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Afriyie Akoto: I’ll use agriculture to turn Ghana’s economy around

The flagbearer aspirant of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) argues that agriculture could be the main driver of the country’s economy

Owusu Afriyie Akoto, the immediate past minister of food and agriculture, has said he has enough experience and knowledge to turn around Ghana’s economic fortunes.

The flagbearer aspirant of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) argues that agriculture could be the main driver of the country’s economy.

Speaking in an interview with Nana Oye Ankrah of Asaase 99.5 Accra about why he wants to be president of Ghana, Afriyie Akoto said his agenda aims to help drive the next phase of Ghana’s development.

“As I have always stated, I have been in Parliament and in opposition, and I have seen how the opposition ran down agriculture, and I had the opportunity to serve in President Akufo-Addo’s government for six years,” Dr Afriyie Akoto said.

“And I have learned a few things which I believe will serve Ghana well in terms of prioritising agriculture as the main driver of the economy,” the agricultural economist said.

Listen to Owusu Afriyie Akoto in the audio clip attached below:

 

Watch Owusu Afriyie Akoto speaking earlier today in another interview on the Asaase Breakfast Show in the video clip attached below:

 

Profile of Owusu Afriyie Akoto

Dr Afriyie Akoto graduated from the University of Ghana (Legon) with a Bachelor of Science degree in agriculture. He obtained his MSc and PhD degrees in agricultural economics from the University of Cambridge, England.

He worked as an economist, senior economist, principal economist and chief economic advisor over a period of 18 years at the International Coffee Organization (ICO) in London, England.

He has also worked as a consultant to the World Bank and the United Nations on soft commodities (cocoa, coffee, sugar). Between 1995 and 2007, he was the CEO of two international commodity companies, Goldcrest Commodities Ltd and Plantation Resources Ltd, both based in Ghana.

In 2007 he was appointed the chairman of the NPP manifesto committee and was the principal author of the party’s manifesto for the 2008 election. He was subsequently elected as an MP in 2008.

He spent two terms as the MP for Kwadaso in Kumasi, Ashanti Region. In Parliament, he held the positions of deputy ranking member and subsequently the substantive ranking member on the food, agriculture and cocoa affairs committee until 2017.

In 2017 he was appointed the minister of food and agriculture.

In this role he has spearheaded the design and implementation of the Government of Ghana’s popular and transformational agricultural flagship programme, Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ).

Under his leadership, Ghana has been transformed into the breadbasket of West Africa.

In 2019, Ghana was ranked fourth on the African continent by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) in its Global Food Security Index (GFSI). In that year (2019) the sector grew strongly by 4.7%, followed by 7.4%, at the peak of COVID, in 2020 and 8.4% in 2021 – the highest annual performance in the Fourth Republic.

This sterling performance compares favourably with the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme’s (CAADP) benchmark target of 6% growth of agriculture for the attainment of national food security.

Maize production reached 3.4 million tonnes in 2021 from 1.7 million tonnes in 2016 and rice production nearly doubled to 1.2 million metric tonnes from 665,000 metric tonnes in 2016 under PFJ.

Under Dr Afriyie Akoto’s leadership, an act of Parliament established the Tree Crop Development Authority in 2020 to co-ordinate and promote the development of six tree crops – cashew, rubber, oil palm, coconut, mango and shea. At full development, these selected crops have the combined potential to generate an additional US$12 billion per annum to supplement the annual $2 billion Ghana earns from cocoa.

He has also initiated a bill in Parliament for the establishment of the Grains Development Authority and has already prepared a memorandum for cabinet consideration of the bill, which will substantially increase loanable funds to agriculture and its value chains. Also in the pipelines are draft cabinet memorandums for the establishment of a Horticultural Development Authority and Poultry Development Authority.

He oversaw the relaunch of the National Cocoa Rehabilitation Programme, through which a total farm area of 56,343 hectares has been fully treated across the cocoa-growing regions as of 30 September 2022. As a result of the programme’s success, thousands of farmers who had abandoned their cocoa farms because of the devastating effect of the cocoa swollen shoot virus disease (CSSVD) have returned to their land.

Since 2017, Dr Afriyie Akoto has directed substantial budgetary resources to the construction and rehabilitation of 12 irrigation schemes, of which six are above 90% complete, five at between 45% and 70% level of completion and the Pwalugu Dam currently at a level of 5%. Together, these irrigation projects will make available 31,415 hectares of land for all year-round crop production when complete.

Through his initiative, measures taken by the government to address major marketing problems in the agriculture sector include the construction of 80 warehouses of 1,000 metric tonnes capacity each for food storage and to reduce post-harvest losses.

In his work to accelerate the process of agricultural modernisation, he drove many bilateral arrangements that resulted in the importation of assorted agricultural machinery, including tractors, power tillers, planters, threshers, combine harvesters and hand-held equipment for smallholder farmers worth a total of over $100 million. This farm equipment and machinery is being sold at a subsidised rate of 40% to farmers and agro-processors.

Dr Afriyie Akoto has implemented the construction of three greenhouse training centres with attached commercial units at Dawhenya, Akumadan and Bawjiase for training youth in high-quality vegetable production. The vegetable produce is sold to high-end shops such as Palace Mall, Shoprite, Starbites, KFC and Burger King in Tema, Accra and Kumasi.

Dr Afriyie Akoto has won many awards and appointments in recognition of his transformational leadership. In February 2019, African Seeds, the intergovernmental seed agency of the African Union, conferred on him the title of Seed Champion of Africa.

Also in 2019, he was appointed chairman of the board of the Inter-African Coffee Organisation (IACO), a pan-African organisation promoting the interests of coffee producers across the continent.

He is the immediate past chairman of the ECOWAS Specialised Ministerial Technical Council for Agriculture (CTMS Agric) and was unanimously appointed chairman of the steering committee for the newly established Côte d’Ivoire-Ghana Cocoa Initiative.

Reporting by Fred Dzakpata in Accra

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