On the back of the successful ruling in September 2017 at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Seas to define Ghana’s maritime boundaries with the Ivory Coast, more news.
Subject to Parliamentary approval, this is virtually assured (the government has a majority in the House, the Legislature generally troops along with whatever is presented to it by the Executive plus the Minority has a very recent record of pulling fast ones like AMERI that they would rather you and and I conveniently forget), ExxonMobil, the US oil giant, as widely predicted, will begin exploration leading to production of oil 92 km somewhere out there in the deep waters off the coast of the Western region in Ghana.
The announcement of the ExxonMobil agreement – 15 percent interest to be held by the Government of Ghana, 5 percent to be held by a hitherto unknown Ghanaian company – will reportedly deliver some $600 million in 2018 alone into our public coffers. The news came the day after President Nana Akufo-Addo announced a savings of $7 billion in excess capacity charges from a review of 24 power purchase agreements his government inherited.
One of the major bugbears of what turned out to be the President’s virtual media monologue to mark his first year in office, was that no one present that I am aware of, asked and/or was given a specific answer that I have read, as to which of the 11 power purchase contracts have been cancelled and which 8 had been rescheduled following a forensic review. Is the AMERI Energy deal with the United Arab Emirates registered company allegedly overpriced by $150 million off, on hold or still on? To be fair to the attendant media, I have also neither read or heard anyone from the Minority, under whose tenure these revoked and rescheduled power agreements were negotiated and signed, ask ‘but why?’.
Perhaps I should start attending these press briefings. If I had, beyond seeking details about the $7 billion save I would have asked 3 questions. For starters, will this President, a renowned human rights activist who personally led the cause to decriminalise speech by the media, pledge in his impending State of the Nation address, that the Right to Information Bill (critical to the good governance and good journalism credo he says he supports), will be shared with the public for our review and input and if necessary amendment, following that, swift presentation to parliament for debate that leads to enactment? For good measure I would have politely inquired when the Cabinet reshuffle will take place and since the man does have a dark sense of humour, I would have asked President Akufo-Addo to expand on matters foreign policy. Has he for instance heard back from his covfefe powerful friend, since their last exchange of tweets. See why even I would not invite me to some things?
Considering that agriculture apparently employs up to 50% of the workforce but contributed Ghc 77790.18 million to the economy in 2016, even the forecast by Stanbic Bank that the sector will grow at an average 3.3% delivering 25 percent of GDP in 2018, begs the question of what investment, recapitalisation and policies to access land will it take to right size this critical industry to really drive growth?
It has taken 2 years of preparation, in March of 2018, 33 years after the last touch base, an agricultural census to map how many Ghanaians are actually involved in agriculture on what acreage of land under what tenure of ownership/rent, using what equipment and technology to grow which crops, delivering what yields per acre, will take place. According to the release, livestock and aqua farming will also be counted.
Other than the obvious – income for farmers and their households, the impact of spending on food for citizens as well as the reality of ensuring food security – the findings of census will be critical as a reality check for the government’s ambitions to industrialise agriculture through the 5 Year Planting for Food and Jobs (PFJ) and the allied One District One Factory initiatives. Under the PFJ government says it intends to provide up to 50% subsidised improved seeds and fertilisers, bump up free extension services with some 4,000 new boots on the ground, help farmers to market their goods and introduce E-Agriculture.
In the 2018 budget, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) was awarded Ghc599 million, down from the Ghc760 it received in the previous year. With funds allocated to new initiatives like Inner Cities and Zongo Development (Ghc102 million) as well as Special Development Initiatives (Ghc1 billion), MOFA will have to produce more with less money. Technology and innovation appears to be the way forward.
The census should confirm if we indeed have some 800,000 hectares of low land across the country that could with improved irrigation and modern technology, be used to grow rice, a daily staple for many Ghanaians potentially saving the economy an estimated $500 million import bill with its attendant pressure on currency.
The 4 other crops that are targeted as part of the PFJ initiative are maize, soybeans, sorghum and vegetables including tomatoes, chili peppers and onions.
It is on the back of this government continuing to maintain fiscal discipline, invest in agriculture and infrastructure, that Ghana, then Ethiopia and Tanzania are tipped to be the fastest growing economies in Africa in 2018. Predictions and prophesies require delivery. The Minister for Agriculture, Owusu Afriyie-Akoto, is on the hook.
Ah Say Ma Mehn
George Weah will be inaugurated as the second post civil war President of Liberia, one of Africa’s oldest republics on Sunday, January 21st, 2018. A number of Heads of State, from across the continent including our President will converge in Monrovia.
It is unlikely that in the sweltering sun, the topic of discussion will center on Gabon, where following a resounding vote by Parliament to lift presidential term limits, President Ali Bongo, son of Omar Bongo, can if he so desires, best his father’s 41 year record as Head of State.
Raila Odinga will not be in Monrovia. He is busy. In Kenya, his supporters say they intend to proceed with swearing him in as the ‘alternative president’ at the end of January. The devilish details of how exactly the soon to be shadow president intends to operate are as yet unknown.