Opening the camp, Baffour Agyeman-Duah, chief executive officer of the Foundation, emphasized the vision of the founder, former President Kufuor, for selfless and effective leadership to address the challenge of development in Ghana and Africa. “To become transformational leaders, you must first seek to transform yourself,” Agyeman-Duah advised. He encouraged the pioneering Kufuor Scholars to take full advantage of the opportunities offered them to prepare for the future. Present at the opening ceremony were Francis Kofi Baah, district chief executive of Sene West District, and Finn Jacobson, CEO of the African Plantations for Sustainable Development (APSD), who addressed the scholars on the company’s objectives and activities. Also present were heads of public institutions in the Sene West and East districts.The John A. Kufuor Foundation has organized the maiden Youth Leadership Camp for the 14 scholars of the Kufuor Scholars Program, 17 to 29 July 2016. Held in the small town of Bantama, near Atebubu in the Brong Ahafo Region, the camp, a module of the three-year mentoring program, aimed to empower the scholars for future leadership. The scholars were recruited from seven public and private universities in the country for the special awards which honour former President John Agyekum Kufuor.
The two-week long camp exposed the scholars to realities of rural living and, also, enabled them to experience at first-hand the challenge of leadership, development and governance in local communities. In special sessions, community leaders shared their experiences in briefing the scholars on their work. Among them was the district coordinating officer and directors of education, health, and civic education. An exciting seminar on the use of technology for community development was facilitated by a team led by Veronica DaSilver from Vodafone Ghana.
Visiting the Atebubu and Kwame Danso senior high schools, the scholars shared their educational experiences and exhorted the students to work hard for a better future. Lariba Anafo of GIMPA who made a presentation to a class expressed excitement and self-realization, remarking that: “As I spoke to the children I could feel the sense of my purpose in life and ability to make a difference in the life of others!”
In the evenings, Dr Pascal Brenya, coordinator of the Scholars Program, led the group in discussions on personal leadership and special video presentations. The thought-provoking and inspiring videos included the “Invictus” on Nelson Mandela, “Obama’s Keynote Speech at 2004 Democratic Convention”, and “Flight of Phoenix.” Nana Ama Oppong-Duah, Gideon Horsu-Pobley and Victor Kofi Kufuor, senior officers of the Foundation, and Derrick Yeboah, the APSD community liaison officer addressed various subjects of personal development at these sessions.
Field visits featured prominently at the camp. The scholars were given extensive tour of the huge eucalyptus plantation of the APSD, which will be feeding a new biomass power generation in the country. The forest manager of the Norwegian company, Per Olsson, led the scholars to appreciate the project in terms of its contribution to Ghana’s energy needs, preservation of biodiversity and the socioeconomic impact on local communities.
A trip to nearby Yeji and Kajaji, two fishing communities on the Volta Lake, exposed the scholars further to the challenge of rural living. Led by a naval commander at the site, they had a boat ride on the lake and witnessed the toils of fisher folks who use traditional fishing methods. Commenting later on the day’s observations, Esther Emmanuella Spio of the University of Ghana lamented the harsh conditions and deprivation, but felt inspired: “This experience has challenged me to aspire to be a change agent.”
Earlier, on their way to the campsite, the scholars paid a courtesy call on former President Kufuor in Kumasi. Welcoming them to his private residence, the president urged the scholars, as future leaders, to prepare and empower themselves adequately, urging them to be thoroughly knowledgeable about the Ghanaian society they seek to lead. He also encouraged them to maintain integrity in all they do. “Let my good deeds as president inspire you,” President Kufuor told them.
The call on the President coincided with the popular celebration of Akwasidae, a traditional Asante festival honouring ancestors, and he took the scholars to pay homage to his nephew, the Apagyahene, who is a prominent chief at the court of Manhyia Palace, seat of the Asantehene. At the palace, they were treated to traditional protocols and lessons in the history of chieftaincy. Subsequent audiences with the paramount chiefs of Ejura and Atebubu traditional areas added to the scholars’ exposure to the rich Ghanaian culture. As observed by Nana Yaw Owusu-Achew of the University of Ghana, the encounters “revealed another side of our culture, the rich traditions that defy our fast urbanizing society.”
The camp was action-packed, and the scholars spoke highly of how their perspectives have changed. Perhaps, Angela Addai Boadi of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology spoke for colleagues when she reflected that: “The camp has taught me to value the essence of teamwork and effective communication in leadership. I have been inspired to give of my best to my country in whatever endeavour I find myself.”
The Leadership Camp was hosted and partly sponsored by APSD. A cash donation by Avnash, an Accra-based rice company, and the collaboration of Vodafone Ghana contributed to the success of this maiden leadership camp for the Kufuor Scholars.