By Ajoa Yeboah-Afari
Last week, there was encouraging news from Cape Coast: the opening of a new fruit juice factory. Reassuring because it means job opportunities there, helping to fulfil a critical need.
With galloping cost of living, partly propelled by escalating fuel prices, and unemployment issues, the new factory is doubtless very welcome to the Central Region. Indeed, those two standard of life concerns in Ghana – as elsewhere – were prominent in the list of grievances of the Arise Ghana ‘krom ayɛ hye’ demonstration this week Tuesday and Wednesday.
Thus job creation initiatives are to be applauded, hence my interest when I read about the new factory a week ago, in the June 25 issue of the Daily Graphic. Coincidentally, that evening, Ghana Television too featured a fruit story, from the Ada District, but, unfortunately, unlike the Cape Coast one, it wasn’t positive news.
The Ada story was about a watermelon glut, with heaps rotting on farms and in the streets; causing the unfortunate farmers huge financial losses. Some of the fruit there was going for 50p, instead of GHȼ5 or even GHȼ10!
As also reported by ATL News of the University of Cape Coast, the new juice factory set up by A.T. Cooke Fruits Company, will produce notably pure pineapple juice, a fruit which the region is noted for.
It is the first of two factories the company is opening in the Central Region. The second and main factory will be opened in Yamoransa, in March, next year. Expected to employ more than 1000 workers, it will also produce refined akpeteshie (local gin) produced from industrial sugar cane.
Ambrose Thompson Cooke, the Chief Executive Officer of A.T Cooke Fruits, said his aim is to help reduce unemployment in the region and in the country. “Profit is not our motivation; it is a burning desire to create jobs.”
Osabarimba Kwesi Atta II, the Paramount Chief of Cape Coast, who chaired the function, called on industrialists in the country to set up industries in the region to help solve the unemployment problem in the region.
Osabarimba Kwesi Atta also urged his people to do everything possible to support local companies.
“He urged the employees to work hard in order for the business to succeed. “Make a concerted effort to stimulate the growth of new enterprises. If you don’t want to work, help people who do,” he advised (emphasis added).
Notably, the A T Cooke is the second prominent fruit juice factory in the Central Region, the other one being the Ekumfi Fruits and Juice Factory, which started production in 2019.
If only there were more entrepreneurs like Mr Cooke in the other regions of the country!
Before the Ada excess watermelon news, there was an earlier report of a similar watermelon surplus in a village in the Bono East Region, a community with the somewhat curious name of ‘Nkoranza-Koforidua’.
According to a June 6 video report by TV3, watermelon farmers in that Bono East village were so desperate to get buyers to take some of their glut off their hands, that some of them were, as in the Ada case, selling the choice fruit at 50p each!
Fruit glut is an annual, distressing phenomenon in Ghana, but seemingly with no end in sight! Every harvest season, the story is the same in different parts of the country, related to perishable fruit, including mangoes, oranges and watermelons; rotting on farms or in markets for want of buyers.
Ironically, though Ghana has fruit in abundance, much of it going waste, our store shelves are filled with fruit juices from all the corners of the world!
And the constant plea, particularly from farmers is that the Government should establish a factory in their district to make use of the abundant fruit, and, of course, guarantee employment there.
But can the Government, any government, do it alone? Clearly, the private-sector need to come in as Mr Cooke has done in Cape Coast.
However, it appears that there is little incentive for entrepreneurs to invest in businesses in this country. The track record of Ghanaians is simply atrocious where supporting local business is concerned.
Thus, those with the means are reluctant to risk their money, energy – and peace of mind.
Many local businesses have reportedly collapsed because of the poor work attitude of workers, including downright sabotage.
Osabarimba’s wise caution and advice to the A. T. Cooke employees, says it all: “If you don’t want to work, help people who do”.
Last year, the CEO of the McDan Group of companies, Daniel McKorley, was quoted as expressing strong views about the disloyal attitude of some Ghanaian employees towards their work and employers.
Speaking on Joy FM’s Super Morning Show, Dr McKorley attributed the failure of most indigenous businesses to dishonest Ghanaian employees who steal from their employers or are only serving their selfish interest.
He noted that the untrustworthy attitude is what compels some entrepreneurs to choose to employ foreigners.
“The sensitive positions are run by the foreigners…I have the same in my company.” Memorably, he added: “It’s as if (dishonesty) is in our DNA.”
“All I look out for in my business is to give Ghanaians opportunities, but 70 per cent will let you down,” he said.
“If about 50 per cent should change their attitude, Ghana will be like heaven,” he said.
So, against this backdrop, one hopes that the A T Cooke factory workers will be guided by their chief’s advice. They should see the success of the factory as crucial to their own livelihood and lives, and thus work hard to make the factory an example that will encourage others to establish more factories.
Employment creation should not be the responsibility of only governments. But it needs the right employees’ attitude, and a reliable workforce, to prompt the establishment of more private-sector factories and ensure an end to fruit gluts and similar problems.