Apostle Safo’s engineering exploits, who cares?

Author: Dr Akwesi Osei

This is my third article in the Daily Graphic on Apostle Kwadwo Safo and his engineering feats. I watched his exhibition of December 31, 2017 at Awoshie in Accra on television, his 37th annual exhibition. I have personally attended one of them.

Among the dignitaries at the exhibition was the President, the first time a sitting president had attended. Apostle Safo exhibited a machine that identifies and names leaves, a television operated through a musical conductor’s conducting skills, a tricar limousine and others.

Speeches showered praises on him and made promises of help. Notably there has been no help for this great man all along. Elsewhere he would have been a national asset.

Are we going to sit by for Apostle Safo to pass on only to realise that we have lost a gem? It happened to Nana Drobo in the 1990s when he found a cure for HIV and AIDS at a time the western world could not even control the weight loss and diarrhoea of AIDS patients  And by our scepticism he died with his knowledge. Apostle Safo should not go that way.

At the latest exhibition, the Minister of Science, Environment, Technology and Innovation gave his prepared speech on behalf of the government while the President himself gave an extempore speech. In both speeches there was no promise of intended concrete support by the government beyond the fact that the government was creating an enabling environment to allow all such endeavours to flourish. That is a general approach and not good enough to support a particular local ingenuity.

We have had Adom and Boafo vehicles in the 1970s but we did not support them. That was when Tata had not even started manufacturing. Toyota and Nissan (called Datsun then) had just started manufacturing. We could have been miles ahead by now if we had supported the effort.

Our universities have been disappointing in this matter. Apostle Safo has received honorary doctorates from at least the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) and the University of Ghana, Legon, yet the recognition was not for his engineering feats, rather for his philanthropic deeds. Yes he is a philanthropist, but more importantly he is an engineering wonder and that is what I expected the universities to recognise and award him for. By now one of our universities should have established a chair for him, a chair for Apostle Safo Engineering Studies.

An engineer in one of our universities once said Apostle Safo’s manufactured aeroplane would never fly because it did not conform to the laws of aeronautical metallurgy in welding the joints of the plane. I asked “Why don’t you assist him?” He answered: “We invited him but he would not come.” I asked: “Why do you not go to him?” No tangible answer was given. Are we developing our local initiative?

What are our Institute of Engineering, entrepreneurs, individuals and civil society on the whole doing to support?

At the said exhibition, Dr Vladimir Antwi-Danso, who also attended, gave suggestions for concrete support: By an administrative fiat the government can direct all ministries, departments and agencies procuring vehicles to include at least one Kantanka vehicle; the government should include a Kantanka vehicle in its fleet of state protocol vehicles and any foreign diplomat or president coming to Ghana will be picked from the airport in that vehicle; the President on national occasions could ride in that vehicle not just for national pride but to support and showcase what we have. That is a concrete support which would be a good example for others to follow.

We add other suggestions that the government, when buying vehicles for chiefs, for example, could buy Kantanka vehicles. The government or the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation should invite Apostle Safo, sit down with him and discuss where he can be supported. The government can also waive taxes for the parts it imports for its industries in order to make his final products relatively cheap. The 275 parliamentarians can be encouraged to use his vehicles. It is not a good reflection that Madam Adwoa Safo, Minister of State in charge of Procurement and MP for Dome Kwabenya is not using her father’s vehicle. The impression out there is that if the vehicle was strong enough she would have been the first person to use one to advertise for her father.

It is my hope that Apostle Safo has catalogued all these inventions such that in his absence, even if a new invention cannot be made, others can replicate what he has already catalogued. It is my aspiration that come the next exhibition in December 2018 the invited guests would all be attending the exhibition in Kantanka vehicles and the state would be picking officials at the airport in a Kantanka vehicle.