The world in November 2019 became volatile due to the novel coronavirus outbreak which has today left the globe deficient of over two million people. Wuhan in China has become a household name because that is where the virus is said to have erupted from, killing nearly 30,000 residents of the Chinese old city.
Apart from China, many other leading world economies such as the United States of America (USA), the United Kingdom, France, Brazil, Italy, Southern Africa among others have counted more deaths than dollars in the recent past as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Current world statistics as reported by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control states that, 106,433,703 cases have been confirmed. The report says 2,323,147 people have been killed by the monstrous virus.
It said Africa had so far confirmed 3,673,181 cases with Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt and Ethiopia leading. Worldometer puts the world confirmed cases at 109,777,062 with 2,421,123 deaths and 84,330,810 recoveries. Also, 22,872,794 cases are currently active with 97,745 constituting 0.4 per cent being in serious or critical condition.
As of March 21, 2021, Ghana had already confirmed 89,682 cases with 725 deaths and 85,761 recoveries.
These figures suggest Ghana is managing the virus well but what are the factors that have contributed to the effective management?
From the beginning, the government sourced funding from the IMF to procure PPE, educate the people and provide aid to the needy. Funds have been mobilised locally also for the purposes of PPE and public education but many have blamed the government for not doing enough in spite of the money received in the name of COVID-19.
The Jospong factor
Subsidiaries of the Jospong Group of Companies and Zoomlion Ghana Limited have carried out fumigation, disinfection and de-rating activities for the Ghana Education Service (GES), the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD) and the key and popular programme in this direction is the one under the Ministry of Health (MoH) called the National Malaria Control Programme (NAMCOP) under the company name Vectorpes Ghana Limited.
Incidentally, many world economic leaders such as China, the USA and others have embarked on mass disinfection exercises as a measure to reduce the spread of COVID- 19.
Foresighted Mr Joseph Siaw Agyepong, owner of waste management giant in Africa, Zoomlion Ghana Limited, had in stock over 7,000 knapsack spraying machines and 10 open spaced street sprayers called the boom spraying vehicles and a couple of hand thermal fogger machines, drones and canon atomizer machines, which can spray the chemical to a 50 metres’ radius instantaneously.
He did a corporate social responsibility disinfection of major facilities in the public and private universities when the waste management entrepreneur’s company (Zoomlion) got called by his long-time business partner, the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, to disinfect all markets and public places such as commercial streets and lorry parks, provide Veronica buckets, liquid soap and many others to the MMDAs for these markets. The GES and the Ministry of Education (MoE) also engaged Zoomlion to fumigate and disinfect all second cycle schools, both private and public across the country.
He then expanded the CSR project to disinfect all public and private universities and polytechnics alongside the GES programme. And that was done perfectly to the admiration of the Ghanaian populace, especially teachers and school managers who praised the government for the expression of concern about their health.
The government was to reopen schools for final year students in June and it, therefore, engaged Zoomlion Ghana Limited to do a second phase of disinfestation of universities, polytechnics, university colleges of education, nurses training schools, senior high and technical and vocational schools and all basic schools throughout the country.
Amazingly, Jospong delivered the job satisfactorily in two weeks to meet the deadline of the GES and government. This exercise was repeated in October and November to pave the way for school reopening for certain categories of senior high schools and basic schools and then again in January 2021.
Later, the Ghana Armed Forces, the Ghana Police Service and the Ghana Prisons Service all engaged the services of Zoomlion to disinfect their installations, offices and barracks among others.
Who is Jospong?
All men do have tremendous potentials to help change or shape society. So, do we all have the desire for good results from our efforts at all times.
The case of this successful entrepreneurial giant is not different. Labour, huge risk-taking, sleeplessness and the honest fear of God have alas paid off. I am not in any way talking about Bill Gates of the USA, neither am I referring to Steve Paul Jobs the business magnate also of the USA; and I am certainly not referring to Africa's business mogul, Aliko Dangote of Nigerian descent.
I am actually writing about Ghana’s Accra-based hidden gem, the Founder and Executive Chairman of the Jospong Group of Companies (JGC) and owner of the African waste management barbican Zoomlion Ghana Limited, Mr Joseph Siaw Agyepong.
He is revered by many as Ghana’s most successful entrepreneur currently and the next big thing to happen to Africa and the world in general. Indeed, he is the citadel of Ghana's waste management infrastructure and technological development.
Jospong as he is affectionately called, is a business magnate, investor and a serial entrepreneur. He is a lethal combination of genius, hard work and commitment. Born five decades ago on March 20, Mr Agyepong’s zeal for business started in 1995, when he transformed his mother’s small exercise book business into a Printing Press (Jospong Printing Press) now Appointed Time Screen Printing Press Limited, out of which today, he has built a conglomerate.
His vision is to build his multinational company to become the most successful African holding company, leading in every sector they operate in. And he has executed this successfully thus far by giving the company a fresh and vibrant air of transformation.
He started building his business empire which has transformed into a conglomerate today with over 60 companies operating in 14 sectors of the economy including waste management, banking and finance, education, ict and software development, printing and publishing, building and construction, manufacturing, port services and logistics, quarry and mining, oil and gas, agriculture and agro business, international business, hospitality and multimedia among others.
In Ghana, he has presence in all 260 metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs). Jospong operates in six African countries as well as China, India and Dubai among others.
Mr Agyepong believes in in-depth management training and experience and, therefore, has been training his employees widely across the globe and admits it has been one of the major strengths of his conglomerate. His personality scores the down to earth par excellence accord. His humility has won the admiration of many.
At a gathering of the business community sometime back, in his usual soft-spoken voice, he said, “In 1995, when this dream started, I had no idea where the Lord was leading us, but today I am humbled by the achievements our company has chalked up in keeping with our mission of improving lives”.
The veritable, charismatic, visionary and action-oriented leader leads his team diligently and makes sure that what is to be done is done diligently and appropriately. He has the acumen for a doer, very logical, decisive, prudent and critical in his problem-solving procedures. Creative and active minded he is. This man is always fixated on the brighter and broader prospects of endeavours rather than cosmetic considerations that retard progress.
Over the years, his conglomerate has employed a core staff of over 35,000 directly; and has created over 85,000 job opportunities along the value chain.
In 2006, Mr Agyepong revolutionised waste management in Ghana with the introduction of the famous Zoomlion Ghana Limited, utilising simple modern technologies with very affordable prices which has made waste management an attractive venture.
Today, Zoomlion Ghana Limited provides 360-degrees integrated waste management solutions, including the construction and management of solid and liquid waste treatment facilities in Ghana and beyond.
Indeed, Zoomlion’s service charges to their clients in terms of waste lifting and landfill charges are said to be the least worldwide compared with the World Bank benchmark charges. This shows the human nature in which the company operates.
As he has always maintained, building a sustainable business for the future does not happen overnight. He usually will urge his team that “we must continue to work harder in harnessing our collective efforts to build the future together, putting value on our human, intellectual and our financial capitals”.
Africa and especially Ghana has gained considerably from the dexterity and entrepreneurial capabilities of this affable man and stands to even gain more and in a better fashion by partnering with him to develop the nation.
He has demonstrated that if given the push by government, he can do more to help his country and the continent. A typical example is the effort he has put in the fight against the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr Agyepong through the establishment of Zoomlion introduced the manual tricycle concept which has evolved to become the motorised tricycle and the ‘borlar’ taxi for household waste collection in areas that have no accessible roads.
He has also introduced the skip truck and the communal container concept for rural waste collection stationed at the district capitals for communal waste collection, together with the compaction trucks for municipal waste collection among others.
Some of the many achievements chalked up by the waste entrepreneur include single handedly constructing the Accra Sewerage Systems Limited at Lavender Hill to solve the over 100 years direct dislodgement of faecal matter into the sea, which positioned Ghana for the bad reason as the 7th dirtiest country in the world. A similar waste water treatment plant is also being constructed and is near completion in Kumasi.
The conglomerate established the Achimota and Teshie transfer stations, the Accra Compost and Recycling Plant (ACARP) and introduced the Integrated Recycling and Compost Plant (IRECOP), which is being replicated in all the regional capitals with Kumasi (Kumasi Integrated Recycling and Compost Plant) being completed and in operation. These are all into waste material processing and manufacturing of organic fertiliser or compost for agricultural purposes and recycling of plastics for domestic and export purposes.
Interestingly, in all of these, he has had it difficult getting the Government of Ghana to sign off-taker agreements for the facilities to become fully beneficial to the country and the business of it.
As an influential advocate in the transformation of his conglomerate, his sterling leadership and contribution to national and continental development has earned him recognition by governments and institutions including the award of the Order of the Volta, one of the highest honors in Ghana. Also, he was awarded a Lifetime African Achievement Prize in Sustainable Development in Africa.
Mr Joseph Siaw Agyepong is a member of the Advisory Board of the Centre for African Studies of Harvard University, President of the Environmental Service Providers Association in Ghana, and a council member of the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI). Indeed, he has a long chain of remarkable awards for his achievement over the years.
He is naturally a great philanthropist and believes that giving back to society is fun and fulfilling. It is against this backdrop that he founded the Zoomlion Foundation (ZLG). Over the years, Mr Agyepong has offered donations to many individuals and institutions to support a wide range of initiatives.
Notable among them is the $20,000 to support the Noguchi Institute in the fight against the spread of COVID-19. Zoomkids Club made up of environmental sanitation clubs operating in schools across the country are also provided grants towards the payment of school fees for brilliant, needy students in senior high schools and tertiary institutions with over 1,000 clubs nationwide.
Additionally, school teachers who double as Zoomkids Club Patrons may obtain scholarship assistance to pursue a post graduate degree course at the African Institute of Sanitation and Waste Management (AISWAM-KNUST).
The Zoomlion Foundation also supports basic infrastructure development related to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) activities/projects using simple technologies. He also focuses on supporting individuals with very serious sickness and diseases and he is working to partner and support the under resourced public hospitals or community clinics, prisons, disability-related organisations, orphanages and religious institutions among others.
His benevolence has stretched to the supply of medical equipment to some notable teaching hospitals, construction of a graduate block for the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), a 72-seater toilet, an elevator, 30 mobile toilets and 50 waste bins for the Ghana Police Service at the Police Headquarters and many more.
The Writer is a Development Communications Expert
and a student of law.