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06.01.2007 Politics

Apraku-Ready to take Ghana to the Promised Land

By statesman
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This Parliamentarian admits to being on the ground the longest - non-stop since 1998. He and his team have campaigned around the whole country, covering several constituencies more than three times; he is unrepentantly convinced of his victory.

And, who can deny him that: John Agyekum Kufuor came in third in 1992 and won with a landslide in 1996. This strong NPP loyalist came in third in 1998. History has a habit of repeating itself.

His name is Kofi Konadu Apraku – a Member of Parliament for Offinso North in the Ashanti Region since 1996. "The world has changed tremendously,” says the man who taught in three American Universities as Economics and Finance Professor for 11 straight years.

And, he believes Ghana has more than what it takes to change very positively with the rest of the world. The potential for economic empowerment is right here, he says, and this economist of international acclaim believes he can make it happen.

What Ghana requires after 2008 is “a leader who sees opportunities and takes them. A leader who goes out there aggressively looking for opportunities and exploiting them,” says the former Minister for Regional Cooperation and NEPAD and the once trusted and feared shadow finance minister for the then opposition NPP.

He has a strong following nationwide, through FOKKA, friends of Kofi Konadu Apraku. Those who'd forgotten his strong political upbringing, were reminded when he took a natural leading role in the burial arrangements of the historian and first flagbearer of the NPP, Albert Adu-Boahen.

The founding member of the Danquah-Busia Club and NPP says his national treks have showed to him that the party appreciates what President Kufuor has achieved but that the rank and file is looking for someone to “provide the energy to lead them to the promise land.”

In his view the party is looking for somebody to identify with right now as they look into the future. He thinks, “The level of disillusionment is too high. It has nothing to do with the Presidency. It is our collective failure as a party to properly map out the relationship between Government and party.”

But, when it comes to popularity within the NPP less than a handful of people can claim to have worked harder at it than Dr Apraku. He is virtually everywhere, receiving the kind of positive assurances that send confidence shooting through the roof.

But, there is more to the calm, affluent and slick proven economist of international recognition than sheer popularity. He wants Ghana to be more aggressive in selling herself. He feels countries with less to boast of and less position than our country, such as Burkina Faso and Mozambique, are doing far better to attract aid and investment than Ghana.

But, he also believes the focus of our development ought to be right. “The traditional means of going through industrialization is left behind. The way is through technology and the information technology highway.”

He adds, “If we are going to be competitive, we should produce people who are competitive.” He believes the aggression that we need to push local industry could do with a bit more oomph. He showed a lot of zeal in pushing the Gateway and Free Zone agendas and was instrumental in turning the Ghana House into an international ICT out-sourcing centre.

Dr Apraku, who can also boast of high profile positions in economics and development, both in the classroom and boardroom, is also of the aristocratic true red-white-blue blood stock.

He was at the house of Hackman Owusu-Agyemang in early June 1992, along with their host, and Agyenim Boateng, Dr Safo Addo, Dr Amoako Tuffuor and Nana Akufo-Addo as they met to fashion out a symbol for the party. There was a stalemate on the choice of either Tikro Nko Agyina or the Elephant until the latecomer, Dr Kojo Nyantekyi, entered to cast his vote.

In the line-up for 2008, Dr Apraku"s historic contribution to the NPP in money, intellect and logistics may only be matched by Messrs Owusu-Agyemang and Akufo-Addo.

In 1994, he was appointed by the United Nations as a Team Leader of the UN Election Monitoring Team to South Africa to help prepare and conduct the first all-race democratic elections in South Africa. He moved on to Croatia to help the reconstruction efforts of the UN after the Balkan War as Head of the Economic Reconstruction Unit.

As a Minister he chalked some remarkable gains, too. At Trade, he undertook the restructuring of the Ghana Export Promotion Council. The result of that initiative led to Ghana's non-traditional exports increasing about 20 percent each year in 2001 and 2002. This success story has continued under his successor, with Ghana's non-traditional export sector growing from $400 million in 2000 to the level of $800 million in 2005.

Again, the success has followed Dr Apraku to the NEPAD Ministry, where he has served two terms as the Chairman of ECOWAS Council of Ministers. He should not be doubted if he says he has covered more ground than the rest. He saw the creative need to take the NEPAD Initiative on a national tour in an ambitious sensitization programme and he has done that extensively since 2003 to areas like Salaga.

He created the NEPAD E-Schools and School Feeding Programme to aid Ghanaian children in their academic activities. The School Feeding Programme has been gratefully picked up by Osafo-Maafo.

He is a governor of the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development(EBID). Dr Apraku has published in several professional journals and done consulting work among others for the World Bank, USAID and the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA) of Ghana.

Dr Apraku is currently a member of the Board of Trustees of the American Field Service Inter-Cultural Organisation.

We must show more aggressiveness to help local industries, says the man who set up the Ghana Investment Fund during his tenure at the Ministry of Trade & Industry, Dr Apraku drafted a Domestic Content Bill – similar to what was introduced in America in 1982 and designed to force manufacturers, like Japanese carmakers, selling in other countries to conduct at least part of their production there as well. His plan was to require companies operating in Ghana to use a minimum of 20 percent of domestic raw materials for their production. The Bill is not even before Parliament today.

He again, shows some disappointment, that his initiative to raise quotas to protect the local rice, poultry and textile industries were reversed by the Finance Ministry under pressure from the World Bank.

Dr Apraku went to school at Akomadan before winning American Field Service Competitive Scholarship award in 1972 to attend South Albany High School in 1973 in Albany, Oregon, US.

After completing High School, he enrolled at Oregon State University on another scholarship, graduating with a Bsc and Msc degrees in Economic development and Agricultural Economics in 1977 and 1979 respectively. He received his PhD degree in 1983 at Ohio State University.

In 1991, Dr Apraku took a one year sabbatical leave from the University of North Carolina and came to Ghana to work at the Ministry of Agriculture as the Head of Policy, Planning and Monitoring Unit, while at the same time working closely with Prof Adu Boahen and other political activists in preparation for the return to constitutional rule.

In his own words, he was the “chief du cabinet” of the NPP's first presidential candidate, Prof Adu Boahen, from 1991 to 1996. In 1998, he went a step further, challenging Mr Kufuor in the NPP flagbearer contest, but lost to the most successful leader of the Danquah-Busia tradition.

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