“Progress is about giving back to the community that sustains your life and provides you with opportunities” – Nana Owusu-Afari
“Development; that innate desire to expand, and make life better for oneself and the community at large, is the most potent force in human existence,” quips Nana Owusu-Afari.
As the President of Ghana’s foremost private sector advocacy organization, the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI), this genial, smart business man speaks with a wealth of knowledge. The Association of Ghana Industries (AGI) seeks to promote strong collaboration between government and industry to deliver economic growth and development for the country. “Interesting developments, which hold good the growth of the economy, have occurred these past couple of years. The relationship between the public and private sectors is improving tremendously by the day. Both sectors now recognise that we’re in the same boat and therefore need to collaborate more closely to make our fortunes and lives better,” Nana said, adding that he is looking forward to the day when government revenue is sufficient for the national budget without the country having to rely on 40 percent donor budgetary support.
Like most successful individuals, he is consumed by a sense of service to country. “The presidency of the AGI”, Nana notes, “is a privilege given to one to serve the nation”.
He opines that it is crucial for government advisors to have extensive experience and specific knowledge in the areas on which they are expected to counsel government.
Success and experience are not alien to Nana. He is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Afariwaa Group of Companies. The group has varied interests in farming, real estate development, veterinary pharmaceuticals, bottled water processing and production. He also has substantial shareholding in a couple of local banks. Maridav Ghana Limited, the local manufacturers of veterinary pharmaceuticals within the Afariwaa Group, is a major supplier to the Nigerian market.
“The path to success, as a private sector operator, has not always been easy. It takes grit, a healthy sense of self-confidence, and an equally healthy dose of nationalistic fervor to traverse the turbulent and rough terrain of growing a business from start-up, through early stages of growth to a well-established business that is capable of surviving on its own strength,” Nana said.
Nana speaks from experience. From 1970, Nana operated a “hobby” poultry farm at his backyard, in Tema, for six years. In 1976, he moved his farm onto a leased parcel of farmland from the Tema Development Corporation which expanded to become one of the largest integrated poultry establishments in Ghana.
At its peak, Afariwaa Farms comprised of a feed mill with a production capacity of four metric tonnes of animal feed per hour and a hatchery capable of producing six million day old chicks per year for the local poultry industry, as well as for the ECOWAS market. It also had a chicken slaughter and processing plant, capable of processing 400 birds per hour, and a breeding farm with 30,000 parent stock breeders, producing hatching eggs for the hatchery.
Research was a strong point at Afariwaa Farms leading to the development of the AFABRO broilers and AFABRID hybrid layer, whose performance equaled those of imported breeds.
Over its 30+ years of poultry production, Afariwaa Farms has become a centre of learning for agricultural students from the country’s tertiary institutions, where on-the-job training and visits afford the students the opportunity to learn and understand what industrial poultry production entails.
Nana gained prominence, recognition, and little wonder in 1987; he was elected President of Ghana Animal Science Association, and in 1991 became the Chairman of the National Council on Poultry. He is a founding member of the Ghana Feedmillers Association, the Ghana Hatcheries Association and the Large-Scale Poultry Farmers Association.
In 1991, he gained national recognition with the award of Greater Accra Regional Best Farmer, while his company also received the 1998 best Agro-Marketing Company of the year award from the Chartered Institute of Marketing, Ghana. Maridav Ghana Limited was birthed in 1987 to produce basic poultry and livestock drugs for the industry and the company, till date, has remained the first and only veterinary drug manufacturing company in the country. He observes, however, that the private sector – especially the indigenous subsector – could only thrive in an environment guided by a clear, comprehensive national development strategic plan, with a long-term outlook.
And that is why he doffs off his hat for Trade and Industry Minister Hanna Tetteh. “She has tirelessly worked to bridge the gap between the public and private sectors. We, as private sector, now get the listening we deserve and our input into government policy is considered seriously,” Nana said, but quickly added that the Ministry of Finance would do well to engage the organised private sector in discussions leading up to the determination of taxes.
“After all we are the biggest contributors to total national tax revenue and if we should be part of its determination, not many would consider options of tax evasion and other such unhealthy practices,” he said.
“The 20 percent environmental tax in the 2011 Budget is a case in point. All the going-on about that tax could have been avoided, were there the involvement of industrialists right from the onset, because then all the thorny and confusing aspects would have been ironed out prior to its announcement in the budget, and would have had the fullest backing of the private sector.”
Nana is excited about the new five-year Industrial Policy, running from 2011 to 2015, as well as the new public/private partnership (PPP) policy, which he thinks are, by far, the most comprehensive pro-private sector policies yet.
“Now we have a real opportunity for both the public and private sectors to join forces in a more concerted way to push the country’s industrialization agenda. And this is happening at a most fortuitous time when the positive dynamics of the new oil economy is coming into play,” Nana said emphasising the need to speedily legislate on local content and participation in the hydrocarbons industry, at all levels, to enable Ghana to maximise its benefits from the sector.
But he thinks local entrepreneurs also have work to do. “Much as we encourage government to create a positive environment that allows for the nurturing of local enterprise to the point of becoming globally competitive, it also behoves local entrepreneurs to endeavour to build efficiencies into their operations, as well as competencies that transform them into global players,” he said.
“Participating in the oil economy, for instance, is not business as usual since local firms will have to compete against highly efficient international companies, with a wealth of experience, for contracts in the multi-billion dollar oil industry, which by its very nature operates only by stringent standards.
The pragmatic, astute business man is not given to stargazing but he sees a great future for the Ghanaian private sector. His optimism is guided by the f closer and more meaningful collaboration between the private and public sectors in recent times.
“Now we both are taking each other serious. The public sector no longer views the private sector as a bunch of greedy entrepreneurs who are only out to make as much wealth as they can off the community, while the private sector also better appreciates what challenges confront the public sector and is therefore careful what demands it makes on government.
“If we shall continue to dialogue, in the present mood, over policies and other issues that would help translate governments’ mantra of the private sector being an engine of economic growth and development, into actionable programmes, there is no way Ghana would soon not become an economic giant in our sub-region and the continent at large.
“It is for this reason that some of us, who may have done a bit in our time, would still want to commit ourselves to this great enterprise, even if only in an advocacy role and bring our experience to bear on policy-making.
“It is time to do our national service,” Nana Owusu-Afari quipped.