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May 25, 2008 | Feature Article

Ghana's 2nd most respected CEO - Ken Ofori-Atta

Ghana's 2nd most respected CEO - Ken Ofori-Atta

Like most Ghanaians who had watched the business environment for upwards of one decade, the Spectator says it had stood in awe at the admirable strides chalked by Databank, including the fact of its being one of Ghana's few multi-national companies, physically present in a number of African countries and trading on the stock exchanges of more than a dozen others.

Again like most Ghanaians the Spectator was not surprised by the fact that the company's own peers cast their ballots for it as The Most Respected Company in Ghana.

Our applause was even louder for its Chairman, Ken Ofori Atta, whose peers voted him as the Second Most Respected Chief Executive in Ghana.
How very well deserving!

So we sought audience with Ken (everybody is on first name basis with him) and our mission was to find out the secret of his (personal) and the company's success.

The first question was a "mistake". The answer to the question is emblazoned on the walls of this ultra-modern edifice. "TO GOD BE THE GLORY," it declares. Visitors with eyes to see would also have noticed the smaller plaque on the lower left side of the wall. It says: "If the Lord does not build a house, they labour in vain who build it".
Ken Ofori Atta makes no apologies for his faith. Indeed, in his defence of his Christian conviction, this very successful entrepreneur, one of Ghana's sharpest brains, turned the interview into a sermon. He challenged yours truly:

"You are a journalist. Tell me. In your Journalism class, were there no colleagues who were better brains than you? Where are they? How come you are where you are and they are nowhere to be found?" To this question he supplied the answere. In the final analysis, we're all privileged to be alive, our fortunes. He is the one that gives the power to make wealth.

"If we think deep about it, we would admit that you may not be significantly different from your neighbour. It is the Lord that lifts you from nothing to a place of advantage. Therefore it is only the untutored who would think that it is their own effort and knowledge that have brought them any far".

The real raison d'etre for the interview was temporarily suspended as we probed further.

When did the company decide to throw everything on God? He replies: "Five years ago, we had a company retreat to take stock. At that crucial meeting we took a bold decision to be unequivocal about the role God had played and will continue to play in the business.

And what about he himself? "Taking Jesus as a personal saviour occurred in 2000 when my wife and I had lost one of our children during childbirth. It was a painful time in our life. It was during this time that some friends helped us to be stronger with our faith."
Though born and raised a Presbyterian, Ken now fellowships with Asbury Donewell Church located within the Methodist Headquarters building.

On the top floor of the Databank complex is a room dedicated exclusively to God. It is the Quiet Room. What is it for? He answered, "We use that room for our Monday morning prayer meetings. Also, in the course of the working day, any member of staff could take time off to go there to meditate."

Spectator: What was the reaction of you and your colleagues to the announcement of the award?

Ken: "We were very surprised, and quite humbled by it. As a matter of fact, we didn't have a foreknowledge of it. I, for one did not even attend the ceremony, and I didn't know about the award until Sunday at church when one of the church members came up to me and offered congratulations. I asked, what for, and was told of it. I am told that as part of the process of determining the winners, some 120 CEOs were interviewed. To God be the glory".

Spectator: What would influence your peers to vote for vou?
Ken: Because they know that I am Ken Ofori Atta who is committed to his work; that he is focused; that he is serious with his Christianity and his marriage, and that I'm quite passionate about this country”.
His friends confirmed Ken's confidence in a bright future for Ghana. We asked him about it.

Ken: Yes. I believe that Ghana has a destiny of greatness and it is up to us to sacrifice and work for that realization. I believe that we have gone through a period where Nkrumah declared that we should seek first the political kingdom. We have seen the weaknesses in that ideology - given the various political experiences and economic upheavals we've encountered since 1957.

Then we came to a time when it's like 'seek ye first the economic kingdom'. We sought it, but look at the accompanying wave of crime and the moral decadence, including drugs. Today we are all arguing about moral issues".

Following from this analysis, Ken Ofori Atta puts forward an alternative that constitutes one of the boldest proposals ever to come out the mouth of a business person. "I am advocating a Moral alternative - a paradigm shift - the Jesus prescription that says seek first the Kingdom of God and its righteousness ... I guess as we move into this political season, Ghana must look hard at an election that will bring hope, and at a governance that can be morally upright and righteous.”

For this alternative to succeed, however, he says, the leadership must exude it. “All who seek to govern must pass the moral test of the moral era. The quest for this moral alternative must be a factor as we choose our leaders in December”

Spectator: What would be the role of the Christian Leader in this paradigm?

Ken: As Christians, the obvious things to do include our commitment to prayer and fasting to situate the country well; a prayer asking God that we'll be given the wisdom to do what is right. As Christians the work we do is also a podium. So therefore in our speeches and our engagement we must seek to communicate our views and evangelise our beliefs”.

Spectator: What gives you so much confidence in Ghana?
Once upon a time, not too long ago, our economy was in shambles. But today both our political and economics statistics are quite stunning: reduction in inflation; expansion of the GDP from 3.9billion to 15billion; reduction of the country's debts as a result of HIPC, stability of the currency; sovereign reserves (by Bank of Ghana) are healthy. That has informed our ability to go to the international market to raise funds.

Spectator: But these are statistics on paper. We don't eat statistics.
Ken: That may be true, but it is a necessary process of growth.
If you don't build a foundation your capacity to do other things becomes shaky.

People should see things from this perspective, that we have a stronger platform for a take-off. The future now is how to create a modern society where health and education and discipline will be paramount!

Ghanaian Chronicle
Ghanaian Chronicle

The author has authored 1024 publications on Modern Ghana.
Author's column: GhanaianChronicle

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Ghanaian Chronicle and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

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