Business, Money & the Life with Harmony Seyram Attise

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Marricke Kofi Gane, a crab catcher & accounting mogul, talks business and his hope of becoming President

 

For many decades, it has been a rivalry between the infamous political parties here in Ghana. Ghanaians have talked and anticipated change in government besides the two political parties for years – the talks haven’t been the same as the actions.

One of my favorite quotes by John F. Kennedy which inspires me in many ways reads: “Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.” This quote incisively depicts the current political situation in Ghana. I’m not a politician, maybe not yet, but the crazy drive and contention between these two major political parties, the opposition and incumbent; National Democratic Party and the National People’s Party can be said to be the jailors of our freedom and growth despite our national slogan ‘freedom and justice’

The new decade, seeing another independent candidate, an accomplished business leader, Marricke Kofi Gane, is a breathe of fresh air.

Who he is

Mr. Gane had some early cultural diversity experience. He grew up in Keta, in the Volta Region of Ghana, with his grandparents between the lagoon and the sea as he passionately described it – they were exciting times of his childhood.

In between his childhood moments in Keta, he traveled to join his father in Liberia, then to Nigeria, and later back to Ghana to do his secondary education in Keta Secondary school. He continued with his ACCA, accounting and did a bit of writing alongside until he wrote his first book at age 37 and written many others later. He is a Chartered Accountant and a management consultant.

Largely, he had quite an interesting childhood with his other three siblings – a child traveler who was lucky to have had an early exposure to diverse cultures. Kofi, which I’m sure he would love to be called said: “I think it was exciting, but for me, it has always been useful. Those travels made me take up a role in international development, not because I loved to travel but, it allowed me to be three things; practice accounting, help humanity, and still be able to travel.

Some childhood memories have helped in shaping many adulthoods. In his case, he said: “I was a king of crab catcher.” I’m screaming – yes, he used to catch crabs, a lot of crabs – not only the blue-black ones, but he also caught the different types in the lagoon.

“We used to set up different traps with milo tins, I had about 50 traps and if you had many traps, you were regarded a king. We laid the traps at night and then early mornings we go and get those that had caught some crabs.” Hilariously, Kofi can still perfectly create and lay traps for crabs. He happily said: “I can still make all of those traps today, set a net in the sea and lagoon using the hook and the worm. It’s quite phenomenal. Those experiences never leave you.”

The Journey to ‘catch’ the Presidential seat

For many politicians, it was a deliberate – calculated journey to politics, but for Gane, it was a series of events that provoked his desire for the presidency. Barack Obama once said: Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

It’s was a series of events and the need for a change that eventually pushed Mr. Gane into political leadership. “Those events became a personal experience for me. So, I started writing quite a lot about what I taught the solutions were and in 2015 I wrote the big book, Gane Chronicles. Things haven’t changed. A year on after we voted the NPP into power in 2017, I taught it was ridiculous, so in 2019 March, I announced my candidature.”

On unlocking minds – the economy and complex knowledge

Over the past weeks, I’ve not once missed a point on proactive thinking amidst the pandemic. Gane’s slogan, unlocking minds is key to many business situations. On another level, business people need to think beyond the surge in the coronavirus to sustain their businesses. Here’s how Mr. Gane perceives the economy.

“Over here we see the economy as export; bring in investors, and put up industries; that’s our idea of economy. My understanding of the economy is: the whole world buys and sells one commodity and that is knowledge. There’s a spectrum of knowledge from the very basic to the very complex.

If your country has the highest complexity of knowledge, then you can manufacture things like x-ray machines, cars, aircraft, and all that, because your level of understanding – the knowledge level is very complex. When we understand that level of knowledge, we can manufacture anything and that’s it’s the highest level of knowledge a country needs.” He further explained: “The biggest economy we can build for ourselves is the educational economy, because all of that complex knowledge came from education.”

Again, he emphasizes: “We are always taught what to think and not how to think. It means that we can’t go beyond what we’re taught.” The educational and economic gap is the underlying problem of the economy – complex knowledge taught in schools should be practically absorbed by the economy.

Hence, industries need to be synced into academia and vice versa. We don’t have that, unfortunately.  That for me is unlocking minds, if we can do that, Ghana will prosper because the mind is everything. We have a lot of researched papers sitting on the shelves, we’re not doing anything with it.”

Coronavirus, business and the new normal

As he expertly shared his thoughts on the coronavirus, the conspiracy theories, and its impact, he bluntly noted: “it could be both – a hidden agenda and a genuine global crisis. Unfortunately, countries like ours do not have the capabilities to investigate a global phenomenon; the likes of the US are already doing that.

That is the complex gap I initially mentioned. What I see is that it’s likely this was a combination of both natural and man-made. My best estimation is likely that, this was a scientific agenda or experiment that went bad because nature decided to take its course.”

On businesses and how they can make relevant financial decisions as global businesses get severely hit by the pandemic – in his capacity as a chartered accountant he said, this is one biggest decision that is going to cut across for both businesses and government: “financially, what we should be doing now is cutting costs. They also need to look at both internal and external changes that are happening, one is to figure out how to cut cost by taking out the non-value adding areas. Another area is to look at the services they deliver and determine if there are elements of it that are no longer essential or relevant to their clientage and take it out.”

The new normal is fast settling in, but how relevant is the new normal pertinent to our business environment here in Ghana? Is the new normal the future of business? His response was: “in Ghana that may not happen immediately, but it will. It’s already happening in a few companies, but those are companies that can afford that new normal. The reason is, 70-80 percent of our economy is informal, it’s only likely that it will in the formal sector and even in the formal sector about 40 percent is government, hence if the government takes a lead on enforcing the new normal, then it’s probable to spread a little bit faster than normal.

But if it’s the private sector that will take the lead of affairs in adapting that new normal, then that’s going to take a while – it will be a very minimal effect in Ghana.” He also touched on how businesses can innovatively and strategically save more jobs and employees from being left out in the colds of the pandemic. Another key point he made was: “employee cost is, if not, one of the business’ biggest cost. They must be able to shift all other costs.” If businesses still want to accommodate employee cost, then it means they need to cut costs elsewhere to be able to absorb the employee’s costs.”

On business stimulus package

For the record he said: “the business ministry should have been extremely active by now.” He suggested helpline for businesses to call in to also seek business advice. He lamented on how crucial it is to support businesses during this time rather than just hand them cash. Stressing on the fact that, business people can be given these monies, but if not coupled with the right business advice and strategy, the effort would be a non-accomplishment.

“This is the perfect time to kill two birds with one stone. A lot of business support companies are going to go down in this era because businesses are not making monies, hence their services would not be needed. But, if the government is serious about getting businesses back on track, then, they need to be helping them make the best decisions.”

On that note, he said it’s the best time to bring some of these private business advisory services on board and pay them to supplement the cash package by providing advisory support via the business helpline.

Again on whether the package is adequate and in the right direction to support these businesses, divertingly, he said: “let me just say it’s necessary. Whether it’s adequate or not is the real conversation. I think they should be supported by the advisory. Because how a business will apply for that money, in what we call the stress time, can make or break them.

It’s essential to give people the advice to go with the money – otherwise, I can say, it makes it inadequate if the money comes with nothing – some businesses will take that money to just pay some loans that they owe.”  He reasoned out how crucial it is for businesses to know how much they are getting and how they’ll be spending how much they’re getting.

Global recession persuasion

“Globally, some areas will have it – that’s a given. It’ll be hard to predict where would be hit first because most companies are just beginning to come out of the covid. It will be unclear to note where it will be more rotten than the others.” Conformingly, he concurred with some form of a global recession. “I know governments are pushing the boundaries to pump physical cash back into the economy. The only hope we have is that global inflation does not also unseal as a result of that, but whichever way, it’s more prudent to push money back into the economy now than worrying too much about inflation. Inflations can be solved, but collapsing economies cannot.”

He also added: “I do believe it’s already affecting government, because we are losing on oil revenue, cocoa and cashews – even from a government perspective, we’re going to suffer some shock. The other thing for our local economy is that a huge part of our consumption is imported.” This he said allows us to cover our internal demand.

Last few words

Mr. Gane’s first few words before our conversation were how he interestingly described himself – though humbling, it has not ceased to spark some exhilaration for me: “I’m neither a mogul or have loads of money.”

For an anticipative presidential candidate, money, and lots of money is a boost for a political win. Ironically, the not too far ‘future president’ doesn’t have a lot of it. He said mirthfully: “Yes, really, I do not have money at all. I do a lot of advisory support to businesses – the last couple of years has been to the public sector. Then a small proportion to the private sector. Now, I do a lot more private sector advisory.”

Asking if he has also been hit by the pandemic as a service business owner, his reply left me ‘flat as a pancake’: “I am oo” he said pleasantly. He continued: “It’s comical because, this is the time that businesses need more advisory, as well the time where getting the right advice can unmake and make your business.

We haven’t really in this country seen business support services as a big part of running a business – other jurisdictions would rather get the service and make the right decision at first hand than we do here. A few businesses also get it, either because they have some international orientation or that they have seen people do business differently and learned from that. – “tough time for everybody” he concluded.

Is he still hopeful of winning the upcoming 2020 December polls? He confidently reacted – “I am, very. Very hopeful.”

>>>The writer is the CEO of Commec Group, a business development consultancy. She is a multiple award winning Business Development Consultant and a Writer. For business and engagements: [email protected] / www.commec.group

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