Ace Anan Ankomah
Ace Anan Ankomah
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Our mindset should breed excellence - Ace Ankomah

Private legal practitioner, Ace Anan Ankomah, has challenged the Ghanaian attitude towards value addition and entrepreneurship in nation-building and called for a radical change of mindset towards wealth creation.

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He said after so many years of cocoa production, two families in the world had grown the value of their chocolate factories to $161 billion, more than the combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, the world’s two leading cocoa producers that supply more than 60 per cent of cocoa beans.

Rock the blessing: Time no dey! - Ace Anan Ankomah

Addressing prize winners of the University of Ghana 2024 Annual Academic Prizes Awards (Humanities, the maiden ceremony at the Great Hall last night, Mr Ankomah said certain cliches and proverbs engrained in the Ghanaian mindset glorified mediocrity and average performance as opposed to striving for excellence, dreaming big and punching above the weight.

“Whoever first said ‘ketewa biara nsua,’ within a fundraising context, probably meant well. But in reality, standing alone, ‘ketewa sua.’ And, I am yet to identify which of earth’s mighty oceans was made from little drops of water, because for the most part, little drops of water either evaporate or are wiped away!”

“Today, I read that the Ferrero and Mars families, owners of the two largest private chocolate companies, saw their fortunes surge to $161 billion last year. According to Oxfam, that is more than the combined GDP of Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, the largest cocoa bean producers,” Mr Ankomah referenced.

Ace Anan Ankomah (right) interacting with Prof. Nana Aba Appiah Amfo (middle), Vice-Chancellor, and Maher Kheir, Ambassador of Lebanon and Dean of the Diplomatic Corps in Ghana, at the awards ceremony. Picture: CALEB VANDERPUYE

Ceremony

The maiden awards ceremony was attended by Provosts, heads of departments, lecturers and representatives of sponsors who sponsored 156 prizes presented to 121 recipients.

They are made up of 62 female and 59 male students. There are also sponsors for 11 new academic prizes from 10 individuals and corporate entities. Mr Ankomah cited several examples of how entrepreneurs in other countries he called “opportunity entrepreneurs”, took advantage and turned into profitable ventures certain seemingly adverse circumstances, while the Ghanaian entrepreneur, whom he categorised as “necessity entrepreneur,” grappled with similar challenges many years down the line.

For instance, a typical Ghanaian waakye seller will turn away potential buyers in queue to purchase the local staple, and repeat the same thing the following day, instead of taking advantage of the growing opportunity to scale up production.

To further illustrate the point, he said in 1920, the respective governments of the Gold Coast Colony and the United States banned alcohol. The Gold Coast Liquor Ordinance, passed on December 31, 1920, prohibited distilling and selling locally brewed alcohol.

That resulted in the imported schnapps forcibly incorporated into libation pouring, other rituals and events, distillers going underground, operating secretly in forests and remote villages, and the illicit alcohol deservingly got christened ‘Akpeteshie,’ which literally means ‘we are hiding.’

Similarly, the January 16, 1920, Volstead Act of the United States prohibited the manufacturing and selling of alcohol, except for scientific research, religious and medicinal purposes.

That resulted in ballooned alcohol use in science labs, sharp increase in ceremonial wine consumption, and doctors prescribing just a pint of alcohol to a patient every 10 days, and used that to prescribe it to treat ailments, including high blood pressure, anaemia, heart disease, typhoid, pneumonia and tuberculosis.

However, he said while the US repealed the law just after 13 years due to the commercial opportunities the law curtailed, in the Gold Coast, the 1920 prohibition was only repealed two days before Independence Day, 37 years later, pointing out that “Akpeteshie Independence” came only when the Republican Parliament passed the 1961 Akpeteshie Act. 

Contrast

“Contrast: one country removed the prohibition after 13 years and allowed a teachable and replicable science in safe distillation to emerge. Another country required its Supreme Court, 77 years later, to remove the last vestiges of a colonial prohibition with a blaze of judicial appellations, and largely still brews Akpeteshie (and for that matter pito, nsafufuo, doka, mmɛda, ahey etc), in nearly the same way as the great grandparents,” he stated.

He also cited the example of a local cuisine, kenkey, known in many local languages as ‘Ga kɔmi, Fantse dɔkon, and Asante dɔkono, which had been with the people from time immemorial, but not scientifically developed and packaged, with everything about it well documented.

Yet apparently, the most recent revolution in kenkey production happened when the then Governor Gordon Guggisberg reportedly introduced the corn mill to the Gold Coast and questioned why till date there was no university-documented history of the evolution of kenkey.

Referencing, Mr Ankomah said the Ministry of Food and Agriculture estimates that 90 per cent of all corn mills in the country were imported from Asia and Europe. 
About nine per cent are cobbled together from old corn mills, with only about one per cent manufactured locally.

“Thus, for over a century, to be able to make and eat kenkey, we make other countries rich,” the legal practitioner with interest in corporate law stated.

Charge

He said Ghana was maybe, more blessed. But those in other jurisdictions who had developed their products into time-tested ones, had not stopped at those blessings, repeated supplications for blessings with every singing of a national anthem, created myths and taboos about them or, worse, undertaken a path of destruction by ‘galamseying’ them.

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“They are working it, developing them, building curricula, teaching and producing graduates to practise and improve them. They are killing it, rocking their blessings,” Mr Ankomah stated.

He shared his personal mantra which was that “development first comes when we look to what we do, document them, jettison the myths and taboos about them, rather, find the science in them, and then develop technologies and industries aimed at making what we do easier, interesting, and marketable”.

By that, Mr Ankomah said, “we will evolve, develop and improve on workable, sustainable, generation-surviving and fortune-changing strategies, systems and structures”. He urged the Ghanaian to robustly challenge conventions and traditions, as every tradition was, once-upon-a-time, an innovation or coping mechanism.

The legal practitioner said if a tradition’s only justification currently was the defensive and often snotty ‘that is how we do things here,’ “then I strongly suggest that that tradition is now calcified, fossilised, ossified and irrelevant. Fearlessly discard it. It is powerless. You won’t die!”

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Mr Ankomah urged all to take actions to actualise their goals and become the best. “I believe that each time we sing ‘God, bless our homeland Ghana,’ God answers and blesses, making us certainly ’over-blessed’ by now,” adding, “I dare us to rock those blessings”. 

Congrats

The Vice-Chancellor of the university, Nana Aba Appiah Amfo, congratulated all award recipients for their exceptional academic accomplishments and excellence. She called on other organisations to support the university to promote academic excellence.

An awardee, Abigail Nakuor Wowolo, thanked the lecturers, parents and guardians of the awardees for their support and push. She urged her colleagues to nurture the attitude of excellence and also proceed with integrity in all their persuits.

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