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Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 business desk news review

The following is a summary of my coverage of business activities in Kumasi and other parts of the country in the course of 2012. The demise of President John Atta Mills and Ghana’s electioneering are some events that had a toll on trading and commercial activities.

Public sector

At the beginning of the year 2012, the Tripartite Committee announced a new daily minimum wage of GH¢4.48, representing a 20 per cent increase.

But the public sector was hit by series of industrial action, mostly in agitation towards the implementation of the single spine salary structure.

The Polytechnic Teachers Association of Ghana (POTAG), Teachers and Educational Workers Union (TEWU), University Administrators and the Civil and Local Government Staff Association of Ghana (CLOSAG) among others laid down their tools.

Power supply was also most erratic in the cause of the year as the Electricity Company of Ghana could no longer work with a time table on power rationing.

Residents and businesses experienced intermitted unannounced blackout. The ECG explained the company was at the mercy of the Volta River Authority, but the Consumer Protection Agency dismissed assertions that the Volta River Authority (VRA) should be held accountable for the outages and therefore asked Ghanaians to sign onto a petition in protest of the incessant power outages.

Health delivery in Ashanti suffered with the piloting of the health capitation under the National Health Insurance scheme.

Private medical practitioners declared their inability to participate in the pilot Capitation exercise, whilst the Asante Development Union launched a crusade to compel the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) to suspend the capitation implementation.

Public-Private linkages

The United Nations observed 2012 as the International Year of Cooperatives to raise awareness among national governments on the diverse strengths of cooperative enterprise.

Ashanti Regional Department of Cooperatives called for critical attention in the use of the cooperative concept in Ghana’s poverty reduction programmes.

With the upsurge in microfinance institutions, the Ghana Association of Microfinance Companies (GAMC) braced up to protect the industry and help safeguard funds of depositors.

The group cautioned the public against giving money out without cross-checking the background of the receiving company.

Poor building construction and non-adherence to health and safety provisions in the execution of contracts led to loss of lives in parts of the country.

Association of Building and Civil Engineering Contractors of Ghana therefore continued to push for the establishment of a regulatory body for the building and construction industry.

The Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly also continued with its decongestion exercise at Bantama and the race course area. The forceful eviction of traders and transport operators to a new terminal at the Abinkyi market was resisted by some commercial transport owners, who insisted the Assembly allocated a bus terminal for them on the Kumasi-Tamale road because the proposed space was too small to accommodate them.

The Assembly however said the concerns of the traders and drivers had long been addressed.

In the cause of the year, Tullow Ghana Limited reiterated its commitment to support local manpower development for Ghana’s for the budding oil and gas industry.

The company announced that artisans at the Suame light industrial area in Kumasi would benefit from Tullow Oil’s investments to upgrade steel fabrication facilities in parts of the country.

Emphasis was placed on capacity building for effective technology transfer.
The Inter-Agency Task Force on non-Ghanaians in Retail Business resumed an operation to close shops operated by foreigners, after a 3-month ultimatum had elapsed.

The Ghana Union Traders Association was at the forefront of the exercise and was more concerned about shops operated by Ghanaians fronting for foreigners.

The Nigerian business community in Kumasi sought avenues to jaw-jaw with the GUTA to protect mutual interests as the group cautioned the Ghanaian authorities not to breach the long-lasting relationship between the two West African countries.

The Chinese phenomenon in Ghana’s illegal mining activities was most profound in 2012 as interest groups demanded that local assemblies acted to discourage foreigners from evading the country’s small scale mining sector.

There were also calls for support to indigenous miners to form cooperatives to gain from mining.

Meanwhile, with the passage of the local content law for mining firms, local artisans asked for capacity building to meet contract requirements.

The Suame Magazine Industrial Development Organization (SMIDO) launched a policy document to attract funding for the development of a modern automobile industrial centre in Kumasi.

Taxation and Finance

The Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) continued to realign its personnel to access maximum benefit from available human resource for revenue collection.

Officials noted the integration of the agencies had significantly enhanced the administration of domestic tax and customs revenue in Ghana.

But some taxpayers had not been enthused with what they described as ‘tax holiday’ for the informal sector, which the GRA explained there were arrangements to rope in majority of players in the sector into the tax net.

A tax consultative forum organized by the Tax Policy Unit of the Ministry of Finance also identified some weak links in existing tax policies.

Players in the quarrying industry particularly made a strong case for the exemption of the sub-sector in the imposition of a 40 percent increase in corporate tax for mining companies.

The 2012 National Financial Literacy Week was held under the theme “Financial Literacy-Creating Wealth and Financial Stability”.

The Ghana Microfinance Institutions Network (GHAMFIN) emphasized the need for financial institutions to be transparent and open to the public, whilst financial service providers observed that most business start ups were not getting finance because they are not tooled with knowledge on how to access credit from the right institutions.

Food and Agriculture

The 2012 World Food Day celebration highlighted the concrete ways in which agricultural cooperatives and producer organizations help to provide food security, generate employment, and reduce poverty.

However, youth engagement in farming and agribusiness remained central in most agricultural discussions.

Interestingly, a youth emerged national best farmers whilst most regions, including Ashanti had young persons as regional best farmers.

The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) emphasized the need to integrate youth in agriculture into national policies, but officials of Ghana’s Youth in Agriculture Programme (YIAP) observed that the Ghanaian youth are interested in venturing agriculture but financial constraints remained major obstacle.

Agricultural economists also observed that the more smallholder farmers produce, the poorer they become when there are no markets for their produce.

They therefore solicited government’s intervention in price control to critically protect farmers against selling bellowing cost-price.

Climate mitigation has took centre stage at the national and global levels; agricultural extension officers observed growing farmer’ awareness on the changing climate and the concept of ‘climate-smart agriculture’ was advocated as the way to go for life.

Cocoa farmers in parts of the country were exposed to information on the use and application of a new fertilizer product on the Ghanaian market.
Yara Ghana introduced the ‘Nitrabor’ product after five years of research at the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) to offer farmers high yields and improvement in the quality of cocoa.

Meanwhile, farmers in parts of the country were worried at the perennial delay in taking delivery of government’s subsidized fertilizer for the current crop season.

Licensed cocoa buying companies also called on the Cocoa Marketing Company and partners to pay critical attention to addressing perennial challenges in the haulage of cocoa beans.

There were calls as well for the government to pay critical attention to the pineapple industry to create jobs and contribute significantly to Ghana’s foreign exchange earnings.

The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) noted that the private sector could drive the agenda of improving agronomic practices to increase food production and called for private-public partnership to aid farmers to access good seeds, fertilizer and credit.

Weblinks December 2012

Ghana’s aquaculture boosted with improved strain of Nile Tilapia
Media need security protection for Election 2012 coverage – NMC Chair
Burns foundation cautions Ghanaians against election violence
Suspected fraudsters in police grips for defrauding businesses
Pharmacy technologists advocate policy to operate dispensing outlets


IFAD and AGRA call for continued investments in Africa's farming
ECG expands network in Ashanti to deliver on customer service
ECG promises fewer power outages this yuletide
DVLA introduces provisional licensing plates to new drivers
Pineapple producers call for critical attention to industry
Horizon Hospital sets pace in healthcare delivery
Celebrate yuletide in Kumasi with Multimedia stations
Ghana Musicians Awards to be held by Joe Mensah Foundation
Asantehene’s wife reaches out to three orphanages in Ashanti
http://edition.myjoyonline.com/pages/news/201212/99154.php

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Sinapi Aba Trust evolves to savings and loans company

Sinapi Aba Trust (SAT), a not-for-profit microfinance organization in Ghana has evolved its business to begin operations in the first tier as a non-bank financial institution.

According to Board Member, Theodosia Jackson, the Sinapi Aba Savings and Loans Limited should start operations early 2013 with its head office in Kumasi.

“Early January we’re taking off. All our banks have been renovated to the Bank of Ghana status and we’re just about to kick off”, she told Luv Biz Report.

The SAT has been supporting the economically active poor to enhance their lives through microfinance and basic business training.

Mrs. Jackson is confident the savings and loans status will enable the company to mobilize more resources to expand and reach out to more vulnerable groups with financial services.

Meanwhile, Sinapi Aba Trust is priding in its Youth Apprenticeship Programme (YAP) as a sustainable solution to mass youth unemployment in Ghana.
 
The scheme provides employable and entrepreneurial skills development to the youth and also designed to respond to their sexual and reproductive health needs, especially HIV/AIDS education and prevention.

Beneficiaries are equipping with training, tools and start-up capital for their income earning opportunities.

Youth Development Manager, Thomas Appiah-Mensah, says about Gh₵400,000 has been earmarked to train and establish 179 youth to be economically productive under the 4th project to be implemented in Kumasi.

“The objective of the programme is to strengthen the innovation and resilience of youth, developing their role as decision makers as well as income earners”, he said.

Through financial support from Opportunity International network, apprentices enroll in a three year project to acquire vocational skills in various marketable trades, including dressmaking, hairdressing, carpentry, wielding, plumbing, ICT, auto spraying and cookery.
Over 1,500 young persons from seven regions have benefitted from the programme since inception in 2003.

Mr. Appiah-Mensah says the programme will be expanded to cover all ten regions next year.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Asantehene’s wife reaches out to three orphanages in Ashanti

Lady Julia Osei Tutu, wife of the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, has enjoined corporate institutions and other individuals to prioritize charity services to the underprivileged in society.

This, she says, is important in promoting the educational, socio-economic and emotional wellbeing of orphaned children.

In the spirit of the Christmas season, the Otumfuo Charity Foundation, together with Eden Microfinance Company and Akwafo Adamfo Marketing Company, organized outreach programmes for three less-endowed ophanages in the Ashanti region.

“Christmas time we usually invite the children to Manhyia to have a party but this time we decided to go out and go into the environment that the children live in and see for ourselves how the children live and if there is anything else that we can do”, stated Lady Julia.

Inmates of Ashan Children’s Home, Remar Christian Charity Organization and Cherub Children’s Home received foodstuff and other items for their upkeep.

Lady Julia also shared special moments with the kids, exciting them with unique items to celebrate the season.

“I feel very good, I feel very blessed”, she said. “Anytime one gets to spend with children, especially children who are less fortunate I think it’s a blessing from God and I’ll encourage more people to do it; it gives you a very good feeling, so I’m very happy to be here”.

Executive Board Chairman of Eden Microfinance, Williams Adom Boateng, said the company delights in promoting the upkeep of less fortunate institutions, as part of its corporate social responsibility.

According to him, Eden has reached out to eight charity homes in the cause of 2012, stating that the company will not relent in doing more.

“Today’s visits have been exceptional and we thank God for that; it’s very important to us because we have to share the little that God has blessed us with and ensure the children are catered for”, said Mr. Adom Boateng.

Meanwhile, the Adom Boateng Foundation has donated items to inmates of the Kumasi Central Prisons and also organizing free mass registration exercise for individuals who cannot afford to pay the National Health Insurance premium.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Celebrate yuletide in Kumasi with Multimedia stations

Vehicular and human activities have heighten in the Garden City as holiday makers criss-cross the Kumasi city centre in preparations for the Christmas and New Year festivities.

Market surveillance in the central business district has revealed an upsurge in human traffic characteristic of the season. But most traders are not enthused at the rate of patronage of goods, as they complain of excessive window-shopping, a situation attributed to high cost of products on the market.

The busy atmosphere is however to the benefit of dealers in children clothing and household consumables, especially foodstuff.

As the traders anticipate improvements in sales volumes, a number of social and religious events have been lined up for residents to enjoy the season.

Luv Fm and Nhyira Fm, two radio stations on the stables of the Multimedia Group, have planned a number of programmes to add value to lives and excite listeners.

Ashanti region’s finest radio station and the ‘Official Christmas Station’, Luv 99.5 Fm started the season with its regular road safety campaign to create awareness to reduce accidents this festive season.

The public service campaign forms part of the station’s social responsibility to educate motorists, pedestrians and the general public on the effects of road accidents as people travel to celebrate with friends and family.

The station has also collaborated with the Komfo Anokye Blood Bank in a blood donation drive to save lives and to ensure enough stock at the blood bank for people who will be in need of blood transfusion during the period and beyond.

Christmas shoppers in Kumasi have an opportunity for a one-stop shop for goods and services at the 2nd edition of Luv Fm’s Grand Sales event.

The event holds between 23-26 December, with the aim to promoting domestic trade and commerce, whilst saving residents the hustle of shopping in traffic.

Manufacturers, distributors and retail businesses have mounted stands at the Golden Tulip Round Pavilion to sell to thousands of customers, who will access goods and services at reduced and discounted prices.

Event Coordinator, Nana Banyin Anumel says the programme has been designed for families to shop with fun.

On Boxing Day, leading Akan radio station, Nhyira Fm will partner the Centre for National Culture and the musician fraternity to revive the ‘Gyewani’ event in the Garden City.

Jim Aglah, Business Development Manager, Multimedia Kumasi says the event will bring together top highlife artiste, drama troops and comedians to thrill audience at the Kumasi cultural centre.

Families are already excited to partake in the fun-filled event to reminisce the good old days of entertainment unlimited.

Nhyira Fm will also be treating inmates of underprivileged to a party at the annual ‘Nhyira Abodoo’ event.

The New Year will be ushered in with the Family Party in the Park at the Golden Tulip Gardens on January 1, 2013.

The event has been instituted as the biggest moment for families to have a good day out and share in the joy of the season.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Pineapple producers call for critical attention to industry

Ghana’s pineapple industry holds great potentials to increase the country’s foreign exchange earnings and employment creation, according to producers.

They are however worried the sector’s expansion is stifled by increasing cost of production and lack of support to stay competitive in the global export market.

“Production cost - cost of fertilizer, cost of diesel, cost of maintaining our tractors are really escalating. If you really want to make profit, then you have to do a large size of farming”, stated Eric Yamoah Painstil, Farm Manager of Jei River Farms, one of the largest pineapple plantations in Ghana.

Jei River Farms is a wholly-owned Ghanaian company producing pineapple for the local and international fresh fruit markets – mainly growing MD2 variety as well as the Smooth Cayenne, Sugar Loaf and Queen Victoria pineapple types.

Last year, the company exported 6,826 metric tons of produce to European markets. A target of 8,000 tons has been set for 2012, which represents over 70 percent of total production; the rest are supplied to local fruit processing companies.

Ghana’s pineapple export potentials are however threatened on the global scale, said the pineapple producer.

“We are competing with countries like Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico – they are the people who are pushing us out of the market in Europe”, observed Eric.

The governments of most of these countries, he noted, offer substantial support to the producers, in recognition of the foreign exchange earnings from the sector.

Eric is therefore unhappy the Ghanaian government is not lending a hand to individual farmers to increase the country’s export earnings and job creation.

“There can be thousands of jobs if the pineapple industry is taken care of”, he said.

Established close to two decade ago, Jei River Farms produces all-year round and currently employs over 400 in various sections of the company, including farm hands and others in produce processing and packaging.

Eric, like most of his colleagues, believes government’s involvement remains critical to grow the sector to the benefit of the national economy.

“Nobody cares”, he decried. “They are not thinking about the employment we’re creating for the people, so we feel it’s time that the government turned a second eye and look at the pineapple industry, inject more money into it so we get our people from the streets”.

Meanwhile, Yara Ghana, leading mineral fertilizer production and distribution company is exploring means to meet the fertilizer needs of pineapple producers in the country.

A team from the company visited the Jei River Farms as part of a drive to develop fertilizer products for the specific needs in agricultural production.

Retail Sales Manager, Henry Otoo Mensah said areas of interest include pineapple, maize, rice, tomatoes, sorghum and soya bean.

“We try to take one crop at a time and then develop that crop to be able to achieve the highest potential in that area, so far as fertilizer application is concerned”, he stated.

“In this instance, we chose Jei River Farms and for that matter a pineapple farm because pineapple is gradually becoming important to us now. We think that fertilizer development in pineapple is not up to the standard, so these groups will bring their expertise to bear in terms of developing a proper product for pineapple”.

According to Mr. Otoo Mensah, Jei River Farms is on the right track and would need all the support to succeed.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Provisional licensing plate for new drivers in Ghana

New applicants for driver’s license in Ghana are now mandated to acquire a provisional license plate to display on their vehicles.

The scheme which took effect from Monday, December 17, 2012, comes at an additional cost of Gh₵48.00 to applicants.

According to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA), the introduction of the provisional plate is to accord special protection to new drivers on the roads.

Applicants who have passed the three months learner’s stage would be issued with their licensing together with the ‘P’ embossed plate for their vehicles.

“The ‘P’ is for provisional license holders and that one is for a period of one year; after the period of one year if you’ve not involved yourself in an accident, then you’re qualified to drive anywhere”, said Joseph Clifford Obosu, Ashanti Regional Deputy Licensing Officer.
 
He noted that the provisional plate will enable motorists to identify and tolerate some mistakes of immature drivers.

Meanwhile, the Kumasi office of the DVLA has recorded a remarkable increase in the number of vehicle registration for 2012.

As the year draws to an end, the numbers have dwindled but officials say this year’s figures are comparatively higher than that of last year.

Vehicles registered at the sector have passed through the AS and AW numbering series, which translate into almost 20 thousand vehicles.
 
“We’ve moved to AE of which we are almost getting to 3,000”, counted Mr. Clifford Obosu.

He attributed the increase in vehicular population partly to car ownership schemes introduced by financial institutions and other firms.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh

Monday, December 17, 2012

Ghana’s power company expands network to deliver on services

The customer population and demand for electricity services in the country are increasingly outpacing the response rate of power providers to meet the needs.

In recognition of this rapidity in demand, the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) says it is embarking on a number of projects geared towards providing quality and sustainable services to customers.

Managing Director, William Hutton-Mensah, has re-echoed the company’s focus on four thematic areas to ensure profitability and increase customer service delivery.

These include improvement in supply reliability and quality; improvement in revenue collection; improvement in customer service; and reduction in system loses.

According to the ECG boss, as at end of 2011, the level of loses stood at 27.2 percent but reduced to 21.3 percent as at September 2012, through the company’s thorough enumeration of streetlight installations in the country and a scientific approach to loss reduction programme.

Cable theft, he added, also results in financial loss to the company, depriving the ECG of money that could have been invested in putting up additional sub-stations, expanding facilities and upgrading network lines to increase voltage and service to clients.

Mr. Hutton-Mensah concedes the load shedding exercise and other bottlenecks in distribution network have caused inconveniences to consumers in the cause of this year.

He however said the company is not relenting in the provision of quality, reliable and safe electricity services to support socio-economic growth and development, whilst expecting customers to indulge in prompt payment of bills and not in illegal connections.

As part of its resolve to ensure customers get the best of care, the ECG has commissioned a Gh₵1.3 million Ayigya District office complex in the Ashanti region, constructed and furnished from the company’s internally generated fund.

Ashanti East Regional Manager of ECG, Abdulai Kurah, noted that the Ayigya district is the biggest among the seven ECG districts in the regions, serving close to 40 thousand customers in 29 communities in and around Kumasi.

“The colossal amount that we put into this project will go to waste if it doesn’t match a change in our attitude towards our customers in our work; that to us is paramount”, stated Mr. Hutton-Mensah.

According to him, the company has already paid for counterpart funding for the construction of other five district offices and four customer service centres in the Ashanti region.

The projects, funded by donor partners, including the World Bank, have taken off at Abuakwa, New Edubiase, Asokwa, Mamponteng Kwabre and Suame. The customer service centres will be sited at Pankrono, Juaso, Ejisu and Gyinase.

From early 2013, the company will also internally fund the construction of modern storage facilities for the Ashanti East and West regions, which the MD said will ease access to installation materials.

“By the end of next year, we hope to get to a situation in this company where all materials, including meters, will be available at our district stores so that as soon as a customer pays his or her capital contribution for a new service or separate meter, there should be all the requisite materials ready at that particular district for that service to be done” assured Mr. Hutton-Mensah.

This, he said, will be in addition to construction of a second bulk supply point for Kumasi, injection of transformers on the network, upgrading of sub-stations in the region and construction of offices for the Obuasi and Konongo districts, as well as plans to build other facilities at Asante Mampong, Bekwai, Dunkwa, Offinso, Agona and Adansi-Asokwa.
 
“We want to assure our cherished customers in Ashanti region that we as a company hold the fact that we want to ensure that they get better service from us and because of that we’re embarking on these projects and hope to do more of them in the coming years”, the ECG Manager said.

Mr. Hutton-Mensah urged company workers to uphold high professionalism in their relations with clients as ECG promotes its corporate vision to be among leading power distribution companies in Africa.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Cassava breeding research receives $25.2M lifeline


Cassava, a rough and ready root crop that has long been the foundation of food security in Africa is finally getting the respect it deserves.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) are investing $25.2 million to improve the staple crop’s productivity and build human and technical capacity for plant breeding in sub-Saharan Africa.

The five-year project is hosted by Cornell University with five partner institutions: the National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI) in Uganda, National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI) in Nigeria, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Nigeria, Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI) for Plant Research in New York, and US Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, in California.

“Next Generation Cassava will give breeders in Africa access to the most advanced plant breeding technologies to deliver improved varieties to farmers more rapidly,” said Peter Kulakow, cassava breeder and geneticist with IITA, one of the project’s three Africa-based partner institutes.

The project will ensure that cassava genetic research is on a par with other top food crops such as wheat, rice, maize and potato.

“Partners on the Next Generation Cassava Breeding project will use a state-of-the-art plant breeding approach known as genomic selection to improve cassava productivity for the 21st century,” said Ronnie Coffman, Cornell professor of plant breeding and genetics, director of International Programs, and the principal investigator on the multi-partner grant.
 
“Increased support for strengthening the research capacity in Africa and harnessing novel technologies are critical to improving overall agricultural productivity and food security for poor people,” said Yona Baguma, project coordinator for NaCRRI who aims to unlock the potential of cassava in Africa and mobilize a whole new generation of cassava growers.

Dr Chiedozie Egesi, assistant director at NRCRI and head of cassava breeding, said "Next Generation Cassava provides a great opportunity for us to harness the power of modern science for faster delivery of best-bet cassava varieties for smallholder farmers.”

Cassava breeding is typically a lengthy process; it takes almost a decade to multiply and release a new variety. Genomic selection can shorten breeding cycles, provide more accurate evaluation at the seedling stage, and give plant breeders the ability to evaluate a much larger number of clones without the need to plant them in the target environment. Using genomic selection, new releases of cassava could be ready in as little as six years.
Africa’s small farmers produce more than half of the world’s cassava, or about 86 million tons from over 10 million hectares.

The tough woody plant is predicted to be one of the few crops that will benefit from climate change. It requires few inputs and can withstand drought, marginal soils and long-term underground storage. A cash crop as well as a subsistence crop, the storage roots of this perennial woody shrub are processed, consumed freshly boiled or raw, and eaten by people as well as animals as a low-cost source of carbohydrates. No other continent depends on cassava to feed as many people as does Africa, where 500 million people consume it daily.

The cassava team at Cornell also includes scientific leader Jean-Luc Jannink, research geneticist with the US Department of Agriculture and adjunct professor in the department of plant breeding and genetics, and Tim Setter, chair of the department of crop and soil science.

In addition to using the latest genomic information from cassava sequencing to improve productivity and yield, project partners will incorporate cassava germplasm diversity from South America into African breeding programs, train the next generation of plant breeders, and improve infrastructure at African institutions.

They will also hold awareness-building workshops for farmers, scholars, researchers and policy makers.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Pharmacy technologists advocate policy to operate dispensing outlets

The Pharmacy Technologists Association of Ghana (PTAG) is pushing for a policy to enable members open and operate drug retail dispensing outlets in the country.

Specialists in the sector do not currently have an opportunity to enroll in a professional examination leading to licensing, hence do not possess the requisite authorization to operate dispensing outlets.

National Vice-President of the Association, Michael Gyamprah, says there should be an avenue for pharmacy technologists to fill the gap between pharmacies and chemical shops.

This, he noted, will lead to an improvement in the quality of pharmaceutical care, especially in rural communities.

“About 80percent of the retail pharmacy outlets are concentrated in Takoradi, Kumasi and Accra. What about the people in rural areas? So there is a missing gap and if nothing at all, we should have these three categories – the pharmacists, the pharmacy technologists and probably the chemical sellers”, he stated.
 
A pharmacy technologist is a person who has undergone training in practical and theoretical pharmacy or dispensing technology for at least three years in an accredited tertiary educational institution.

The PTAG is unhappy members’ practice is limited to the supporting role in hospitals and community pharmacies.

The advocacy, under the Business Sector Advocacy Challenge (BUSAC) Fund, is to empower members to put their academic skills into entrepreneurial ventures.

Mr. Gyamprah wants Ghana to learn from the Kenyan practice, where pharmacy technologists are licensed to own and manage pharmacy shops with a professional examination in place to streamline their operations.

He says the Association would be engaging interest groups, including the Pharmacy Council, Health Ministry, Ghana Health Service and Parliament, to establish the policy framework to give due legal recognition for the practice.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

IFAD and AGRA call for continued investments in Africa's farming

Two institutions committed to transforming Africa’s agriculture have called for a continued global push for governments and the private sector to increase smart investments in Africa’s agriculture.  

President of International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Kanayo F. Nwanze and President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), Jane Karuku, addressed a group of international media in London, after speaking at the Chatham House Food Security 2012 Sustainable Intensification: Miracle or Mirage conference.

They emphasized that farming is a business and the private sector must fuel the development of Africa’s agribusiness in upgrading smallholder agriculture to meet demand from foreign and emerging markets in developing countries.

“Smallholders are a vast and underutilised resource. These are the people we work with – whether smallholders, pastoralists or herders – not just to increase productivity, but to nurture the land, to improve their businesses and strengthen market access. IFAD supports projects that enable these farmers to feed themselves, educate their children and invest in the growth of their own communities.

“Rural people are not just aid recipients, they are partners. They must be part of the process of designing and realizing developing from the very beginning. Development efforts can only succeed when the people we serve are convinced that the will grow more food, earn more money and feed themselves better,” said Nwanze.

Emphasizing the critical role of agriculture to reduce poverty, improve food security, and create a better future for all Africans, Karuku said, “Agricultural intensification and ecological farming are not contradictory concepts, but rather two approaches that can be used in a complimentary fashion to put Africa on a pathway towards attaining food security.”

“Everything we do must be geared towards empowering smallholder producers, especially women, enabling them to transition from subsistence farming to running their farms as profitable businesses, and to market their surpluses,” she said.

Jane Karuku argued that what Africa needs is practical blend of locally appropriate farming practices, as well as new technologies brought about by on-going research efforts.

“But at the end of the day, any approach must be driven by the need to improve smallholder productivity while protecting – and even improving – the natural resource base,” she added. 

“Sustainable agricultural intensification is an achievable, knowledge-intensive, and necessarily complex process of increasing agricultural productivity by building on and caring for farm- and landscape-level biodiversity.”

Both Nwanze and Karuku shared their optimism for Africa’s future and the world’s ability to achieve food and nutrition security as African governments begin to implement policies that encourage both public and private investment in their agricultural sectors. 

Meanwhile, former UN Secretary-General and Chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), Kofi Annan, has outlined how food and nutrition security, particularly for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable, can be achieved by transforming agriculture and reshaping the global food security system.

Speaking at the high-level Flagship Forum: “Securing Food, Harvesting the Future”, in Berlin, Mr. Annan warned that “in an era of plenty, nearly one in eight people do not have enough food to eat and another billion lack the nutrition necessary for proper health and development.”

He outlined the serious threat to food and nutrition security from the damaging impact of climate change, stating that “vast areas of once-fertile land are no longer productive. Rising temperatures and changes to rainfall patterns are reducing crop yields.”

Mr. Annan therefore called for climate-resilient and climate-smart agriculture. “New crops and techniques must be developed so the productivity of land and intensity of farming can be increased, without harming the environment or biodiversity on which our food security depends”, he said.

The AGRA Chair also urged world leaders from the public and private sectors to accelerate investment in agriculture in developing countries where he believes there is the need and the potential to increase agricultural production and productivity are greatest.

“Food production can’t be increased at the speed and scale needed without mobilizing the army of small-holder farmers in developing countries”, observed Mr. Annan, who also called for fair and equitable global trade rules to allow crops to be sold at fair prices.

He said that the global community has to provide “effective, efficient and equitable market access policies for food”.

Recognising Africa’s strong economic growth, and increased investment and revenues from the extractive industries, Mr. Annan emphasized that “there is still a great deal to be done to ensure this money is used wisely for the long-term benefit of all the country’s citizens”.

Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh

Monday, December 10, 2012

My coverage of Ghana’s Election 2012

As a journalist specializing in business and economic reporting, mainstream hardcore politicking has not been of much interest; mainly because the seemingly blind partisanship often derails the common national drive for socio-economic good.

Yet the son of man cannot divorce the politics of government policies from the quest for economic emancipation and advancement; and most importantly, business cannot thrive in an atmosphere devoid of peace, which as a quadrennial ritual, replaces the national anthem in the run-up to the polls.

So, it becomes a matter of compulsion for me to have interest in politics, especially in an election year.

I therefore had my heart and head set on the goal of playing my part to promote Ghana’s democratic credential in the heat up to the December 2012 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections. Above all, the agenda is to enjoy life with my family and friends!

A high sense of responsibility must be upheld in reporting Ghana’s elections, as the country today commands global respect as a beacon of hope in Africa politics. The obligation to instill free, fair and transparent polls rest squarely on the shoulders of all other interest groups – including the Electoral Commission, political parties and candidates, electorates, security agencies, civil society and others.

Luckily for me, I had the experience of the 2004 and 2008 elections as a guide as I lend a hand for the team in Ashanti region to deliver to patrons – discerning consumers of information from the stables of the Multimedia Group’s Election Headquarters.

Indeed uneasy it is to lead in the media business – the stakes are always high and surely there certainly cannot be any room for complacency.
 
The newsroom as usual is my playfield but during this period I’m mostly passive in the action – mainly engaged in editorials and information dissemination through the reports of my astute colleagues.

The activation of campaigning brought in its wake challenges in news gate-keeping as the various political parties and ambitious candidates jostled for airspace and headlines.

The unpleasant thing about this my journalism job is to play neutral – what we call objectivity – even when deep within, your conscience and common sense communicate to you that a politician is toying with the heart or vote of an electorate.

But surely, a reporter can only report what is seen or heard and strive to protect the public good.

For me, the public good in electioneering is to put the electorate first! They’ll queue in person, with stones, in sickness, in disability and in old age, just to cast their vote; either to make a change or maintain a good.

In my humble opinion, these democratic people seeking to exhibit their power through the ballot should never be counted as numbers but as human beings exercising their franchise.

Hence, no politician should be given room to take the electorate for granted. And this was my orientation as part of a team deployed to cover the elections in all constituencies.

Covering the polls

On Election Day December 7, I was positioned in the Offinso South Constituency to monitor the electoral proceedings, whilst liaising with other first-time election monitors to get the best out of their reports.

In my familiar terrain, I did not experience much of a challenge in combing the territory to have a feel of the exercise – I recorded relatively high voter turn-out, enthusiasm to participate in the process and tolerable comportment.

Going by the heightened tension in Kumasi few days to the polls, I was excited at the maturity in engagements at the polling stations and I was confident of a peaceful exercise.

I recorded few glitches in the application of biometric verification system in the voting process; obviously experimenting with such a technology would not have been without hiccups.

My observation generally gave an assurance of a smooth process, but least did I expect that I’ll be spending my night at the collation centre – an experience that prompted me to pray against a run-off in the race to the presidency.

I had not factored in the fact that polling stations in the hinterlands may be handicapped in transporting the ballot boxes to the collation centre on time… and so the vigil ensued till the battle ended midday following day.

My profession delights in new, unusual and exciting things and on this basis, I can confidently say there was no news in Offinso South Constituency – the final results was the obvious expected; cannot be counted among the shocking incidents that had been recorded elsewhere. Simple a boring exercise!

The intrigues

My long night at the collation centre was not without its own intrigues.

People stayed glued to their radio sets to keep abreast with happenings across the country – and the political color of some so-called observers of the polls got betrayed through their unconscious emotional attachment to the radio broadcast.

The social media platforms were most interesting, especially as the uncertified figures were churned out by folks on facebook. At this moment I cherished the beauty of having friends from various political divides because it was the only means to strike the balance and understand the dynamics of the figures.

It was also interesting to see how technology aided the vote collation.

The Electoral Commission may have gone electronic in registering and verifying voters but not in vote count.

In a constituency of some 117 polling stations, the returning officer would have extended our day a little longer by computing results with a table calculator. But thanks to the intervention of a representative of one of the political parties who saved us the ordeal by putting his MS-Excel to good use and offering accurate statistics and computation of the constituency results.

I returned to Kumasi exhausted but there would be no rest for me, especially with the general keen interest in who wins the Presidential polls.

Matters got worse after my Election Headquarters, based on collated results, projected a likely win for one of the presidential candidates.

Some called me to verify the collated figures, others to raise doubts about mathematics and many others to rain insults on my profession and media organization – all taken in good stride, acknowledging very well the hazard of practicing journalism in a highly polarized environment!

I heaved a huge sigh of relief when the Electoral Commissioner finally declared the results; not because of who had won or lost, but for the vindication of the team at the Election Headquarters for projecting right.

The human and material resource invested in electioneering and the risk of professionalism would not go down the drain and that was the Joy of my Luv for the Multimedia Group.

I surely understand the pain of losing an election and the joy of emerging victorious but I can’t understand why anyone would think the hundreds of professionals working within a particular media organization would all be aligned to one particular political party.

Whatever the case maybe, I take pride in the team I work with and feel fulfilled that I played a part, no matter how negligible, in promoting Ghana’s democracy.

I just love my job and my country.

May Ghana continue to set the pace of political maturity in Africa!

Views of Kofi Adu Domfeh

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