Ghana: Who’s who in Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta’s inner circle?

By Kent Mensah
Posted on Wednesday, 18 May 2022 11:04

Photo montage. The Africa Report.

Ken Ofori-Atta has taken the lead in managing Ghana’s economy since his appointment in 2017. He was one of the top financiers of the ruling New Patriotic Party in 2008 and 2012. He was also central to his cousin Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s victory in the 2016 elections. As minister of finance, his trusted contacts and confidants have helped him manage the Ghanaian economy. We break down who's who in Ofori-Atta's network.

 

Ghana’s softly-spoken and composed minister of finance is reputed to start meetings with a prayer, and open and close speeches with quotations from the Bible. This sense of religiosity is reinforced by his donning of a simple white tunic for public engagements.

He gives his salary to charity and is said to have paid for the renovation of his office in the ministries complex in central Accra.  Those close to him say he does not accept personal gifts.

Ken Ofori-Atta has taken the lead in managing Ghana’s economy since his appointment in 2017. He was one of the top financiers of the ruling New Patriotic Party in 2008, and 2012 and was central to his cousin Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s victory in the 2016 elections.

Until taking the finance post, Ofori-Atta had stayed behind the scenes in politics. Now he is mooted by some in the party as a presidential contender.

Before setting up Databank with Keli Gadzekpo in 1990, Ofori-Atta had worked at Morgan Stanley and Salomon Brothers in New York. Alongside Databank, Ofori-Atta built up interests in insurance, microfinance, pharmaceuticals and real estate.

Over three decades of working in the financial sector in Africa and in the West has enabled Ofori-Atta to build up a formidable network of contacts in the Bretton Woods institutions and beyond. He currently chairs the African Caucus at the IMF and World Bank.

In 2018, ‘The Banker’, part of the Financial Times group in Africa, named him the “best African finance minister”.

Dating back to colonial rule, the Ofori-Atta clan has wielded influence in politics, law, chieftaincy, business and the media. That is set to continue and Ken Ofori-Atta will be one of its most important sons.

The Africa Report introduces you to some of his closest associates – in business and politics.

Keli Gadzekpo and Ofori-Atta go way back as friends and business partners. He is seen as one of the go-to friends when the finance minister is making decisions that involve personal or national interests. Insiders say he is one of the few individuals in the ‘kitchen cabinet’ of the finance minister who proposes or fine-tunes economic policies before they are made public.

In 1990, they co-founded Databank where Ofori-Atta served as executive chairman until 2012.

Today, the bank manages over $1bn of funds for 500,000 Ghanaians and is growing. Gadzekpo is chairman of the Databank Group today and has been chief executive of the Enterprise Group since 2014.

He is respected by investors for having helped develop the stock exchange in Accra.

Gadzekpo holds a BSc in Accounting from Brigham Young University and is a certified public accountant in the US. He is also a Mason Fellow of the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University where he earned a Master’s degree in Public Administration.

Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko and Ofori-Atta are not just cousins, but also close friends. He is more than a confidante serving as a fulcrum in Ofori-Atta’s early political life, helping to shape economic decisions and strategies that will best serve the political interest of the government. It is believed that he played a critical role behind the scenes to get Ofori-Atta to meet opposition MPs in the heat of getting Parliament to pass the controversial E-levy.

A loyal ally, Otchere-Darko describes Ofori-Atta as “one of the most decent patriots” in Ghana. He owns Asaase Broadcasting, one of the fastest-growing media companies in the country. Ofori-Atta’s wife, a physician, hosts a weekly programme about wellness on Asaase Radio.

Ghanaians have nicknamed Gabby “the prime minister” because of his closeness to the president and easy access to the corridors of power – although he holds no public office.

He is the senior partner of Africa Legal Associates in Accra, which has undertaken legal work for the government. Trained as a solicitor and barrister in Britain and Ghana, Gabby chairs the Ghana hub of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council (CWEIC).

Yofi Grant, Ken Ofori-Atta and Keli Gadzekpo are close friends dating back to primary school. Grant has been the chief executive of the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) since 2017. He has chalked up over 30 years of experience as an investment banker. Insiders say Ofori-Atta was instrumental in getting his long-standing friend the position at GIPC because he wanted someone he could trust, share personal ideas and be flexible enough to work with, in a bid to woo investors to bolster the economy. The two, as well as others mentioned in these circles, meet regularly as a caucus in a relaxed environment to review ideas while winding down.

He once worked with Ofori-Atta and Gadzekpo at Databank, as a director leading most of the groundbreaking transactions in the Ghanaian and other African capital markets. Grant has been a consultant on finance and business for the Africa Asia Business Forum (AABF), organised by the UNDP, which ran workshops in 12 African countries and six Asian countries in 2002.

President Nana Akufo-Addo and Ofori-Atta have forged their collaboration in and out of power. They coordinate closely on economic policy.

Their relationship was reinforced by Ofori-Atta’s enthusiastic role in helping Akufo-Addo win the presidency in 2016. Ofori-Atta recruited many of the data experts who coordinated the anti-rigging strategy and was seen with his wife on the streets distributing election pamphlets. He’s regarded as a “darling boy” of Akufo-Addo serving as the eye and ears of the president. As a result of his strong connections within the international circles, the president holds him high as one of his confidants and advisors who meet on a regular basis deep into the night to formulate strategies.

Ofori-Atta rewards loyalty and values trusted friends who believe in his dreams. One such person is the director-general of Ghana’s Securities and Exchange Commission, Reverand Daniel Ogbarmey Tetteh. The two have been close friends in and out of business for decades. Once again, there is no doubt Ofori-Atta had a hand in his current position. Tetteh ran asset management and research at Databank for over 20 years. He has lectured at the University of Ghana Business School where he took a B.Sc. in Administration (Management option) with first-class honours and an MBA (Marketing). What’s more, he has a Postgraduate Diploma in Finance from Sorbonne University in Paris.

Tetteh is the senior pastor of New Creation Chapel Int., a charismatic church headquartered in Accra.

Another associate of Ofori-Atta’s inside and outside government, Sampson Akligoh worked with Databank as vice president running research and fixed income. Ofori-Atta then invited him to join the government where he is now the director of the financial sector division of the ministry.

Experienced in asset management, Akligoh worked with ADC African Development Corporation AG in Frankfurt after getting a BA (Economics and Law) from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology in Ghana, and an MSc in economic policy from Maastricht.

Nana Bediatuo Asante hails from Kyebi in the Eastern Region as do Ofori-Atta and Akufo-Addo: they make up a triumvirate in the NPP government. The trio reportedly hold long discussions, which sometimes eat late into the night, on personal and official issues at each other’s residence or sometimes at the Jubilee House – the seat of government – to gauge the mood of the country over key policy issues.

Asante is executive secretary to the president, having worked at Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison, a white-shoe law firm in New York. Upon his return to Africa, he served as general counsel for Databank and worked with the African Development Bank in Abidjan.

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