The Gratias Agit Laureate award was established in 1997 by the Czech Republic to appreciate the work of prominent personalities and organisations developing activities that promote Czechia’s good name worldwide.
This year (2022), Dr. Karl Nii Ayikai Laryea became the first African to receive this coveted award. Dr. Laryea came to the then Czechoslovakia in 1989 to pursue Electrical Engineering. He pursued his Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctorate degrees, all in the now Czech Republic.
He later established KNIGHTS a.s in the year 1997 in the Czech Republic. KNIGHTS a.s. is a company that specialises in transferring innovative technologies, Tech customisation & Development and Project Financing. The Gratias Agit Laureate award was presented to Dr. Nii Ayikai Laryea at the Czech Republic Foreign Affairs Ministry in Prague on the 19th of October, 2022.
The Foreign Affairs Minister, Jan Lipavský, was delighted with the contribution of the eight awardees in the Czech Republic. The biography they wrote about Dr. Karl Nii Aykai Laryea follows:
“Since 1997, when he founded the company Knights a.s., Dr. Laryea has been promoting the good name of the Czech Republic in West Africa, especially in the field of economic diplomacy. He has initiated many important business activities, especially in the field of infrastructure and agriculture. One of the most notable projects is the construction of 50 steel bridges of lengths ranging from 20 metres to 50 metres, manufactured in the Czech Republic, with the prospect of supplying 150 more.
These bridges are crucial to Ghana’s infrastructure and economy since they provide connections to commercial centres and enable access to schools, hospitals and jobs for people in the remote areas. This allows for further economic and social development of agricultural regions, preventing people from having to leave their homes. Another important activity is the preparation of a pilot project for a tramway system in Kumasi, the construction of which should involve a consortium of seven Czech companies, including the Czech Technical University.
This project could become a model for other West African countries. The Joint Venture company with the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana is another interesting project, where Knights a.s. has supplied Czech technology for pressing tropical fruits and juice production.
From 1996 to 2008, Dr. Laryea was the unofficial Counsellor for Economic Projects and Cooperation at the Embassy of the Republic of Ghana in Prague. One of his major projects during this period was the re-establishment of the Bata shoe factory in Kumasi, which employs over a hundred young Ghanaians. In the field of agriculture, he has participated in the development of innovative solutions and implementation of a range of practical modifications to tractors of Czech manufacturers VARI and Salek, which reflect the specific conditions of African agriculture. Dr. Laryea has also worked as a consultant at the Business Innovation Centre of the Czech Technical University and is a member of many professional associations. He is the President of the non-profit government organisation ORPA (Organisation for Development and Relief in Africa).
Dr. Laryea’s long-term and persistent work has helped to continuously deepen Czech-Ghanaian relations not only at the economic level, but also political level. His activities have facilitated official visits to the Czech Republic by a number of leading Ghanaian politicians (e.g ., the Minister of Roads and Highways, Minister of Transport, Minister of Agriculture, Minister for Railways Development and Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry; and a visit by the Minister of Environment is planned). Thanks to Dr. Laryea’s efforts, a close cooperation between the Czech Technical University and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology was established in 2020.
Dr. Laryea graduated from the Faculty of Electrical Engineering of the Czech Technical University, where he also received his doctoral degree. He is married with three children. He is not only a prominent person in the business community in Ghana and the Czech Republic, but he is also a highly respected personality among Ghanaian politicians, and thus helps to spread awareness of the Czech Republic throughout West Africa. He contributes significantly to Czech-Ghanaian cooperation and facilitates the implementation of projects in both the economic and development fields.”