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30.09.2005 Business & Finance

These are the best of times - Ken Ofori-Atta

By Statesman
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KEN Ofori-Atta, Executive Chairman and Co-founder of Databank Financial Services, has challenged Ghanaians to make the best of the opportunities available to empower themselves, because “these are the best of times.”

Addressing participants at the second 'Believe in Ghana' Databank Leadership Conference, yesterday, Mr Ofori-Atta was upbeat about opportunities for Ghanaians, especially, the business community, and urged them to seize the initiative from the politicians:

“The politicians have successfully wrestled for us our political independence. You and I, however, cannot cede our economic emancipation to them in the ensuing 50 years.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Mensa Otabil, a pastor, educator, entrepreneur and consultant, said Ghana is a great country to live in but lamented that the people, especially the media, tend to focus more, pessimistically, on the negative. He urged the media and the public to celebrate success, because there are so many achievers in the country and they need to be acknowledged for the country to cultivate a role model culture for others to emulate.

The theme for this year's two-day conference at La Palm Royal, which ended yesterday, was 'Business Leadership and Nation-Building.'

“We must believe Ghana has a manifest Destiny with greatness,” Mr Ofori-Atta, who is also a Director of Statesman Communications Ltd said, adding that there is a corporate responsibility “to shape a society of Inclusive Capitalism,” where people can “prosper and share the prosperity.”

Explaining why he feels these are the best times for Ghana, Mr Ofori-Atta says Ghana has never in its history enjoyed the kind of expansive and conducive environment of opportunities as today, economically, politically, socially and culturally.

The challenge, he says, is to “create a buying power, shape aspirations, improve access to education and commercial credit and tailor local solutions,” to the challenges.

In his view, Ghanaians should not sit and wait for the perfect condition to just happen; they must constructively will it to occur.

“Conditions in the environment may never become perfect for the growth of businesses,” he advised. “However, it is still possible for businesses to grow from good to great even in adverse circumstances.”

Our business leaders must consider that “Other business success stories in other parts of the world may not have enjoyed any special or favourable conditions. Their success stories represent their leadership ability and agility in making strategic choices to grow their businesses,” he argues. Quoting Samsung's principle, Mr Ofori-Atta reminds Ghana's business community that “You don't predict the future and then wait. You create the future.” While acknowledging that democracy is being deepened, Mr Ofori-Atta argued that “lowering unemployment and eliminating poverty are not visions. They are the economic equivalent of sweeping the streets and cleaning the litter after a successful parade.”

“The most effective antidote to poverty is wealth creation,” he notes, adding, “It is the easiest route for businesses to impact on society,” because business creates employment and employment, wealth.

He says Ghana enjoys several potentially competitive advantages in the Sub-Region of 260 million people, which are just waiting to be positively exploited. Ghana's private sector must see themselves not as limited to the population of 21 million and a GDP of $8 billion, but venture the Sub-Region's superior economy of $130 billion.

He urges the business community to utilise Ghana's international stature and perception as a safe zone in West Africa, friendly and hospitable, with relatively more educated people.

But, “for the economy to grow, our small/medium firms must rapidly grow into big firms.”

Supporting his presentation with charts showing impressive figures of national achievement, especially within the last five years, Mr Ofori-Atta told private sector operators that with the reduction in secondary reserves of Banks from 35% to 15%, this has freed significant lending capacity, approximately ¢4.2 trillion - $450 million.

He hails the high level expertise of Ghanaians in the Diaspora as a plus and urged Ghanaians to also acknowledge and encourage the “emerging class of high achievers,” in the country.

Still on the theme that these are the best times for Ghana, Mr Ofori-Atta refers to an improving private sector leading in the delivery of education, healthcare, financial services, tourism and ICT businesses. He sees the increase from 50,000 subscribers to over 2 million subscribers in mobile telephony in the last five years as a clear indication of the progress the country is making. The growth in technology, he notes, can be seen in the growth of software developers, Call Centres, Internet Cafés, and Fibre Optic Cable VSAT systems.

Mr Ofori-Atta charges the private sector to “build a passion for the right leadership, a passion for a corporate culture embedded in clarity of vision, a passion for good strategies and a passion for a commitment to the nation.” He expresses the hope that with commitment from business leaders, “We can and will make Ghana an example to Africa.”

Mr Ofori-Atta observes that never in “our corporate history has the role of the private sector in building Ghana come into such sharp focus. It has become clear to many of us that sole reliance on government to build and develop our country will not lead us to realise the dream of a strong, wealthy and Godly Ghana.” He stresses that the future success of the country will depend upon the “ability of its business and corporate leaders to create wealth and to continually improve in areas such as technology, management, investment, right work attitudes and a commitment to our social responsibilities.”

He continues, “By 2007, Ghana would have attained the ripe age of 50 years of independence. I am not sure it would deserve to be celebrated if Ghana remains a nation without a shared and strong vision with a commitment to eradicate poverty, to educate, and celebrate entrepreneurship.

“As business leaders, we need to congregate and examine our role in Ghana's development and to empower ourselves to set the agenda for the next 50 years.” The Executive Chairman of Databank says he shares the view that “We cannot live without change. The race for survival in this world is not to the strongest but to the most adaptive.”

He, therefore, urges Ghanaian entrepreneurs to adopt the necessary cultural changes and business ethics that can enhance success onto greater things. Observing the great successes of global leaders such as Nokia and Samsung, Mr Ofori-Atta states, looking at the corporate executives before him, “The question that we can pose and for which we seek an answer in this conference is whether we can replicate some of these success stories here in Ghana and agree on the direction we should go.”

The answer, he volunteers, is “YES, and the starting point is to 'Believe in Ghana'; and that we can cooperate to achieve this. It is possible to build a great company in Ghana and extend the growth beyond Ghana. It is possible to reconstruct the 'business architecture' of Corporate Ghana. The answer lies neither in our stars nor with our politicians; the answer lies squarely on business leadership, and the market. So permit me to join the popular commentator in saying, OVER TO YOU JOE LARTEY (BUSINESS LEADERSHIP).”

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