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Opinions of Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Columnist: Anderson, Frank Evans

Ghana Cocoa Board and CMC's embarrassing PR strategy overseas.

A public relations and international marketing documentary Aired on OBE TV in the UK
about Ghana’s Cocoa industry under the auspices of Ghana Cocoa Board presented
interesting revelations into our cocoa production processes.
I will try my best to present a perfect picture of how as a country we have woefully
failed to appreciate the immense power of technology in improving productivity.

Right from harvest of the cocoa pods, every single process such as breaking the
pods, drying the beans, bagging, sewing of bags and stocking were all completed
using man power per the content of the film.

Clearly the CEO, Directors and other senior managers saw nothing wrong with the film
production hence, gave their approval for it to be telecast in the international
market. Infact the CEO, his deputy and the Admin and financial director contributed
to the making of the film so I have no doubt in my mind that it was a well
coordinated PR and marketing strategy. But am sorry it is disgraceful to say the
least.

As part of Ghana Cocoa Board’s quest to improving systems and structures to ensure
optimal gains in the quality of cocoa beans for exports, it mandated Licensed Cocoa
Buying Companies to established depots for storage and packaging near various cocoa
farming areas.
What broke my heart was the sight of personnel at the various depots inputting
important data into large manual ledgers in this 21st century where there are
hundreds of software packages that facilitate computerized record keeping and
generating important reports for effective, timely, accurate decision making and
sharing of valuable data. There wasn’t a sight of a single desktop computer at the
frontline of production.

Right from the point of harvest, there were scenes of hard working cocoa farmers,
some of whom were bare chested with improvised flat beds for drying the beans
working under beaming temperatures of at least 35° Celsius unprotected. There
wasn’t a single sight of protective gloves nor wellington boots but beyond the
frontline, there were images of off site managers wearing big suits and ties seating
in luxury air conditioned offices, driving SUVs in the cities with desk top
computers on their work stations showing images of their wives and kids as screen
savers leaving the poor but hard working farmers to rot under the treacherous
conditions at the production centers. Absolute Bonkers and heart breaking!!!

Furthermore, after the manual drying processes are completed, the poor farmers are
then required to identify and hand pick the bad beans out of the lot using manual
and outmoded methods in this 21st century where even courier companies across the
world are using machinery to determine destinations of letters and sort them out
according to post or zip codes, Cities, countries or even continents.

Then comes the point of bagging. Again the poor farmers are given shovels, baskets
and fertilizer bags (as is known in Ghana) to bag the cocoa beans. Once that’s done,
the female farmers are then engaged to manually use niddles and threads to secure
the cocoa bags.
After manual checks are done by frontline managers and coordinators, the heavy bags
are then lifted by men, arranged hedge like and subsequently packed into trailers
ready for transportation to the ports for exports.
Obviously, the Ghana Cocoa Board and all its affiliates do not take the health and
safety of their workers seriously. Perhaps serious policies on health and safety
issues are not matters of importance to the board. If they were, I would expect to
see forklifts and a visible display of health and safety policies with regards to
lifting bags of cocoa beans weighing twice the weight of the carriers.

Currently, Ghana is placed 2nd behind Cote D’Ivoire as the largest cocoa producing
country in the world. In percentage terms, the former contributes 45% to the world
market while the later holds a mere 15%. 60 -80 thousand tons of cocoa valued at
GHC192 million in revenue is lost through smuggling. Perhaps if we were to mechanize
a little bit of our production and monitoring systems, we could overtake Cote
D’Ivoire at the summit and raise more revenue for infrastructural and other
developmental projects urgently needed in the rural areas of production.

Available Data from the Bank of Ghana indicate that Cocoa is Ghana’s major foreign
exchange earner providing the country $704.1million as at June 2010. At the current
market price of £3035 for cocoa (Dec 2010) we would be more than likely to hit the
$1billion dollar mark with just a little effort in mechanizing.

We obviously have the land, good weather, water bodies, skilled man power and the
willingness to achieve greater heights to turn our economy into that similar to
advanced economies across the world. What is lucking is technological advancement to
move Ghana beyond Cote D’Ivoire and in the process creating wealthy entrepreneurs to
move Ghana to the next stage of its development.

Clearly, the above mentioned film which was intended to market internationally the
activities of the Ghana cocoa board and the cocoa marketing companies has rather
embarrassed to the whole country. It has exposed our unwillingness as a country to
invest where out mouth is and exposed how remote the movers and shakers of the cocoa
industry are to the pertinent challenges faced on daily basis by cocoa producing
areas of our economy.

Africa has the largest natural resources but bad leadership and deliberate
unwillingness of decision makers to engage the best available brains to translate
these resources into economic values are the reason we would go begging for arms to
provide portable water and uninterrupted energy supply for businesses to flourish.

We have governance systems where people are appointed as board members into
important state institutions and corporations without relevant skills and
competencies or the slightest idea of the workings of good corporate governance
practices required for board decision making let alone track record in their areas
of endeavour.
There’s hugely luck of periodic training and absence of balance of skills on various
boards. Clearly, their decisions are bound to negatively affect the profitability
and overall performance of such institutions.

Sadly, the many Civil Society organizations and NGOs who could provide some kind of
guidance and recommend structures and good board room behaviors have all fallen into
the trap of politicizing every national issue thereby losing credibility as
independent professional organizations whose advice could be trusted and taken in
good faith.

Perhaps the time has come for the young but skilled Ghanaians to take responsibility
and deal with the many problems past and present leaders have woefully failed to
solve.

Long live Ghana and more power to the young generation of leaders.


Frank Evans Anderson (godfather)
Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators. UK

frankanderson1@hotmail.co.uk