The Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, has been elected as Chairman of the Inter-African Coffee Organisation (IACO) at its 59th General Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya.
His election, which took place last year by the representatives of 25 member-states, puts the minister at the helm of affairs for the next two years – with a major focus on helping to ensure ratification of the New Coffee Agreement. This agreement is expected to ensure expansion of the member-states to include not only producing countries but also countries with high consumption capacity.
The minister takes over from Mwangi-Kiunjuri, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary-Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, and comes to the seat with vast experience having served as Vice Chairman of the organisation until his election last year.
Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto is also an internationally-acclaimed expert in the commodity, working several years as a Consultant for the International Coffee Organisation (ICO) and as the United Nations Special Advisor on Soft Commodities.
He however assumes the seat at a time Ghana is being heralded as the next trailblazer of the African economy, with agriculture at its pivot.
Under his leadership as Agric Minister, Ghana has seen a tremendous improvement in its agricultural sector through various initiatives and policy interventions seeking to transform its economy and rest of the West African sub-region
Ghana’s agricultural ministry is currently pursuing a number of policy interventions, key among them being Planting for Export and Rural Development (PERD) which is expected to increase the production of various tree crops, including coffee.
The overall objective of IACO, which was established in 1960, is to facilitate interactions among member-countries to enable the exchange of research technologies and market information aimed at tackling challenges facing the continent
By his election as Chairman of the Organisation, Dr. Afriyie Akoto automatically becomes an Executive Member of the International Coffee Council – a subsidiary of the ICO – and will also be the Spokesperson for Africa on all issues relating to coffee.
He will additionally chair meetings and draw up Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) which will form the basis for decisions in the interests of production, consumption, and marketing of the commodity.
Dr. Afriyie Akoto also has the responsibility to organise the 60th General Assembly of the IACO, scheduled to take place in November this year in Ghana.
According to Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, his immediate objective is “to seek ratification of the new IACO Agreement, which will see the expansion of member-states to include countries with high consumption capacity.
“At the moment, consumption of coffee on the continent outweighs production capacity; that is why it is important to get countries such as South Africa, Egypt, Morocco, and Libya, who consume a high volume of coffee but are not members, to be part of the organization,” Dr. Afriyie Akoto told journalists in Accra after meeting with the Secretary-General of IACO, Dr. Frederick Kawuma.
He is of the opinion that getting these countries to be members of the organisation will further strengthen IACO and give it enough capacity to be able to address numerous challenges: such as low coffee production, climate change and its effect on production and quality, increased value addition, agricultural credit, research and private sector participation in the industry.
“We have to rejuvenate the interest of member-states in the production and consumption of coffee, which for me has even bigger potentials compared to its peers,” he noted.
The minister also pointed out: “The operationalisation of the African Coffee facility being funded by Exim Bank, Egypt, will be a major priority to consider,” – stressing that the improvement of credit facilities as well as development of institutions and infrastructure must be very key on the agenda of IACO.
Meanwhile, Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto said his meeting with the Secretary-General of IACO, Dr. Frederick Kawuma, in Accra was to discuss pertinent matters relating to operations of the organisation.
He said the meeting afforded the two an opportunity to deliberate on issues relating to administration, payment of dues by member-states; and also the upcoming 60th General Assembly of the Organisation slated for November in Ghana.