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Opinions of Friday, 25 February 2022

Columnist: Kwabena Nsafoa

The great 'Poku Transport': 20 years anniversary

The late Francis Kojo Poku The late Francis Kojo Poku

Mr. Francis Kojo Poku popularly known as Poku Transport and affectionately called F.K by his children was born on 16th September 1919 to the late Kejetia Poku and the late Madam Ama Amoakowaa of Kwabre-Hemang. He started his education at Government Boys School in Kumasi and further went to Mfanstipim School in Cape Coast in 1937.

He went straight into private business in 1938 and he began by selling over-the-counter drugs from village to village in the Kwabre District. He later moved to far away Wassa Akropong where he established a small Drug Store and again was travelling with suitcases filled with drugs to sell in other neighboring towns.

He moved to Ayanfuri and finally settled at Bogoso where he opened his largest Drug Store 'O & P Drug Store in 1941. The success of his Bogoso activities gave Mr. Poku the incentive, in 1942, to extend the Drug Store operations to cover General Merchandise by obtaining goods from U.A.C and G.B Olivantin Tarkwa. He was able, at that time to purchase one secondhand Bedford vehicle to cart his goods and those of others from Tarkwa to Bogoso.

Mr. Poku landed his first contract to supply Railway Sleepers to the Forestry Department and due to the successful performance of that contract, the District Commissioner of Enchi awarded him another contract to cart Post Office letters and parcels to and from Enchi. It was obvious, from the award of that government contract in addition to his entrepreneurial spirit and being honest and reliable that led to to becoming government courier.

He was accordingly recommended and granted a permit by the Gold Coast government to purchase two Ford vehicles at UTC in Sekondi. The heightened activity in his transport business as well as his trading activities made him a very popular figure throughout the Western region.

He finally moved his business enterprises to Kumasi in 1946, after attending his father's funeral and instinctively saw the business opportunities in the City. He built his residence at Ashanti New Town and established his transport yard at Abbey's Park near Ashtown Post Office.

In October 1951, Mr. Poku registered all his businesses under the name Poku Transport and Stores. At this time, he bought and supplied Odum timber to Districts Councils in the Mother regions. During the period of expansion, he moved his transport yard to Suame opposite A-Lang Ltd and later relocated to Zongo Mobil Pool Filling Station at Alabar.

Poku Transport and Stores was subsequently transformed into Poku Transport and Sawmill in 1956 and by this time, he had ventured into Sawmilling in a big way which occasioned registration of P.T.S as a Limited Liability Company and due to expansion relocated to Oforikrom industrial area on the Kumasi- Accra road and employed hundreds of workers.

Guided by his instinct, which was his major asset he purchased the Asokwa Loading siding from Messrs Arbor Trading Company where he installed a crane and railway lines for swift loading of logs and sawn timber for Takoradi. In 1974, he established an export company, Poku Transport Industries(export) Ltd to manufacture furniture, furniture components, mouldings together with kiln dried and machined lumber products for export. And in 1976, he established yet another company Poku Transport Veneer and Plywood to manufacture plywood, sliced and peeled veneer.

In 1979, even in in exile in far away Ivory Coast, due to hounding by Rawlings, his business acumen saw no boundary and established a Trading and Transport Company SVTII. The company became one of SIFAL's major transporters in Abidjan, hauling lubricants to Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Ghana, Togo. The company was the foremost to import and introduced the sale of Becks Beer in Abidjan and undertook the repairing and washing of vehicles at his transport yard.

Mr. Poku ventured into Estate development in 1972, when he acquired land at Santasi - Fankyenebra where the first phase of the project comprising of 15 buildings were completed with the second phase of 27 buildings in the offing.

In 1967, he was invited by the manager of Mobil Oil Ltd to undertake Petrol haulage transport from Tema to Kumasi. He immediately commissioned Dorman Long Ltd to build for him two 5000 IG tankers for the first time in the nation's industrial history. Even though, the PWD refused to permit the 5000 IG tankers to operate on our roads, the persuasive ability of Mr. Poku coupled with a presentation of a clear and convincing case finally, won him the right to operate but only on A1 roads. He therefore became the first haulage transporter in Ghana to operate 5000 IG tankers and soon owned 30 fleet.

The economic gains made by F.K provided him the opportunity to offer Social and Humanitarian services to society. He established..

- Poku Transport Endowment Fund for KNUST to promote the advancement of Higher Education through the award of scholarships to outstanding students in selected disciplines.

- He again established Poku Transport Endowment Fund for the School of Medicine and Health Sciences in the University of Development Studies - UDS to promote the advancement of Medical Education in the northern region.

- He again established Poku Transport Children's Hospital in 1997 in Kumasi as his contribution to the health needs of the region.

In 1972, he became the second Ghanaian to get appointed as director to serve on the Board of Standard Bank Ltd, now Standard Chartered Bank for 25yrs meritorious services.

As a devout Catholic, which informs why almost all his sons attended Opoku Ware School - Owass, he never missed Sunday Mass and all the other days on the Catholic calendar. He was one of the first members of the Parochial Council of St. Peters Cathedral - Kumasi and was also known to have made several donations to the Cathedral. He laid the foundation stones of the Corpus Christi Catholic Church at Kurofrom and St. Paul's Cathedral at Amakom.

He left behind 18 children for which his legacy has inspired them and his grandchildren to establish more thriving companies..

This year is 20yrs, since he died peacefully in his Asokwa bungalow residence.