Bravo, Mr President: But cocoa deserves more

On Friday, February 28, 2020, Ghana’s President, His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, addressing the Federal Assembly of the Swiss Confederation, in Bern, Switzerland, declared Ghana’s intention to process more of its cocoa for export.

The essence is to depart from economic structures that are dependent on the production and export of raw materials in order to ensure prosperity for Ghanaians in the future.

Hear the President: “…we believe there can be no future prosperity for the Ghanaian people, in the short, medium or long term, if we continue to maintain economic structures that are dependent on the production and export of raw materials.”

The Swiss make some of the world’s best chocolates and has a huge chunk of the market share of the $100 billion bean-to-bar industry, although not a single tree of cocoa grows in that country.

Akufo-Addo was the first African leader in about 60 years to be invited on a state visit to Switzerland, and the reason may not be far-fetched: Currently, Ghana is Switzerland’s largest trading partner in Sub-Saharan Africa.

But Akufo-Addo parried that diplomatic privilege thrown at him to land a weighty economic punch that was long overdue to deliver prosperity to Ghanaians.

The decision to process the country’s raw materials before export is very laudable; the location at which the message was delivered was most appropriate, and the frank manner the President delivered the message is highly commendable.

Economic gains

Ghana is the second-largest exporter of cocoa in the world, after Cote d’Ivoire, and the cash crop is the leading foreign exchange earner for the country.

It is, therefore, quite obvious that processing our cocoa before export will yield enormous economic dividend for the benefit of the country.

Apart from increased foreign exchange earnings, processing more of our cocoa will also create more jobs on the production farms and in the processing firms.

In order to make all these happen and maximize our gains, we need managerial efficiency at all levels, from the farm to the factory.

Cocoa has always been the heartbeat of the nation and it is our responsibility to keep that heart beating for the sustenance of the nation.

Walking the talking

However, beyond the talk, there must be the walk, and that is where we should apply our energies as a nation to ensure that the President’s ‘Swiss Declaration on Cocoa’ is not rendered a mere bluff.

Does the Cocoa Processing Company (CPC) and other manufacturing companies that depend on cocoa for production have the capacity for increased production at required standard?

The government has been talking about the billion-dollar gap, but leap-frogging the change has been slow-moving.

Meanwhile, entrepreneurs have been processing, melting, flavouring, and branding Ghana’s cocoa to make sure Ghanaians reap the rewards of cocoa—creating homegrown and homemade chocolate products. It is time to empower these entrepreneurs to take Ghana’s cocoa revolution to the next level.

Let’s pay attention to the wanton destruction of cocoa farms by illegal gold miners who are crippling the future of the cocoa sector. There are in indications that some of the farmers are trading their farms for galamsey rewards. The earlier we nip it in the bud, the better.

How do we maintain quality and quantity production of cocoa in the face of the devastation of cocoa farmlands due to illegal small-scale mining?

Where are the silos?

Ghana’s first President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, in his wisdom, built huge silos at the Tema Harbour (with capacity of about 200,000 tonnes) and the Industrial Area in Accra for stockpiling of grains to ensure food sufficiency and security.

But the silos were abandoned immediately after the overthrow of Nkrumah and the only use some of them have been put to is to house rodents and snakes.

As we work towards processing our cocoa and other raw materials before export, it is important to rehabilitate these silos to stockpile our cocoa and other raw materials.

We may also consider building additional silos to augment the existing ones and ensure that we are adequately prepared to fulfil the quest of adding value to our cocoa.

Let us also be conscious of the fact that leaders from developing countries who attempted to use their resources to develop their countries have not always had it easy, as it affects other powerful global interests.  Are we ready to ward off such interest?

These are important questions we must find answers to in our quest to process more of our cocoa for export. Otherwise, we may only be dabbling in rhetoric.

The writer is the Chancellor of Wisconsin International University College, Ghana, and President of the West Africa Nobles Forum.

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