Everything God created has a purpose. The sun has a purpose. The clouds have purpose. Rain has a purpose. Trees have a purpose. Animals have a purpose; even the smallest insects and fish in the sea have a purpose. Above all, man has a purpose. Regardless of how large or small, we were all born to accomplish certain tasks. It is the knowledge of that purpose which enables every soul to fulfil itself.
“One person with knowledge of his life’s purpose is more powerful than ten thousand working without that knowledge”—The Soul of a Butterfly
The above defines to the marrow the man many describe today as a meticulously careful servant-leader of indescribable integrity and moral decency.
As has been famously said by Amy Lee Grant – an American singer, songwriter and musician: “There’s a beauty to wisdom and experience that cannot be faked. It’s impossible to be mature without having lived”.
It is no surprise that, for decades, Emeritus Professor Stephen Adei has enthusiastically devoted his entire life to championing Christian values and principles in the many roles he played and still plays in the Ghanaian and global environments as an economist, advisor, administrator, policy strategist, educationist, mentor, preacher, motivational speaker, consultant, philanthropist, disciplinarian, writer, marriage and family life counsellor – and above, all a caring husband and a family man.
Ahead of the launch of his latest and most powerful book in recent times – The GIMPA Story; Transforming A Public Service Training School Into a Self-Financing University of Leadership, Management and Administration in Ghana – the Business and Financial Times’ (B&FT) Bernard Yaw ASHIADEY, Ebenezer Chike Adjei NJOKU, Mohammed AWAL and Juliet ETEFE have gained unprecedented access to the archives of Professor Stephen Adei’s wisdom. Do enjoy the read.
B&FT: Prof., what were some of the hard-but-necessary reforms you had to undertake at GIMPA?
PSA: The first had to do with right-sizing the institute. When I came, I think there were definitely less than 30 professionals; I mean lecturers, senior members, registrars and others, yet there were about 295 so-called support staff. In a training institution, I expected a smaller ratio; at most, one professional lecturer to not more than three support staff. But GIMPA had become literally like a family and friends dumping-ground.
Fortunately, when I came government had a programme called the National Institutional Renewal Programme (NIRP), under which they were asking public sector institutions to be reformed; and the first batch of institutions they had selected included GIMPA. So, at least I had an umbrella under which to attempt a deep transformation. There was also a study being undertaken in partnership with the Maastricht School of Management before I came, which confirmed that some of them were, in effect, redundant and should be considered for separation.
I made sure that I influenced the study to suit what needed to be done. We concluded that about 140 of the staff had to be separated. Under the programme, the arrangement was that they would be given a package by NIRP, with funding from the World Bank; but the money was never released. But fortunately, by the time we were done with the reform we had sufficient money generated by GIMPA, and I paid them all their entitlement. In fact, instead of three weeks we gave each person five weeks of pay for every year they had spent at GIMPA.
Prior to their separation, we asked all the redundant staff to stay at home for one year on full pay. That year was added to their years of service. What they didn’t realise was that after the one year nobody could say they were not redundant. I had proven beyond doubt that GIMPA did not need them. The irony is that those who stayed at home used to laugh at those who were working to pay them.
So, in September 2000, after the conclusion of negotiations with the Tertiary Education Workers’ Union (TEWU), they were paid-off. It cost GIMPA 1.08 billion cedis – now GH¢108,000 – to pay them, as salaries were then quite low. That gave the room to recruit more professionals to transform the institution.
Another major challenge was low morale of the staff. They seem to have suffered poor leadership, bad conditions of service and many unfulfilled promises. Worse still, initially I had no money to give them. And even worse, for two years, they had to forgo normal salary increases. I invited them to trust me that things would change, and by sharing my vision, strategies and motivating them, I got Ghanaian public servants to go two years without a salary increment while demanding enhanced productivity. We proved that leadership credibility and integrity motivates more than monetary incentives… at least in the short run.
When salaries could be increased between 50 to 100 percent, because we could afford it and GIMPA had achieved financial autonomy, the Court of Governors (Council) approved the enhanced remuneration. I couldn’t wait to call a durbar to announce it to the jubilation of staff.
Morale soared, and they believed that it was not a ‘monkey dey work and baboon dey chop’ promises. My family had to make personal sacrifices – including not using our own Mercedes Benz we had brought to Ghana in order to empathise with the staff. Ironically, five years down the road, the Council bought a new Benz for the Rector’s use.
Initially, I had to use a rickety old Musso that my predecessor left behind. I literally worked with staff, cleaning pits, painting walls, repairing and furnishing dilapidated classroom chairs – and water Greenhill which had become Brownhill.
During the first vacation, we had to repair and varnish chairs in the lecture halls as they were mostly broken. The famous Greenhill was brown if you came in January. I said, “We are going to make the Greenhill green”. We changed the narrative; my love for gardening was very useful at the time. We did all these with almost no financial resources. We built our own Potter’s Lodge, doing as much as we could ourselves.
Banking on reputation
Another major constraint was shortage of classrooms and auditoria for teaching and learning. We had to use creative ways to overcome the constraint. I resorted to commercial loans. First, I was able to secure a loan of US$300,000 from Barclays Bank, with the approval of the Court of Governors without any collateral guarantee by GIMPA or government. With additional resources from internally generated funds, we constructed our first set of classrooms and a 600-seat auditorium. This was possible because the bank trusted me. I had come from the UN and my credibility was known internationally, plus they also believed we had a bankable proposition.
Later on, I returned to them for US$3million – and despite the norm being high-interest rates on local dollar-denominated loans, I was able to negotiate for LIBOR+1. It showed that credibility and integrity pays. We ensured that we serviced the loans on time, as well. That is how we built the infrastructure of GIMPA. By the time I turned sixty and was retiring, we had only one instalment of about US$168,000 left to be paid; and there was sufficient money in the pipeline to do so.
GIMPA was the first to start top-up degrees for HND graduates. We were the first university to have all mature students’ undergraduate programmes. Now you see it everywhere, but we were the pioneers of large scale mature students programmes. For me, it was totally unacceptable that if you missed college at seventeen to twenty years, your fate was virtually sealed when it came to higher education.
You would not believe that before GIMPA if one did a two or three-year Diploma at KNUST or Legon and wanted to upgrade to a Bachelor’s degree, the one had to start all over again – or at best be given one year off. So I asked, “You want to say when they were there, you taught them nothing?”
Even more revolutionary was that GIMPA’s top-up for 3-year Diploma Holders was for 15 months. Initially, the Ministry of Education and the National Accreditation Board raised an objection that 15 months was too short.
But I said the 15 months did not include vacations which the workers and mature students didn’t need. I am told that my successors have succumbed to the pressure of a two-year top-up.
Our undergraduate programme was an instant hit. I expected 100 students at first intake: we ended up with 600 students. All the 11-degree programmes, except Computer Science, were virtually designed by myself. I went to the sites of about 10 of the best universities around the world and looked at their programme structures. So, if I wanted economics I’d go to the London School of Economics, Harvard, MIT, Shanghai and others; and what I found was that they were about 80 percent the same.
Another innovation and national first was our sandwich Mphils and Executive Masters’ Programmes in Governance and Leadership, Public Administration and Business Management.
Again, I would have been happy with ten students in the first year; but we got sixty-five with no classroom to accommodate them. So I had to turn our small and only Mamphey Auditorium into a classroom and put all of them there to take their first two courses as strategic management and Human Resources Management which cut across all the Master’s degrees. I did so because I could teach those subjects myself, with the help of a couple of the Faculty I had. The Rector turned lecturer was itself a novelty, and so the participants and I had the ball of our lives.
Most importantly, we charged our undergraduate students US$1000 per semester and US$6,500 for MBA – of which US$3,500 had to be paid upfront. ‘Ejorbodoo’ – with that money we were able to hire top faculty from around the world who were easily sourced from America, Europe, Britain, South Africa and Malaysia – especially Africans in the Diaspora.
We fixed the sandwich courses in June, August and January when the Northern and the Southern hemisphere universities were on vacation. We could pay them US$3,000 for a forty-hour 3-weeks of teaching plus free ticket, free accommodation and free food – and they grabbed the opportunity. That is how we broke through both academically and financially.
GIMPA became known for its clean and green environment, elimination of ‘dumsor’; and has remuneration, a provident fund, mutual health insurance and a truly single spine salary structure which makes GIMPA retirees today probably the best-paid pensioners in the education sector.
Innovation and risk-taking
All change management involves taking some risks with the possibility of failure. Our decision to lay-off redundant staff in a cultural milieu when government jobs were for life irrespective of performance and productivity was one such major risk. It was a threat to my tenure, and could have thrown the transformation process overboard through staff agitation and eventual state intervention.
I was under no illusion concerning this, but I also knew that everything we sought to achieve hung on the redundancy exercise. It was a gamble that was well-timed. We first asked them to stay at home for a full year and separated them at the peak of a national election – when the ruling NDC was more concerned about victory in December 2000.
Another risk was commencing our undergraduate degree programmes when the National Accreditation Board (NAB) withdrew its approval and insisted that I sought affiliation with either Legon or the University of Cape Coast, having assured themselves that the affiliation would be denied, which in fact both Legon and Cape Vars did; but I was pursuing a legislative change that permitted GIMPA to award its own degrees as a Chartered University.
Another innovation and risk was using commercial loans for infrastructural development in a public educational institution such as GIMPA, which took us into uncharted waters. Public sector organisations were not known for this approach to financing their developments. Audaciously, we did so without seeking state guarantees or even using existing infrastructure as collateral.
With my Council’s approval, I raised millions of dollars based on personal integrity. It was all successfully paid off. We pioneered ‘Top-Up Programmes’ for HND holders, which the Minister of Education, the late Hon. Kwadwo Baah Wiredu, and the Minister of State responsible for Higher Education, Madam Elizabeth Ohene, opposed. Their pretext was that the Ministry of Education was thinking of a comprehensive Top-Up approach and we should wait. I would not budge and went ahead. It was an instant success.
All these risks contributed greatly to the change process. Had we not dared to be different and challenge the status quo, the Institute would have been like every other public sector organisation – stuck in mediocrity and lack of progress.
Risk comes with the possibility of failure. But it is the job of leadership to responsibly take the risk with a willingness to take the flak for it when things go wrong. That is courage. It comes with the job, and leaders of all organisations cannot avoid it and remain transformational.
The above insights or realities alluded to the related phenomenon of innovation. Transformation requires thinking out of the box. Innovation was a critical success factor in transformation of the Institute. We had to invent much along the way. As a leader, I did not always have a clue as to some of the solutions we derived. We needed to innovate on all fronts – in our programmes, teaching methodology, financing and management.
B&FT: Leadership styles vary. Do you think your leadership style at GIMPA can be replicated at the national level?
PSA: Absolutely! At every level! Virtually, that’s how Prof. Frimpong Boateng performed at Korle Bu Hospital during his time. Also, my friend and fellow Christian, Prof Kwesi Andam, did a lot at KNUST. Incidentally, the three of us have been friends from our college days.
A transformational leader is both with the people and separate in thinking from his followers.
However, no leader succeeds alone. But a leader must have a core team of other leaders that he/she can trust to get things done. You cannot compromise on the quality of your next rank of leaders such as Department Heads – and that is the challenge in public sector leadership, as you have limited control over that.
On the positive side, I had the likes of Dr. Lawrence Kannae, Mr N.S.K Appiah, Mrs. Vivian Attah, Dr. Joe Mensah-Ansah and Mr. Ben Eghan III to name a few that helped make what GIMPA became. At the same time, the mistake of GIMPA – which the institute is still reeling from – was the recruitment of some Professors, especially from the diaspora, without adequate due diligence for managerial leadership capacity.
Another leadership challenge in the public sector, GIMPA being no exception, is instituting rigorous performance regimes and using them for rewards, training, discipline and, ultimately, weeding-out the incorrigible. GIMPA’s success largely depends on that – even though on several occasions we were taken to Court for separating non-performing senior members, all of which we won.
You need to have a crop of leaders who are loyal and can be trusted and your choice of them is so important. If you find somebody not capable of rising up to standard and you do not deal with them, you are in trouble. I would trust you, because if you don’t trust people and say everything should be on you, you can never move forward; but also, I don’t allow one inch of disloyalty or theft.
They must be empowered also, but when people fall out of line – being greedy or lazy, something along those lines – it must be addressed quickly. I would not expect to do everything by myself because I simply cannot, but I would not allow one instance of theft to pass by without dealing with it ‘surgically’.
I delegated the schools to others, but if they failed to perform that had to be addressed. I have been taken to court on 11 occasions with accusations of wrongful dismissal, and not once was it proven to be true. People would say I hated them when the basis of the dismissal was an assessment scheme approved by everyone. It was hard, but I chose that path of not compromising.
On my birthday, I stepped down. I was even late for my birthday party as when I was leaving, I cleared my desk so that the next person to take over would find it easy.
B&FT: Still on the subject of leadership, how would you rate Ghana’s leadership, historically, in the eyes of an economist and a leadership expert?
Please permit me to put on my professorial heart. On the whole, I would give the leadership of Ghana since independence a C.
We have not had the sterling leadership of the newly industrialised countries, not even Osagyefo, in terms of leadership qualities.
In terms of Ghanaian political leadership, Kwame Nkrumah stands tall; but he also had almost-irremediable weaknesses, which eventually destroyed his leadership. He had vision and charisma, and he was a great mobiliser and had a development agenda. His first ten years, from 1951 when he became leader of government business to 1960, did a lot for our country. Ghana owes so much to him – building an African civil service of repute, expansion of social and economic infrastructure, brave attempts to modernise agriculture and industrialise the economy. But he also sowed the seed of all the ills that have bedevilled Ghana ever since: including polarisation of the society, introduction of the infamous 10% to finance activities, political intolerance and economic mismanagement toward the end of his era.
Sometimes, I wonder what would have been the state of our country if Nkrumah had worked within the United Gold Coast Convention, except that he might not have been the first president but probably the prime minister. Personally, I think he broke ranks with them, not for any major difference between their ‘self-government in the shortest possible time’ and his ‘Self-government now’ but who would be the leader of an independent Ghana.
I think he was not an honest man, intolerant of opposition (who had their own shortcomings) and relished a personality cult.
He got his international relations wrong by insulting the West while looking to them to finance his 7-year development plan, and sowed the seeds of his downfall. Even though personally I am against coups d’etat, Nkrumah seemed to have given no option to his enemies by pursuing a one-party agenda
Kofi Abrefa Busia
The military who overthrew Nkrumah,saw themselves as transitory and carefully engineered the next civilian administration headed by Prof Kofi Abrefa Busia. I think never in the history of Ghana were such competent people assembled as in the Abrefa Busia’s administration. They were extremely intelligent and capable, and if their economic policies had been allowed we would not be where we are now. But they overestimated the extent to which Ghanaians would be able to tolerate hardship, which was a basic miscalculation. Following the Bretton Woods institutions, they devalued the cedi by about 43 percent and within weeks the regime was overthrown.
Despite a few bright spots such as the ‘operation feed yourself’, the military regimes from 1972 to 1983 – excluding the short period of Limann’s regime, which was no better – were an unmitigated disaster for this country. Development Economists call it the Lost Decade of Ghana. The soldiers showed themselves no less corrupt than other Ghanaians, were incompetent in civilian administration, and set the country back decades – including the first two years of Rawlings (1982-1983)
I thought Acheampong was the worst of our leaders before the fourth republic, but my graduate students of Governance and Leadership at GIMPA voted Hilla Limann as the worst and converted me. He had no leadership skills, though a nice person. His budget was even rejected by his own party. Party functionaries had a sunshine day to make hay and ‘loot and share’. He could not even protect his administration against the obvious treat of Rawlings, who literally put him on probation.
J.J. Rawlings was Ghana’s longest serving head of state – for nineteen years. He had charisma, was bold and idealistic and a great mobiliser. Like King Saul, he stood head and shoulders tall above many. The tragedy of Ghana is that Rawlings did not have the developmental capacity to lead the country to break the glass-ceiling of underdevelopment. He achieved some transformation in the social and economic architecture of the country, such as the local government and education reform. But his lack of capacity is evident in the fact that, after nineteen years, he left behind a ‘highly indebted poor country’.
He relied on the likes of Prof. Kwesi Botchway in the economic area, Captain Kojo Tsikata with regard to security, Tsatsu Tsikata who metamorphosed from a legal guru to an investment and oil expert, and the Ahwois from local governance industry to agriculture. When in 1983 the economy hit rock bottom, his government turned into the IMF and World Bank recovery programme; but I think to his dying day, Rawlings hated those programmes though he had to concede for the survival of his regime.
Imagine if over the 19 years Rawlings had the capacity of Nkrumah or Mahathir Mohamad, Ghana would not be a highly-indebted middle-income country today.
John Agyekum Kufuor
Rawlings was followed by the gentle giant, John Agyekum Kufuor. I do not think that he had outstanding features of the likes of Nkrumah, Busia or Rawlings, but probably he was the very level-headed leader Ghana needed at the time. His Ghana poverty reduction programmes led to improvements on almost every economic indicator from the previous administration.
The decision to place Ghana under the Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) programme immediately led to about almost 80 percent of our debt being forgiven and mitigation of the resource constraint on the economy. He will forever be remembered as the leader who discovered oil – which unfortunately has not become the blessing we all anticipated.
I think history will look at the John Agyekum regime with more favour than any other Ghanaian leader. Not so much of his sterling leadership qualities, but he brought calmness and nobility to leadership in the country.
John Evans Attah-Mills
Atta-Mills inherited an economy with good prospects; with oil, the country registered a global best growth rate. I think the bi-partisan and Constitutional Review Commission to remedy some effects of the 1992 constitution was his greatest legacy, although his party big-wigs would not allow recommendations of the Commission to be implemented.
He projected an image of personal integrity and incorruptibility, but he could not put in any significant measures to deal with the corruption of the country. It is difficult to judge the leadership of Prof. Mills, because from day one it seems he was not too well – and his death after a prolonged illness clouded his leadership. It was obvious that in his latter days he was not in charge of the country. He was, to me, the person to have taken Ghana to the next level. But by the day he was to be inaugurated he was too sick, so it was a matter of hanging in there; every now and then he threw a blow, but very soon he was no longer in charge.
John Dramani Mahama
John Mahama literally slid into the presidency with the help of his boss. Considered a young man, handsome with some charisma, he performed below the expectation of many Ghanaians, both foes and friends. With the hindsight of the son of a Minister under Nkrumah, experience as a Parliamentarian, Deputy Minister, Minister and Vice President, he could definitely have done better even though he never showed signs of being a transformational leader in terms of vision, strategy and transformational agenda. The Transparency International Corruption Perception Index indicated that the phenomena increased under his regime. He has the unenviable record of being a one-term President who subsequently lost two elections and was bent on regaining power for four more years. In terms of leadership capacity during the fourth republic, I still think he ranks low.
Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo
It is most dangerous to critique a sitting president, but “all die be die”. I think that Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo came with a lot of promise and Ghanaians overwhelmingly endorsed his leadership; and even after his first term, returned to power with an unprecedented margin if one discounts the 1992 ‘fixed’ elections. Given his pedigree, top ministerial positions before his election as president, being both an Economist and a Lawyer and given the pre-Covid performance of the economy as well as his management of the Covid crisis, he scores good marks as a leader with vision and transformational agenda, so far as his first term was concerned.
I think he was over-ambitious as to what could be done in terms of transforming the economy, pursuing multiple agendas in education, agriculture, industry, infrastructure etc. and borrowing so much that Ghana has become a highly indebted middle-income country. He has not succeeded in taming the canker of corruption, has run a bloated government and administration and allowed too many centres of mini-power – from the Chief of Staff to erstwhile Senior Minister, strong Minister for Finance and forceful VEEP.
His laudable anti-galamsey and corruption agenda have yielded limited results; and in the case of the latter, marginal improvement in the corruption perception index is being challenged now by the lifestyles of some of his appointees and close associates. The jury is still out – and the handling of the current economic crisis partly due to the debt overhang, the fiscal deficit exacerbated by arrears to be paid, COVID and the Ukraine war will prove whether he will come out as a strong leader or not. I think it is time that he built a national consensus on what must be done rather than the usual pursuit of partisan agenda.
B&FT: We are not just individuals, we belong to families and communities; and in addition, we are gift-giving people. With this in mind, can we do away with corruption under these circumstances?
PSA: When we were young these things you are talking about were there, even in a much stronger way; but the greed that fuels corruption of today was not there. The political and bureaucratic leaders of today must take responsibility for the high level of corruption in the country and not blame it on our family system, sense of community and our tradition of gift-giving – even though I think that in the light of this mountain of corruption, these traditions will have to be controlled.
The day we have a leader who is willing to deal surgically with corruption, you will be surprised that in a year or two much of what seems endemic will go away. And I mean a leader who will not put his party first, family and friends and narrow tribal caucus ahead of national interest, and willing to stake his life and position on getting rid of corruption.
With regard to corruption, I stand by the globally known statement – “Leadership is cause; everything else is effect”.
Do you know why without necessarily attributing personal corruption to our presidents, I hold them responsible for the ‘find (not create), loot and share’ syndrome that has bedevilled our country, especially in recent times, and has created a democratic dictatorship. The president chooses his ministers, appoint Boards and Chief Executives of all public institutions and more, and they serve at his pleasure. Yet over and over again, men and women of proven integrity have been challenged in contributing to the governance of this nation, while Party cronies, friends and families – ostensibly having worked for the party to come to power – are rewarded. As such, institutions and systems are undermined to make it easy for them to be corrupt.
We have to do more as a people if we have to stamp out corruption in this country. If the executive and parliament will allow, our laws must be changed so that people can be made to account for their wealth beyond what they can legitimately claim to have earned from business which their tax returns should reflect; let all public office holders declare their assets openly and verifiably; exempt whistleblowers and those from whom bribes are extorted from being criminalised so that they will report extortion; simplify processes and deepen digitisation; put a cap on the period of adjudicating corruption cases as we have in election disputes. Limit the size of government and the tendency to de facto make party chairmen, general secretaries, and who’s who in the party of the ruling government de facto members of government sitting in Cabinet meetings, and the tendency to make the Chief of Staff office a supra spending ministry. And I am not talking about the current regime only, for the practice goes way back. There is a limit to how much water you can fetch with a leaking bucket.
B&FT: Considering recent geopolitical developments, is there any purpose for institutions like the UN – given how they relate differently to different countries? Taking into account the publicised case of Rwanda, should we still have ourselves in such a community of nations?
PSA: First, the United Nations (UN) is bigger than the Security Council and it should not only be judged by what happens there. In fact, the World Bank and IMF are overgrown agencies of the UN. Then think about UNDP, UNESCO, WHO, FAO, the Regional Commissions and you will be surprised about the relevance and important roles the UN has played in making the world a better place. It is when it comes to the work of the Security Council that the architecture fails us – because of the veto power of the big boys who can do literally what they want, as we saw with the US in Iraq and the devastation it is causing to millions of lives in Ukraine.
Even in war and security, I think the world would have been worse without the United Nations.
The UN is still a very useful organisation that helps the world greatly. It is the only organisation, imperfect as it is, that gives the world some sense, albeit limited sense, of community of nations. I would compare the United Nations to our political elite in Ghana – the Executive and Parliamentarians – despite their corruption and sickening partisanship which make one wonder sometimes what they think of the republic. The alternative of their not being there has consistently proven to be worse.
B&FT: Considering where we are currently, the Ukraine-Russia war does not seem to be ending any sooner; what can the country do about our ballooning public debt?
PSA: I don’t think we can blame the Ukraine-Russia war as the main cause of our debt crisis, though it is not making life easier for us. I think that the current economic crisis including the debt overhang is calling on us as a people to drastically change the way we live, to manage our economy and fund our development largely from internal sources with foreign inflows being a welcome addition. Unfortunately, what we need to do to get out of the crisis makes government unpopular, while I do not think that any opposition will do better.
Despite the call for huge wage increases, what’s needed is reduction or containment of public expenditure and assuring value for money in public procurement. Much of the ambitious development programmes have to be put on hold, though being selective as to what we need to sustain the economy. Secondly, we have to raise more revenue, impose more taxes and ensure that the rich, property owners, receivers of rent, capital gains etc. are made to contribute their lot under existing tax laws. And I repeat what I said when I became the Chairman of GRA: in tax administration, there are no protocols.
B&FT: How so?
PSA: I have been the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) Board Chair, so I can speak with some authority that there is revenue out there to be collected – but not when corrupt officials who use the names of party big-wigs to do wrong are rewarded with post-retirement contracts and those who seek to apply the law are maligned on social media as anti-party interests. Our inherited partisan political system, which is supra to all institutions and systems, is a pain to our national anti-corruption drive.
B&FT: The continent signed a free trade deal that came into effect on January 1, 2021; what is your general overview of the AfCFTA and what does this mean to Ghana, being host of the secretariat?
PSA: Being host of the AfCFTA secretariat only gives a limited advantage to Ghana. Ultimately, it is competitiveness of the Ghanaian economy, viz a viz other African countries, that will be the game-changer; and believe me, the Ghanaian worker is one of the least productive on the continent – which is not helped by our poor work ethics and the penchant of employees to steal from their employers at all levels. The cost of doing business also has to fall drastically, especially that of power to commercial houses.
We must enhance the drive toward better technical and vocational education, producing science and technology graduates with creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship at the tertiary level, and address bureaucratic corruption in the civil service to gain a competitive edge – not only in the sub-region but also on the continent. Otherwise, we may host the secretariat but the likes of South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya could flood our markets.
That said, Ghana has a locational advantage. Our entrepreneurs are capable of rising to the occasion if motivated and our labour productivity and industrial relations managed well.
Railway connectivity to our landlocked countries alone could yield us more than what we get from Cocoa. Let us see AfCFTA as a potential to be exploited and not a gift to Ghana by virtue of having the secretariat here.
Currency and Logistics Issues
B&FT: Some say the Pan African Payment Settling System (PAPSS) will help in stabilising the cedi against other currencies, what is your take on this?
PSA: No Pan African Payment Settling System (PAPSS) by itself will help in stabilising the cedi against other currencies. Even if it is pegged against the CFA for example, unless the underlying economic fundamentals are strong, there could be parallel currency markets developing. But like MoMo, it will definitely enhance intra-African trade and Ghana will be a beneficiary.
B&FT: Are you in favour of affirmative action in education and employment?
PSA: To be honest, I don’t like discussing affirmative actions; just get the girl child and the boy child both educated, and in one generation you will not be talking about affirmative actions. I subscribe to what my boss in UNDP used to say, that “the best condom is educating the girl child’ because how many educated girls have 10 children? I think we should not waste time on affirmative action but create a level playing ground for all. This is where free pre-university education is a game-changer, but let us address factors leading to high dropout rates for girls. And in meeting their needs, one is not pursuing an affirmative action but addressing biological disadvantages such as teenage pregnancy, menstruation, etc.
B&FT: What is your view on the educational system generally?
PSA: I think that Ghana used to have a very good education system, but we have lost a lot of ground lately. The biggest problem is the quality of basic public schools. The average JHS graduate in my area is functionally illiterate.
It seems in the public school system, whether the children pass or fail, the teachers get their pay. That is why the average public school teacher sends their children to poor private schools with untrained teachers.
At the secondary level, we need quality community day schools. No nation has been able to train all their children in boarding schools. The way forward is not expanding the Achimotas, Prempehs and Presecs but making sure that every major suburb in the city and people living within certain radii in the countryside have quality day secondary schools with bungalows for teachers, boreholes for water, solar panels for electricity and Wi-Fi. Then they will get the same quality of life and education as urban dwellers and in grade-A schools. Those who want their children to go to boarding schools must pay for it, and the money collected in the public fee-paying schools used to support the above-mentioned day facilities. Also, emphasis on technical and vocational education is most important. And by the way, I support Free SHS, modified to make the rich and those who want their children to go to boarding schools pay.
When it comes to the tertiary level, I think wholesale university, teachers colleges, nursing colleges and wholesale free teachers, nursing and public university education cannot continue. And this is not a political statement. Soon, the country cannot afford it. Moreover, it is ironic that if you go and learn dancing in a public institution you have free or subsidised education; but if you pursue science and technology education at Pentecost University, you are on your own.
The future of government sponsorship of students in tertiary institutions should not be linked to ownership but t manpower needs of the country, in the form of scholarships tied to subjects the state wants to encourage. In any case, without government putting a pesewa into business students, for example, we will still have an oversupply of them. In that regard, an engineering or STEM student with a WASSCE aggregate of 24 should get a scholarship while a business, history or political science student may not get it. But some will say that is why you are a professor not a politician.
B&FT: You are very big on the subject of marriage and family life. Kindly fill us in on how it started for you and why you have persevered.
PSA: Marriage and family life are both things I am most passionate about and for which I have spent much of my adult life thinking through, seeking to practice the best I know of and spending much of my non-working time and life in promoting. Between my wife and I, we have written several books on marriage and family life from ‘Passionate Monogamy’, ‘Akoss (my wife), the best woman God made’. I love and cherish my wife and I have never allowed pursuit of academic laurels, professional advancement or anything to take priority above my relationship with my wife and my children. That is why I rejected a scholarship to read my PhD unless my wife accompanied me, to become the Coordinator of the UN System in South Africa, unless the UN allowed me to visit my family every 6 weeks because formerly South Africa was not a family duty station.
The Lord has blessed me with a good marriage and sometimes I feel embarrased, knowing the challenges many couples go through, who in many ways have better credentials than me and my wife; that for 47 years, come July this year, we have had a virtually trouble-free romantic relationship as a couple. We thank God for that. Literally, thousands of people have benefitted from our books and severally around the world wherever we have lived to enter into the joy of passionate monogamy and marriage as God intended it. (Both titles of our books)
All that time will let me say is that successful marriages are not built upon perfect spouses, which none of us is, but commitment to basic rules – especially in God’s word such as unconditional love, not letting the sun go down on your anger, humility and commitment to pursuing common goals.
When it comes to children, I believe they are a heritage from the Lord; and when God blesses you with them biologically or by adoption or fostering, you have a great responsibility to raise them up in the trusting and admonition of the Lord to grow intellectually and in wisdom, to live with others and to work with their head, hands and heart.
We have 4 adorable children who now call themselves men and women, with the youngest at 35, but who will be called boys and girls till I die. Interestingly, the 2 boys ended up as engineers and the 2 girls scientists (a paediatrician and a top biologists). We have 4 grandchildren and counting. However, for the past 22 years, with an empty nest, our focus has been raising other young lives through Ghana Christian International High School.
Ghana Christian High School and Impacting young people
GIMPA was a major focus of my life for nine years. However, a major passion has always been impacting younger people at the pre-university level. That is why even after retirement I spent ten years teaching at Pentecost University and Ashesi University. It is that passion that motivated my wife and I to found Ghana Christian International High School (GCHS), which to us is our greatest joy as today over one thousand, two hundred students are enjoying a Christ-centred quality education at an affordable rate compared with our comparators like SOS, Tema International, GIS and Lincoln because of our not-for-profit status.
Christian High, as we are popularly called, is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, in Ghana. Over its twenty-two years of existence, thousands of students have enjoyed the Christian High experience under its banner (For God, Family and Country). Over 90% of our students go to university immediately on graduation and the rest soon follow.
Eight years ago we opened a campus in my village, and in 2021 students there probably returned the best WASSCE results in the country – with all passing the six required subjects – A1 to C4, except for two students who got C5 in Mathematics and one C6 in English. As the Lord enables us, we plan to open campuses in Kumasi and Tamale in the near future (For God, Family and Country).
B&FT: On Personal Financial Management
PSA: Personal financial management is an area I did not start well in at all. I learnt my lessons before it was too late at age 46; enjoyed financial independence thereafter and it has been my passion imparting what I learned to others. Coming from a relatively poor background, love for money has never been my problem – though others from similar backgrounds tenn to overcompensate by being corrupt and stealing as much money as possible. My wife is even worse. She has an aversion to handling money, and in 47 years I don’t remember her signing more than 10 cheques.
My situation was worsened when as an undergrad and a Christian, visiting patients at Legon hospital, a middle-aged woman on finding out than I was an Economics student exclaimed ‘in future your wife will suffer’ – meaning an Economist is equated to being a miser, which is far from the truth. As a result, until I was 46 I had very little savings and spent everything on my family, extended family and helping others.
This was until I read a book titled ‘Common Sense’ by Art William which showed me that it is suicidal not to save and invest, and taught me the fundamentals of personal finance management. What I subsequently learned has been documented in my book ‘Twelve Keys to Financial Success’. Since then, it pains me to see the average person, even workers, battle with financial difficulties; and wherever I go, I want to do something about it – including what I am in the process of doing now by forming a ‘future millionaires club’ with the teachers of Ghana Christian High, insisting everyone saves and invests at least 10% of their income beyond SSNIT. In a nutshell, the financial ‘gospel’ I preach can be summarised as follows:
- Have a financial vision
- Set time-bound SMART financial goals
- Save and invest systematically following Kwadei’s 10: 10: 80 principle for Starters, or for the religious “pay God, pay yourself, pay your bills”
- Avoid consumer debt like a plague
- Don’t let your money work for others such as bankers and other financial vampires
- Invest where money grows in relative safety, such as mutual funds, provident funds and tier-3 pensions
- Get rich slowly
- Avoid anyone who promises you twice more than 90-day Treasury bills for example
- Protect yourself from sudden financial reverses by creating an emergency fund, buying basic life insurance and preparing a will
- Be patient and let time, consistency, good returns and the magic of compound interest work for you. Limit the price of financial success; getting rich at the expense of personal integrity, a good marriage, family life, fellowship and friendship makes you a rich fool
- Start an investment plan today. The best time was yesterday, the second-best is today and the worst time is tomorrow.
- Have faith in God, for it shall not profit any person to gain the whole world and lose their soul.
I hope I will have the opportunity to expand on these in the public arena in the near future.