As the popular saying goes, “you are not a leader until you have produced a leader who can produce another leader.”
This is what appears to have inspired former President John Agyekum Kufuor to establish the John A. Kufuor Foundation in 2009, the same year he stepped down from office after an eight-year tenure that was characterised by unparalleled economic success, unprecedented social intervention initiatives and exceptional governance.
He was determined to continue inspiring good leadership across various spheres of national development, hence the decision to set up the Foundation which is dedicated to the promotion of effective leadership, good governance and sustainable development in Africa.
“During my tenure as President, I realised that having access to resources was not enough to develop a nation. The human resource needed to be guided through visionary leadership, paying attention to vulnerable groups and equitable distribution of the nation’s wealth,” Mr. Kufuor who is chairman of the Foundation explained in an interview.
“I founded the Foundation to do just this: ensure that good leadership permeates all aspects of our lives including governance and socio-economic development,” he added.
Almost a decade on, what started as a simple idea has now become a world acclaimed Foundation positively shaping the lives of many young people, farmers, and vulnerable communities across the continent. The Foundation runs a number of initiatives which focus on youth development, mentoring of entrepreneurs, poverty eradication, rural development and environmental preservation, among others. One of such initiatives is the Kufuor Scholars Programme (KSP).
The Kufuor scholars with former President Kufuor and her ladyship Georgina Wood
The Kufuor Scholars Programme (KSP)
The programme recruits tertiary students and provides them with three years of mentorship, coaching and experiential training both in Ghana and abroad. “The KSP has the objective of creating a critical mass of transformational leaders and pioneering change agents who are expected to make significant impact on nation building by being selfless and community-oriented individuals, with abundant love for the country. The programme seeks to instill in the youth a strong sense of patriotism and integrity, and make them innovative thinkers,” Dr. Pascal Brenya who is coordinator of the programme explained.
More than 60 students have benefitted from the programme since its inception nearly four years ago and they have exciting stories about the difference it has made in their lives. “Before I joined KSP, I knew the word confidence but I never thought this word has the power to change life. From the teachings at KSP, I can now boldly say that my confidence level in what so ever I do has developed drastically,” one of the beneficiaries, Peter Darkwah narrated.
In addition to its annual Leadership Camp, the Foundation for the past three years has sponsored each year two scholars to attend the Asia Youth Leadership Seminar in Hong Kong, Taipei and Beijing, in partnership with the BAXAI Summer Leadership Programme of China. It also sponsors scholars to participate in other global youth events.
Some of the beneficiaries have been inspired to give back to society at a young age. Felicity Yeboah Dokyi, a 21 year old medical student at the University of Ghana and two other colleagues have started a social intervention initiative, Menarche-I, to promote good menstrual hygiene among girls in rural Ghana. The project was recently awarded $5,000 startup fund at the 2018 Clinton Global Initiative University conference in the USA.
“On one of our visits to the former president, he inspired us to be passionate about humanity. So my colleagues and I were all looking forward to doing something and then we came up with this idea,” Ms. Dokyi said. “Through this programme, I have been challenged and motivated to do more for my society. My experience with KSP has been really great and life transforming,” she added.
The Kufuor Young Entrepreneurs Network
The Foundation has also rolled out the Kufuor Young Entrepreneurs Network (K-YEN) initiative to help bring out the best in young people running businesses of their own. In September 2018, the K-YEN inducted managers of 15 organisations who will be supported with mentoring, training, international collaborations and networking, among others by seasoned business persons and accomplished academics and professionals.
“Through partnerships with the Brazil-Africa Institute and the University of Ghana Business School among others, the network hopes to project the products of these entrepreneurs globally and ensure that their businesses grow and become sustainable brands,” the coordinator Gideon Hosu-Porbley explained.
A beneficiary, Edwin Zu-Cudjoe who runs Social Farm Company said his firm has benefitted tremendously through its association with the K-YEN. “It is helping us gain a lot more credibility and reputation in the market place. The training and exposure to experienced entrepreneurs has also motivated us to enlarge our business goals and strategies,” he recounted.
Former president Kufuor is excited about the positive impact the Foundation is making in the lives of young people and has even bigger hopes for them. “I expect that ordinary Ghanaians and Africans can be supported by the Foundation to become good leaders in their chosen fields both in the private sector and public service. I expect a mind-set change for individuals who have benefitted from our initiatives; a shift towards patriotism, professionalism, community oriented service, business orientation, etc., whilst focusing on the development of humanity as a whole,” he said.
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Former President Kufuor inaugurates a mechanised borehole project in Kojo Ashong village in the Ga West District
Initiatives in agriculture, environment and biodiversity
Beyond the training of leaders, the Foundation has introduced various projects to enhance the socio-economic wellbeing of residents in rural Africa where agriculture is the main source of livelihood. A 5-year project with the Competitive Africa Rice Initiative (CARI), is empowering small-scale rice farmers in Ghana, Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Tanzania to advocate for support that will transform their businesses and lift them out of poverty. This year AGRA has funded the Foundation to advance the advocacy work in agriculture.
On environmental protection, the Foundation advocates for the preservation of biodiversity and is assisting the development of “national biodiversity guidelines” through stakeholder consultative processes in Ghana. The Foundation has co-funded an organisation working to develop standards for the biodiversity sub-sector, the Advocacy for Biodiversity Offsetting Group (ABOG) Ghana. It is also envisioning the Africa Climate Leadership Centre to build the capacity of the public and private sectors to apply the best and latest thinking on climate-compatible development.
“Not getting involved in the climate dialogue will be shooting us in the foot. It is becoming very crucial as we can see the signs of climate change all around us,” Mr. Kufuor notes when asked why the Foundation is spending a lot of energy on environmental related issues.
“These days you hear talk about the weather patterns changing; raining to the point of flooding when it is supposed to be dry for farmers to harvest for example. Our intervention will help persons who destroy biodiversity by virtue of their work to replace it, so that the nation will not suffer excessively from the loss of such biodiversity,” he explained.
The Foundation also runs initiatives to provide potable water to rural communities through solar-assisted mechanised boreholes. In partnership with Ecobank, the Foundation has successfully piloted a water and sanitation project in Kojo Ashong, a rural community in the Ga West Municipality. The community benefitted from a mechanised borehole, refurbishment of a clinic and high beam solar street lighting. Plans are in place to scale this up to other rural communities across the country.
These works by the John A. Kufuor Foundation have been recognised by various international bodies which are partnering the Foundation to roll out several projects. The Global Panel for Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition which former President Kufuor co-chairs has collaborated with the Foundation to create awareness on numerous agriculture and nutrition related programmes.
The World Food Programme has partnered the Kufuor Foundation in producing the Ghana Zero Hunger Strategic Review report which has recommended various strategies to help the country meet the Sustainable Development Goal of achieving zero hunger by 2030. The report was launched by President Nana Akufo-Addo in May 2018.
Advancing good governance
The Foundation also advocates good democratic governance and has instituted the Annual Global Development Lecture to inform the public on critical issues of governance in Africa. The lecture has brought renowned international figures, including Mr. Horst Koehler - former President of the Federal Republic of Germany, to speak in Ghana.
Former President Kufuor will be 80 years on December 8, 2018. The older he grows, the bigger his ideas and plans get. Prof. Baffour Agyeman-Duah, Chief Executive Officer stated that the Foundation will continue to work to ensure quality leadership on the continent that all Africans will be proud of.
At the heart of all these great works is the Kufuor Centre for Leadership and Governance which is under construction on the campus of the University of Ghana, Legon.
The facility which honors the former President’s immense contribution to Ghana’s development will be completed next year to create space for more work by the Foundation.
“This is where youth mentoring all the Foundation’s activities on global leadership and governance will take place,” Prof. Agyeman-Duah noted. So much has been achieved, but clearly, even greater things are still in the pipeline at the John A Kufuor Foundation to help create a better Africa.