DO YOU UNDERSTAND THE AGYAPA DEBATE? HERE IS A LAYMAN’S EXPLANATION
Ladies and gentlemen, I have been specially commissioned by Aunty Awurama Papabi to offer a layman’s explanation of the Agyapa deal. Her choice of me on this issue is rather interesting. It looks like she is not aware that, in Ghana today, one needs a PhD in investment banking or finance to qualify to comment on the Agyapa deal. Anyway, I will indulge her and share my layman’s understanding of the deal. So, if you are not a layman or laywoman, you are not invited to join us. This is for us the laypeople.
Right, let’s go: In 2017 a new Abusuapanyin (head of family) took over the leadership of a certain family after members of that family protested against the former Abusuapanyin, saying that he was CORRUPT. They accused him of not working in the interest of the larger family but, rather, in his personal interest and that of his immediate family and friends. This analogy refers to how Ghanaians voted against the NDC in 2016 and brought in the NPP.
The new Abusuapanyin upon assumption of office realised that, even though the family had lots of landed properties, and had been receiving rent for more than 100 years, the members of the family were mostly poor: some of them had no place to lay their heads; some of the children were not going to school; some of the family members could not afford healthcare; and so on.
The properties in this case refer to Ghana’s mineral resources (gold, diamond, bauxite, manganese etc.) and the rent refers to the royalties Ghana has been receiving since mining started in the country more than 100 years ago. The poverty refers to the fact that Ghana lacks infrastructure to support education, healthcare delivery, housing, roads etc.
Abusuapanyin, after analysing the situation, came to the understanding that, the main reason why the family was not benefiting from the properties was because the rent (royalties) often came in bits and pieces. The amounts were so small that they could not be used to undertake major projects. In the end, they were usually shared among the family members in a “hand-to-mouth” kind of situation.
Meanwhile, he as Abusuapanyin was tasked with the responsibility of borrowing money to support the running of the affairs of the family. For example, every now and then, he had to look for money to support a funeral or wedding or naming ceremony or school fees or medical bills or something. These loans he was taking often came with high interests and when the rent (royalties) were due, he had to use them to offset the repayments.
Based on Abusuapanyin’s analysis, he started formulating ideas about how the family could come up with strategies to maximise their earnings from the rent or royalties. He thought of a strategy whereby the family could, at a go, raise substantial amounts of money to undertake major projects instead of waiting annually for the rent or royalties to trickle in. He immediately started putting his ideas together in a document.
In 2018 Abusuapanyin completed the strategy document and presented it to the family elders who held several meetings to discuss it. This strategy document refers to Minerals Income Investment Fund (MIIF) Act 2018, (Act 978) and the family elders refer to NPP and NDC parliamentarians. The meetings refer to the parliamentary processes that passed the MIIF bill into law. Upon conclusion of the processes, the family elders all agreed that Abusuapanyin had done well by coming up with a new thinking about how the family could maximise benefits from their properties. Abusuapanyin was tasked to go ahead with the implementation of his strategy document.
Then, in August 2020, Abusuapanyin called for another meeting with the elders to brief them on work done so far. He informed them that he had come up with some special arrangements by registering a company called Agyapa Royalties Limited (ARL) in a tax haven country called Jersey and also in Ghana. He informed them about how the company was going to manage the rent (royalties) from the family properties. He informed them about how this company was going to raise “substantial” amounts of money on behalf of the family for major projects instead of the hand-to-mouth revenues. He informed them about how the family was going to maintain 51% of the shares of the company and how investors could also buy shares up to 49% in the company. He also informed them about…….
While the narration of all the strategies were going on, a section of the elders (NDC parliamentarians) raised an objection. They said: “Wait ooo, Abusuapanyin, all these things you are saying are very good but why didn’t you first discuss them with us before going ahead to register the company? Who are the owners of this company? Are you sure this is the only way to raise money for the family? Why is the “substantial” amount so little taking into consideration our vast properties? Why have you put in clauses in the agreement with this company that says that no future Abusuapanyin can ever terminate the deal even if it turns out not to be beneficial for the family? And why did you incorporate the company in a tax haven country where it will not be easy for the family to access information about the dealings of the company? No. We suspect some underhand dealings, especially because you have not told us who the owners of the company are. Based on these reasons and others we cannot be part of the implementation of your strategy.”
Abusuapanyin then got angry and said: “Ahhhhh, why are you accusing me of wrongdoing? Do you know the trouble I have gone through to put this whole thing together? Do you know all the measures I have put in place to ensure transparency and accountability in this strategy? Do you know how this strategy is going to transform the future of this family? Are you aware that we are the first family on the African continent to innovate such a strategy? Look, if you won’t support me, I will still go ahead with those who support me to implement the strategy, because I know it will benefit the whole family.”
That was how NPP parliamentarians endorsed the deal and passed it in Parliament on August 14, 2020 after the NDC parliamentarians staged a walk-out. The NDC started a media campaign suggesting that the deal was laden with CORRUPTION.
At this point, the youth members of the family, referring to civil society organisations (CSOs) heard about the strategy and also started their own agitations: “Ahhhhhh, but when did Abusuapanyin and the elders discuss and put this whole thing together without engaging us? No, this is not how previous Abusuapanyins managed family issues like this in the past. They always got us involved. No, Abusuapanyin, you must withdraw this strategy so that we all sit down and discuss it again before implementation. Yes, you have good intentions but we are the youth who will be most affected by this strategy, so please withdraw and let’s look at it again.”
As a matter of fact, what infuriated the youth the most was the fact that many of them were unemployed, but when they looked through the list of those who were going to manage Agyapa they saw the names of the sons of Abusuapanyin. Then, they also saw somewhere in the documents that Agyapa was previously known as “Asaase” and this worsened the situation because they were aware that some of the sons of Abusuapanyin had recently started a media organisation called Asaase. Could this have been a mere coincidence? The youth also got to know that when the family lawyer, referring to Attorney-General, first saw the deal she got alarmed and described it as “unconscionable” because to the best of her understanding, the country was going to get short-changed.
Putting one and two together, the youth concluded that Agyapa is for Abusuapanyin and his sons. This is because in Akan Agyapa means “good father” and so the youth suspect the sons of Abusuapanyin are by this name praising their father for the trans-generational fortune he is planning to bequeath to them. This is because, as per their calculations, if the deal goes through, the sons of Abusuapanyin and their unborn generations will never ever see poverty in their lives.
Ladies and gentlemen, I have done my best to present the issues about Agyapa as fairly as I can. In summary, the current hullabaloo is not about the fact that the whole idea of developing a new strategy to help the country maximise benefits from its mineral resources is a bad one. Rather, it is based on the SUSPICION that certain people in government are hiding behind Agyapa and scheming to enrich themselves and their families and friends.
Well, if you are a layman like me, I hope this will help you follow the ongoing Agyapa debate.
Credit : Kwesi Orstin