President Nana AddoDanquah Akufo-Addo has designated 57-year-old Investment Banker Ken Ofori-Atta as his minister for finance awaiting parliamentary approval. The co-founder of arguably Ghana’s foremost investment banking firm, Databank, has been an active player in the Ghanaian investment banking scene for well over two decades.
Ghana is currently wrapping up with International Monetary Fund’s Extended Credit Facility Program (ECF) which the country signed onto in the previous John Mahama administration with former finance minister Seth Tekper leading the charges from Ghana who negotiated with the Bretton Woods institution. According to the IMF, Ghana’s short to medium-term prospects were at risk due to the emergence of large fiscal and external imbalances in recent years, which slowed growth. Also, the previous government’s attempts at achieving fiscal consolidation since 2013 have been challenged by external shocks like fall in commodity prices on the international markets (cocoa, gold and oil), policy slippages and the ever-rising interest cost. The IMF quotes the net international reserves position of Ghana as a weak one with a depreciated exchange rate which was seeing a downward spiral all happening in mid-2014. The situation stabilized at the back of the Eurobond issuance in September 2014 and a short-term loan contracted by Cocoa Board. In all these the public debt stock continued to rise at an alarming rate which the institution described as unsustainable.
Now enters the New Patriotic Party with the promise to cut down on excessive borrowing to reduce the rising public debt stock and to stimulate private sector growth by reducing taxes, establishing a factory in every district (the party has explained that it will do so in partnership with the private sector), and tackle the erratic power supply (dumsor) which has impacted negatively on the cost of doing business in Ghana over the last 4 years. Analysts have however hinted that the cutting down of borrowing and the simultaneous reduction of taxes may not be sustainable. Will a Ken Ofori-Atta leadership at the finance ministry salvage the Ghanaian economy? Having been successful at corporate Ghana, many political watchers and analysts believe he has what it takes to succeed and turn the economic fortunes of Ghana for the better. Building Databank from scratch, at the time when investment banking was not really in vogue in the financial sector here in Ghana is no mean a feat, but the expectations need to be balanced with the realities of the Ghanaian public sector. Again this is where a section of experts believe Ken has to learn fast. He needs to show a lot of adroitness in translating the private sector efficiencies into the public sector. As a member of the Economic Management Team which will be chaired by the former first deputy governor of the Bank of Ghana and now vice president Dr. Mahmud Bawumia and expected to feature the likes of Yaw Osarfo-Marfo and others, the rich experiences of these members of EMT should be a relief for the John Jay Fellow at Columbia University to steer growth in the local economy.
First on the agenda for the minister-designate for finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, is to prepare the first budget statement of the Nana Addo led NPP government. The government wants to make good of its campaign promises; free SHS, Zongo Development Fund, 1 million USD for every district, cutting down on taxes among others. Will these policy initiatives feature prominently in the first budget statement? Already, news making rounds indicates that the Zongo Development Fund will feature in the first budget statement, how it is going to be disbursed and for which purposes? will be up for scrutiny in the coming months.
In all, the general consensus is that the man designate for this task has the needed gravitas and is widely connected locally and internationally to represent the interest of the good people of Ghana. Most importantly it is expected that he lives clean of the most cancerous factor, CORRUPTION, eating away our economy.The expectations are high looking at the impressive track record in private pursuits and the hope he brings to this new endeavor in public life.
For the average exporter or importer, trader at AbosseyOkai or Accra Central Business District he looks forward to Ken Ofori-Atta reducing the taxes as the party promised while in opposition. The SME owner wants interest rates reduced for him to take loans to grow his business. The multinational already existing and doing business in Ghana or the prospective foreign investor wants a favorable economic climate to do business- he’s looking at an end to dumsor, reduction in corporate tax, tackling inflation among others.

PROFILE OF KEN OFORI-ATTA – FINANCE DESIGNATE
Ken Ofori-Atta is 57 years old. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from Columbia University in New York, and an MBA from the Yale School of Management.
He was the first African to be honoured as a Donaldson Fellow at Yale University in 2010, a John Jay Fellow at Columbia University in 2011 and also a Henry Crown Fellow of the Aspen Institute.
Ken was also the first African to testify at the US Congress Ways and Means Committee to support the AGOA law. He was twice honoured by Price Water House Ghana as one of the Top 5 Most Respected CEOs in Ghana.
Ken was an investment banker at Morgan Stanley and Salomon Brothers on Wall Street in New York, before co-founding the Databank Group (an investment banking firm) in Ghana.
He was the Executive Chairman from 1990 until his retirement on February 14, 2012.
Ken has been Chairman and Board member of the following corporates: Family Ventures and Offices in Ghana; Chairman of Trust Bank Ltd in The Gambia; International Bank of Liberia, Bank of Kigali in Rwanda, Enterprise Life in Ghana, and pan-African Databank AgriFund for SME Agribusiness with investments in Madagascar, Cameroun, Zimbabwe, Zambia, South Africa, Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Ethiopia.
Ken has other business interests in Insurance, Retail Banking, Private Equity, Micro finance, Pharmaceuticals and Real Estate.
He is married to Prof. Angela Ofori-Atta of the University of Ghana Medical School, and they have four children.
A highly impressive profile, but would the degraded Ghanaian economy respect his profile? We pray it does!

Author: Paa Swanzy-Essuman || p.swanzy@ghanatalksbusiness.com

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