that they release every four hours when this happens every child, youth or elderly person cough in this village and our heads pain us too.’
Adjue, which has 1,500 inhabitants, is located 70 km from Abidjan and can be accessed by ferry. The road leading to the village is untarred. Gas pipelines visibly pass through the town and when one stands at the beach one seas offshore activity by way of a burning flame in the far distant.

Honorine Djabatey is one of the four village representatives of Council of Petrol and Gas, a civil society oversight group.

Djabatey complained about general neglect and said one of the few benefits they gained were funds for a teacher’s living quarters.

But the place is not occupied as there is no electricity.

Jean-Wesley, a youth leader of the village said, “What we are asking is one percent of the oil revenue. Just one percent.”

Whether this outcry will convince the power players at Government House in Abidjan is uncertain. One sure thing however is that in an industry where lips are tight about figures one percent might not be as simple as one plus one.
Source: Kofi Akpabli, a freelance journalist. Send comments to kofiakpabli@gmail.com

Posted on: October 9th, 2012 in Special Report     No Comments »     Continue reading