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A dirty Job that made a poor man FILTHY rich

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Joseph Agyepong Siaw wanted to become a pilot or a marine engineer but ended up selling school books on the street. He made his fortune from what everyone else didn’t want – with the help of tricycles from China.

He may be one of the richest men in Ghana, employing 250,000 of his countrymen, but it all began in the struggle. Joseph Agyepong Siaw holds his lean, early years in abhorrence. Reason: the serial entrepreneur and founder of the Jospong Group of Companies had the odds stacked against him from the day he was born.

“My mother told me that when it was time to give birth to me, she had to move to the village because my father had three wives and traditionally, in the Ghanaian culture, when you are in that situation you have to go to your parents to deliver your baby. So when she was walking in a farm, she went into labour and started crying for help. At the time there was no hospital so we had to call on the village prophetess to come and assist in my delivery,” says Agyepong as he talks to FORBES AFRICA of his humble past in the conference room of his Adjiriganor office, in the country’s capital Accra.

The walls of the room say it all; they are covered with trappings of wealth and numerous entrepreneurship awards.

Agyepong is an enigma in corporate Ghana. He shies away from interviews and public appearances – very little has been documented about the serial entrepreneur who has made a fortune through revolutionizing solid waste disposal in the West African country. He is assertive and confident with a demeanour that commands attention without being arrogant. His personality is warm and engaging. What was to be a 30-minute conversation went on for three hours.

Agyepong finally settles down to recount his journey, one that began with the wrong name.

“My mother named me Felix because my father was not there during the time of my birth. So I used the name Felix from kindergarten to primary school two. It was then that my father saw my name and said to me ‘your name is not Felix; it is Joseph.’ So my name was changed to Joseph.”

As one of 17 mouths to feed, and with little income from his father’s dwindling business as a photographer, Agyepong had to rely on his wits and brawn for survival.

“In the village, life was very challenging and difficult. I was schooling barefooted, going to the farm to work before going to school. I had no money. I could not afford body lotion after bathing so I would chew palm nut and use the extracts to cream myself. I slept in mud houses without electricity. You had to be a labourer and work before you got food. My palms are hardened because I had to use cutlasses to weed. I had to walk between 20 to 30 kilometres to different places to go and look for work.”

Submitted (Peace Hyde)

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Guest Blog - The Other View

CHRIS KONEY: Exploring South Africa – Gauteng Province

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Johannesburg, South Africa’s biggest city and capital of Gauteng province, the wealthiest South African province was our next stop! Popularly known as Jozi or Joburg, it is one of the fifty largest urban areas in the world. The city is located in the mineral-rich Witwatersrand range of hills and is the centre of large-scale gold and diamond trade.

The metropolis is an alpha global city as listed by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network. In 2011, the population of the city of Johannesburg was 4,434,827, making it the most populous city in South Africa. In the same year, the population of Johannesburg’s urban agglomeration was put at 7,860,781.

Johannesburg began as a 19th-century gold-mining settlement with its sprawling Soweto township housing two of Noble Peace Prize winners – freedom fighter and former South African president, Nelson Mandela and renowned human rights activists and Anglican bishop, Desmond Tutu. Originally an acronym for “South-Western Townships”, Soweto originated as a collection of settlements on the outskirts of Johannesburg, populated mostly by native African workers from the gold mining industry.

Soweto, although eventually incorporated into Johannesburg, had been separated as a residential area for blacks, who were not permitted to live in Johannesburg proper. Lenasia is predominantly populated by English-speaking South Africans of Indian descent. These areas were designated as non-white areas in accordance with the segregationist policies of the South African government known as apartheid.

Today, several years after the racist system of governance, apartheid, was brought to an end, Soweto has become a microcosm of the prosperity, poverty and everything in between experienced by the black population of today’s South Africa.

At Soweto, we visited the Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum, situated in Orlando West, Soweto, which commemorates the role of the country’s students in the struggle against apartheid and in particular the role played by the school children who took part in the Soweto protests of 1976, many of whom were shot by the apartheid police while protesting against the sub-standard of education in black schools in South Africa.

One of the first to be killed by the police was 12-year-old Hector Pieterson. Newspaper photographer Sam Nzima was in Soweto on June 16 covering the protests and the riots which followed. His iconic image of Pieterson’s body being carried by high school student Mbuyisa Makhubo, with his sister, Antoinette Sithole, running alongside, is a graphic representation of repression under the apartheid regime and has become an iconic image around the world of the senseless cruelty and brutality of the apartheid state.

We also visited Nelson Mandela’s former residence which is now the Mandela House museum and other Soweto museums that recount the struggle to end segregation including the sombre Apartheid Museum and Constitution Hill, a former prison complex.

The Apartheid Museum is a museum complex that illustrates apartheid and the twentieth-century history of South Africa. The complex, owned by Gold Reef City Casino, was opened in November 2001 and allows visitors to experience the racial segregation that occurred during Apartheid by separating them by racial appearance classified by the width of the nose, the kinks in hair, skin pigmentation, and size of lips.

After learning about the racial segregation and system of apartheid in South Africa which was banned in 1994, we had to go catch some fun and we couldn’t have gone anywhere more ideal than the Gold Reef City for some adventure.  Gold Reef City is an amusement park located on an old gold mine which closed in 1971 and the park is themed around the gold rush that started in 1886 on the Witwatersrand.

Just 8 kilometres from the centre of Johannesburg lies the world famous yet uniquely South African Gold Reef City.  Gold Reef City is “Pure Jozi, Pure Gold” and provides a multitude of experiences under one roof.  Living and breathing twenty-four hours a day, the property provides the best of everything; from A-list entertainment to award-winning restaurants to the exhilarating theme park to the excitement of the casino. Pure energy, pure indulgence, pure escape, where Jozi comes to life!

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Gold Reef City offers two 4 star hotels, a casino comprising of smoking and non-smoking casinos plus a Prive, the famous Back O’ The Moon Restaurant, the Tsogo Sun owned Vigour & Verve, the largest theme park in the country, home to the Apartheid Museum, a Kaya FM satellite studio, kiddies entertainment facilities, a world-class theatre as well as a selection of conferencing and team building options.

Visitors can also enjoy a 6 theatre cinema complex, a bowling alley, a fast food court and additional restaurants.  If you want to kick back and take it easy, or suit up and get your game face on, find yourself, lose yourself, we have it all at the Gold Reef City.

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CHRIS KONEY: Exploring South Africa – KwaZulu-Natal Province

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After experiencing nature like never before – sliding through the forest canopy and enjoying a unique birds-eye view on the world around us in the Drakensberg, we set out on a two-hour journey to South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province – Durban was our exact destination.

Durban is a coastal city in eastern South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province, known for its African, Indian and colonial influences. The blend of cultures and architecture positions Durban as one of the unique spots in South Africa. Apart from Durban’s Golden Mile which is a destination for surfers, families and fisherman, due to its blend of natural beauty and modern resort, there are several major-city attractions making the city a good destination for families and couples alike.

We were welcomed to Durban by the African plant species showcased at the Durban Botanical Gardens, which was quite a refreshing sight. Due to the weather on the day, we had to abandon our first activity in Durban – bungee swing at Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium. Though filled with disappointment, some of us opted to experience first-hand the logistics at the ‘futuristic facility’.  

The Big Swing (as it is popularly called) at Moses Mabhida Stadium can best be described as the envy of thrill-seeking adventure travellers the world over. Not only is this extreme Durban attraction the only stadium swing on earth, it also holds the Guinness Record for the World’s Tallest Swing. Also known as the Big Rush, the Moses Mabhida Stadium swing has been giving new meaning to ‘Durban flights’ since 2010.

The adventure begins on your arrival at Moses Mabhida Stadium where you will report to the Big Rush Stadium Shop. There, you will sign an indemnity waiver form before being taken through the basic safety precautions.  You are fitted into a full body harness that will allow you to try a quick technique demonstration in the practice area. A short walk to the stadium arch and your harness will be attached to the safety line. Your jump will take place at ‘ladder rung 4’ – you will be assisted down the ladder onto the platform by the Big Rush Jump Crew, who will also ensure that you are ready to go, that is not having second thoughts. As a jumper, you are secured by ropes and harnesses, before taking the plunge into the huge void over the pitch, and then swinging out up to 220 metres under the famous arch of the Moses Mabhida Stadium.

The rest of the post-jump time is spent reliving the experience – jumps are recorded and screened at the Base Café that is situated within the Big Rush Stadium Shop and you can get a copy of the recording to watch again later once the rush has worn off.

From the Moses Mabhida Stadium, the entire team went to the Gateway Mall to have lunch and then explore the shopping centre.  Voted as the best shopping centre by the Daily News Your Choice awards in 2014 and 2015, the Gateway Theatre of Shopping is the ultimate retail and entertainment destination in Durban. Find everything under one roof in this super regional shopping centre that hosts some of the most elite retail stores in South Africa.

With over 390 stores, 70 eateries and a host of exciting entertainment, visitors are spoilt for choice. At Gateway you will find local South African retail as well as popular international brands such as Zara, Forever New, Cotton On, Super dry, Gant, and everything in between.

We checked into the Protea Hotel where we spent the night. After breakfast the next morning, we headed out to the uShaka Marine World, a 16-hectare theme park where we spent the entire day. Opened on 30 April 2004, the uShaka Marine World comprises of five sections: uShaka Sea World, uShaka Wet ‘n’ Wild, uShaka Beach, uShaka Village Walk and, uShaka Kids World. Durban is famous for its beaches and that is exactly what you will discover at the uShaka Marine world.

It really is an adventure at uShaka Sea World with dolphin shows, seal shows, penguin presentations, shark dives, ray feeds and so much more! Sea World boasts of an impressive Dolphin Stadium, seating over 1 200 spectators, who are thrilled and delighted with two dolphins show presentations each day. Separate interactive pools, known as the Dolphin Lagoon, allow up close and personal encounters with these amazing creatures. Alongside the Dolphin Stadium, is the Seal Stadium which hosts a fun-filled seal shows, as well as the Penguin rockery, home to over 63 African Penguins

uShaka’s Wet ‘n’ Wild caters for the adrenaline junkie and those less adventurous with a fun freshwater world of slides and pools. You will get blown away with uShaka’s newest and fastest slide as you take a deep breathe, holding onto your cozzie and get ready to speed through the tunnel before spiralling around the tornado bowl and down into a pool below.

Another experience you cannot miss at the uShaka Marine World is Durban’s ultra-thrilling, new rope adventure park – with the longest continuous belay system in Africa. Test your limits and challenge yourself at uShaka Marine World’s Chimp & Zee Rope Adventure Park. You could opt for either the introductory journey, intermediate journey or both.    

Adding to the fun and excitement at the uShaka Marine World is the unique shopping experience, offering shoppers paradise in an open-air environment, affording guests a world of entertainment, family fun, shopping and dining.

Before our departure to Johannesburg, we had dinner at the legendary exclusive revolving restaurant which was officially opened in February 1973. The Roma was born from a concept pioneered by Bartholomeo Ribero, Comiso Turi and Gino Leopardi. Now owned by Reelin Group and managed by the Leopardi brothers, it is the only genuine revolving restaurant in the southern hemisphere and the third of its kind in the world.

The Roma Revolving Restaurant also boasts the unique feature as two others do, of a revolving window and floor area. The restaurant is situated on the 32nd level of John Ross House overlooking the whole of Durban and surrounding areas with excellent Sea and Bay views. It has a speed control mechanism which allows a revolution of anything between 60 and 90 minutes.

 

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 NANA YAA ASABEA: Societal Bastards

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…conceived in love, born out of wedlock

“We knew she would amount to nothing and now she’s carrying a bastard!” They whispered among themselves as Owusua made her way through the market square in Asankragua. She couldn’t actually hear them speak but their piercing gazes were enough to enable her read their minds.

She knew she had made a mistake with Kwame; a mistake she may never recover from, a mistake so huge that it was evidently visible from her protruding belly. Yes she was beautiful and modest but her crime was in giving in helplessly to a night of passion with the man of her dreams which only ended up in a full blown pregnancy. She never saw the end result coming and neither did she believe in abortion. Some self made societal counselors tagged her as a burden to the society; a name she very much grew accustomed to throughout the nine (9) month pregnancy period. She suffered shame and typical humiliation from an African society and shed so much tears on her unborn child. If not for God and her ever supportive baby-daddy, she would have probably succumbed to the societal pressures to abort the pregnancy. She lived in a society where it was “okay” to abort “unwanted” babies but a hideous crime to deliver those “unwanted” children after the ninth month. She knew her child (a daughter) wouldn’t suffer any less than she had and therefore had to prepare her for the criticisms of the hypocritical and judgmental society she belonged.

She became a topic for debate; a counseling point for younger ladies, a deterrent to younger individuals engaging in pre-marital sexual intercourse and the face of promiscuity in her society. After the birth of her child, Owusua became a bride to her “partner in sin” which they said “was a cheap means of controlling the already made damage,” aaahba!!  Will we ever mind our business and focus on our very own dirty and under-washed linens? Asantewaa, her pretty daughter, had already become an object of ridicule. She grew up listening to the ridiculous stories people had to say about her mother and issues surrounding her conception. She now had younger siblings who to her were conceived the “right way” but there she was a low life societal outcast! … Depression had already set in and that made her despise her very own existence.

She pushed herself to strive for academic excellence, graduated from the university with distinction and landed a well paying job. She eventually became a writer and used her life to encourage and uplift others going through similar predicaments.

Just like Owusua, many people especially those in the limelight tend to be bashed and stigmatized for conceiving out of wedlock. What we tend to forget as humans is, pregnancy is an emotional journey characterized by series of depressions so lashing out at people because their secret sins had yielded results (another human) makes us insensitive hypocrites. Yes they made a “mistake” so what? Tearing them down emotionally doesn’t make us better people. What happened to showing unconditional love to others? What happened to not casting the first stone? No one is to be made to pay for the mistakes of their past or that of their parents. I bet the loud mouths in such circumstances are the ones with the most hideous skeletons in their cupboard.

It sucks to be tagged as an outcast in the society and regardless of the story surrounding anyone’s means of conception, let’s note that these children can equally grow to become useful members of the society. The future of a child conceived out of wedlock isn’t defined by the situation surrounding his/her conception… I know this because I am one.

By: Nana Yaa Asabea

 

 

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“CONFUSION” BROUHAHA: Kuami Eugene has done nothing wrong – Jacob Kwaku Gyan

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Many people have criticised Kuami Eugene for releasing “confusion”, a song that is believed to be a remix of an original by Sidike Diabite. Albeit I concur that the song by the lynx entertainment singed youngster is indeed a cover of Sidike’s “Fais mois Confiance”, I believe Eugene has done nothing wrong in making this beautiful song for the gusto of his fans and Ghanaians at large.

First, there are over dozen copyright laws that may prevent an artist from putting up a remix. However, standard industry practice and conventions give room for an artist to take inspiration from another’s creativity but ought to give due credit to the original creator of the piece. The emergence of remixes is not a new practice in the music industry across the globe.

I hope you enjoyed the hit single by Sean Kingston titled “Beautiful girls”. Oh! I bet you didn’t know that it was a cover of Ben E. King’s Stand by me. Did you bash The then 17-year-old Kingston for that amazing creative work? Kingston used Ben E. King’s riddim to express his high school self-pity, warning a possible girlfriend that her good looks will make him want to kill himself if they break-up. Teenage angst paid off well, though: The song went to Number One on three continents. Ben E. King’s stand by me has been remade in different genres by Legendary acts like John Lennon, Junior Murvin, Maurice White, R – Kelly, U2 and Bruce Springsteen. In recent times, former Disney star, Miley Cyrus cut lyrics from “Stand by Me” into the chorus of “My Darlin’,” she and the perpetually Auto-Tuned Future rhyming the older song’s title with a promise to make a movie in the 3D and had contributions from Pharrell, Dr Luke and Mike Will I am. So Milet and Future did a perfect collabo as a remix. Even the Greatest, Muhammad Ali took a shot at recording an amazing version of the same song.

The just ended Grammy awards also nominated many songs that were covers of other songs. In fact, the album of the year won by Bruno Mars had all the songs in it sampled from originals by other musicians. And oh! My very own favourite musician of all time Jay Z sample “Bam” from Sister Nancy’s 1982 hit a rock on the 4:44 album. The album had the highest number of nominations at the Grammys this year. The album that got most people dancing around the world, Grateful by DJ Khaled. The timeless song, “Wild Thoughts “ which features “Bad Gyal” Rihanna and “Kojo fine boy” Bryson Tiller is just another good sample of Santana’s “Maria”. I bet you never knew?

As I mentioned earlier, there are copyright laws regarding how to go about a cover of someone’s creative work. I am not a lawyer so I would not dare into explaining those laws. I would leave that to my dearest, Annica Nsiah-Apau, wife and manager of Okyeame Kwame.

To the fans and lovers of Kuami Eugene, keep supporting the young talent. He has caused some “confusion” with his new song but give him a break, he’s done nothing wrong.

 

Jacob Kwaku Gyan
International Music Promoter/ Fmr Project Manager of Okyeame Kwame

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CHRIS KONEY: Adventure in South Africa’s ‘Jewel Of The Eastern Free State’

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By the kind courtesy of South African Tourism West Africa, I recently spent a week in South Africa, three nights in one of South Africa’s hidden treasures, a small town by name Clarens. I was part of about thirty players within the tourism industry and media practitioners from Ghana and Nigeria for the 2017 South Africa Specialist experience.

Clarens is situated in the foothills of the Maluti Mountains in the Free State province of South Africa and nicknamed the “Jewel of the Eastern Free State”. Established in 1912, it is named after the town of Clarens in Switzerland where exiled and former South African president, Paul Kruger, spent his last days. Clarens can be found 336 kilometres away from Johannesburg and about three hours by road.

In his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, celebrated African legend, liberator and former South African President Nelson Mandela expressed his feelings for the Free State as follows: “the Free State landscape gladdens my heart, no matter what my mood. When I am here I feel that nothing can shut me in and that my thoughts can roam as far as the horizons“.

Clarens is an artists’ haven with many well-known artists either living in or frequenting the village, with many art galleries scattered around the village square and the town. The tranquil village ambience combined with scenic views and a mild climate has made Clarens a popular getaway for city dwellers from Johannesburg, Bloemfontein and Durban, among other places. Clarens is known for its spectacular sandstone mountains and wonderful climate; it is one of the most picturesque spots in South Africa.

The transfer from O.R Tambo International airport to Clarens was organized by leading tour management outfit, Thompsons Africa. The journey was quite shorter than anticipated with Tefo Legobate as our tour guide on the day. He is a true professional with an all-around and deep knowledge about the region, making it a great engagement with him. Themba Ndayi from Thompsons Africa, on the other hand, will come in as and when the need is to give valuable information about the Free State and also answer questions about tour management mechanisms across South Africa and beyond.

After our arrival in the town and looking around with some members of the team, we had to make my way to the Clarens Wellness Day Spa for a shea aroma therapeutic massage. After the forty-five-minute spa treatment, we then made our way to the Protea Hotel in Clarens for dinner before going to bed to get rejuvenated for the next day’s activities.

By 9 am the next morning, we were at the Clarens Xtreme to start what will be a day full of excitement. By the way, Clarens Xtreme, the Great Adventure People, as they are called is a team of energetic adventurers seeking to experience the real world with a grassroots approach to adventure and team building. They have created amazing adventures that are meaningful and memorable on the path less travelled with an extraordinary experience.

Individuals, as well as groups of up to hundred people, can be catered for at Clarens Xtreme. It could either be school or education camps, fun adventure camps or perfect corporate getaways with great activities for all ages, shapes and sizes. Activities offered at Clarens Xtreme include White Water Rafting, Abseiling, Archery, Hiking, Leadership Challenges, Traditional Games and Paintball. Others are Zipline, Geology / Dinosaur Fossils, Volleyball, Soccer, Cricket and much more.

There is also the Clarens Oxwagon Camp, a unique ox wagon camp which is situated 7 kilometres from Clarens on the farm Linwood. Accommodation consists of 14 authentic, restored ox wagons, each furnished with 4 single bunk beds for up to 8 people. Each wagon has a braai with table and chairs.

The wagon is fitted with a light but no electrical point. Communal ablutions include classic bucket showers with hot water available, hand basins and flush toilets. In addition, a communal kitchen for the use of all campers consists of a wash-up area, 4 plate gas stove, fridge and a kettle. The function venue consists of a big hall and lapa area ideal for groups up to 200 people. A terraced bank on the mountain side of hall serves as an amphitheatre, with the side of the hall as a stage are. The huge lapa is ideal for end of year functions, unique birthday parties and a great school camp.

Our adventure on the day commenced with the daring white river rafting which turned out to be an amazing experience. It comes with a lot of thrilling moments especially going through the rapids though perceived initially as scary and dangerous. I guess the professional guides on each raft makes participants feel comfortable knowing they are not on their own.

After hours of rafting going through five categories of rapids downstream, we moved on to the second and last activity for the day, the Mountain Quad Zip-Line. Zip-line, also known in South Africa as foefie slide, consists of a pulley suspended on a cable, usually made of stainless steel and mounted on a slope. It is designed to enable a user propelled by gravity to travel from the top to the bottom of the inclined cable by holding on to or attaching to the freely moving pulley. These two made our day giving us a totally outstanding experience.

Have you ever heard of the Basotho Cultural Village? That was where we spent the third and final day in the Free State, experiencing another spectacle of nature and learning the culture of an ethnic South African group. The Basotho Cultural Village nestles in the heart of the Qwaqwa Nature Park which recently has been incorporated into the world-renowned Golden Gate Highlands National Park.

The Basotho Cultural Village is a real cultural treasure with a simple and fascinating architecture of the South Sotho and a host of activities which tourists can take part in. The village celebrates the culture and tradition of the Sotho people – huts are built and furnished according to the time period and one can enjoy traditional dancing, cuisine and some time with the resident sangoma.

A big highlight of a visit to this cultural village was the various walks in and around the area, including the Matlakeng Herbal Trail. This walking trail takes the visitor on a walk through the grasslands and woodlands, with impressive views of gorgeous sandstone cliffs. An Ngaka (healer) and social ecologist guide visitors and locate an array of roots, herbs, grasses, leaves and bark that have healing properties.

Soon, it was time to pack our bags and move to our next destination, Cape Town, the Mother City.

 

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William Aseidu, Francis Doku, Mic Yamoah, others for ATWAG vetting – Slated for 2nd December 2017

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After careful screening and selection of submitted nominations for Arts and Tourism Writers Association of Ghana (ATWAG) Executive positions, the Election Committee brings to the notice of the Candidates, Members, and the public at large, that, there shall be a vetting exercise come Saturday, 2nd December 2017.

The vetting panel, made of a 3-MEMBER revered personality in the Arts, Writing, Publishing, Tourism, Culture, Media, and Communication circles, seeks poised to do a professional and credible vetting to get the best Candidates to be voted for to become ATWAG Executives.

The vetting shall take place in the Board Room, Academic City, opposite Provident Insurance, Ring Road Central come Saturday, 2nd December 2017, at 9: 00 AM prompt.

Below are the names of Candidates selected for vetting for the various positions:

PRESIDENT: William Asiedu

VICE PRESIDENT: Francis Doku and Livingstone Lotsu

SECRETARY: Mic Yamoah

TREASURER: Frank Kwabena Owusu

ORGANISER: Mustapha Inusah and Isaac Kwaku Kpogeh

PRO: Eugene Osafo-Nkansah and Kwame Dadzie

RESEARCH OFFICER: David Mawuli and Vivian Abigail Oppong.

We wish all the Candidates the best of luck.

Signed:

Arnold Asamoah-Baidoo

(Chairperson, ATWAG Electoral Commission)

 

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