Akoto envisions agriculture-led growth for Ghana

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Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto
Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto

Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, a presidential hopeful of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) for Election 2024, has envisioned a prosperous Ghana through agriculture-led growth to structurally transform Ghana’s economy.

This, he said, would be achieved, “through creating alternative opportunities for boosting foreign exchange reserves, mechanising the sector, prioritising public funding in the sector, improving productivity in smallholder farms as well as growing other sectors of the economy from revenues generated – for a self-reliant, food-secure, wealthy, and a healthy nation.”

“I must reiterate here that, “Agriculture is the means to our end,” Dr Akoto, a former Minister for Food and Agriculture, emphasised in a lecture, at the University of Ghana, Legon.

The lecture, dubbed: “The Vikings Alumni Celebrity Platform Lecture,” and themed “Exploiting Agricultural Diversification to Fund Agricultural Development in Ghana” was part of activities marking the 60th anniversary of the Sarbah Hall of Ghana’s first university.

Accredited for designing and overseeing the implementation of Ghana’s flagship agricultural programme, “Planting for Food and Jobs,” the former Minister, who resigned to launch his presidential bid, recalled significant interventions he brought onto the sector.

He reiterated to build on the interventions and the need for a new innovative business model, value addition, and productive stakeholder engagement in the agricultural sector.

Dr Akoto, an Agriculture Economist, observed that Ghana since Independence in 1957, Ghana had approached the International Monetary Fund (IMF) 17 times, every four years on the average for emergency financial assistance.

The latest IMF intervention was last year 2022 with the final agreement reached in May this year.

At the root of the recurrent IMF intervention is the reliance of the country on mainly foreign debt to finance our development, due to the nation not generating enough foreign exchange and domestic fiscal revenue and to fund its economic development requirements.

Also, the country has relied on a few commodities to generate foreign exchange and for over a century these were mainly gold and cocoa.

Since 2009, oil, of which the international prices of these commodities are subject to large annual fluctuations and over the decades, and real values have declined significantly.

There has been a strong advocacy for adding value by processing the raw commodities before export, but, agro-processing is yet to attract the needed investments to boost, the foreign exchange earnings from the sector, the Aspirant, who is also a former Member of Parliament for Kwadaso Constituency observed.

He referred to Brazil, China, Malaysia, and Thailand AS recent examples of agricultural success stories in driving economic transformation; and in recent years, the European Union EU has substantially improved crop yields through plant breeding techniques, improved farm markets, and improved trading conditions in Agriculture.

These have contributed to significant increases in world food supplies.
Dr Akoto noted the challenge posed by the COVID-19, the effects of climate change on agricultural production, political unrest across the continent, macroeconomic instability, and the raging debt crisis that many African governments face.

Also, Dr Akoto said a new global economic order emerging because of the current economic challenges and food, renewable energy, water, and big data, will drive this new order.

Despite these obstacles, Ghana’s agricultural sector has shown immense promise and offers significant opportunities for transforming our economy to provide food and other products to the rest of the world.

He went into the efforts at the pre-independence era, post-independence era, and the six years from January 2017 to January 2023, of his stewardship as the agriculture sector Minister, calling for the foundations to be built upon.

He said, “I am confident that if the foundations laid are built upon, they will lead to a thriving sustainable agriculture to bring about prosperity for all.

The foundations come in two parts. The first part are activities with direct interface with farmers and processes to raise the level the of agricultural activity. to international standards. And the second is the creation of new institutions with legislative backing to manage and develop targeted sub-sectors of the agricultural economy.”

He called for the empowerment of farmers with simple technologies, credit facilities, ready markets, and storage facilities as through better political will, supply chain logistics, research and development and human development.

The lecture was chaired by Dr Grace Bediako, Board Chairperson of Ghana Statistical Service; with Prof Irene Susana Egyir, Dean of the School of Agriculture, and Dr Andrews Agyei-Holmes of the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research ad special guests.

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