Ghana’s Cocobod: 10 things about chairman Peter Mac Manu

By Jonas Nyabor
Posted on Thursday, 13 October 2022 13:23

Peter Mac Manu (left) at the celebration of Cocoa Day 2022

A master tactician, Peter Mac Manu is famous for steering the New Patriotic Party’s successful 2016 and 2020 election bids that have kept President Nana Akufo-Addo in power for six years. Now serving as the chairman of Cocobod in the important, yet seriously challenged cocoa sector, can he deploy his skills to deliver on the job?

Ghana produces about 45% of the world’s cocoa, second to Côte d’Ivoire, which is the world’s leading producer.

However, the industry is plagued with wanton destruction of cocoa farms by illegal miners, soaring incidents of fertiliser smuggling, the rising cost of fertiliser, and demands for higher rates by cocoa farmers which threatens the $2.5bn the country rakes in annually from its exports.

State-run Cocobod supervises all activities within the sector, but it has its own challenges including a financial crisis. President Akufo-Addo believes that drawing from his glory days as the architect of the New Patriotic Party’s (NPP) 2016 and 2020 election victories, Peter Mac Manu will lead the company from the boardroom to a path of sustained growth and Ghana’s cocoa industry to a level of national pride.

Here are 10 things to know about the chair of Cocobod.

1. Tough act to follow

Mac Manu takes over from fellow NPP stalwart Hackman Owusu Agyemang who left an impressive record as Cocobod chair.

Agyemang superintended over some of the company’s critical programmes, including a pension scheme for farmers and the Living Income Differential Price Mechanism birthed out of Ghana’s bilateral cooperation with Ivory Coast.

Mac Manu has pledged to keep the initiatives alive to at least realise another 1m tonne production feat.

In the boardroom, he will need to insist on frugality amidst the company’s financial challenges.

Cocobod posted a net loss of ¢42 million ($4.2m) in 2020 compared to a net profit of ¢1.4 billion ($140m) in 2019.

“It’s inconceivable that Cocobod is in financial crisis when it is supposed to be self-financing. Their administrative and related costs need to be cut drastically,” said the Director of Research at the Institute of Economic Affairs, Dr John Kwakye.

2. Illegal mining battle

Mac Manu’s immediate priority as Cocobod chair is to deal with illegal mining causing the destruction of several cocoa farms across the country.

He is already forging collaborations with the Minerals Commission to sanitise small-scale mining operations across the country which he says will be key to dealing with the menace.

Between 2019 and 2020, around 19,000-20,000ha of cocoa farms across the country were destroyed by illegal miners, according to a recent Cocobod report.

“Cocobod knows that the activities of galamsey [illegal mining] have caused setbacks to cocoa farming and finds it mandatory for the two parties to share ideas, correct and find proper remedies to the problem,” he said at a media interaction in April.

Actualising these ideas will be a silver bullet to boosting Ghana’s production.

3. Unexpected demands

On the day of his induction, he was tasked by the minister for agriculture, OwusuAfriyie Akoto to ensure licensed cocoa-buying companies are saved from collapse to reduce complaints from farmers of their inability to sell.

Now farmers are demanding a hike of at least 30% in the price of their beans from the existing GH¢660 ($66) per 64kg bag, which Mac Manu can influence.

“Fuel prices are up, and the cost of our agrochemicals, fertiliser and other inputs have gone up, yet our price has been maintained at GH¢660. Farmers also feel the pain in the economy so we want the price increased to GH¢1,500 ($150) per bag so that we can make a profit. If Cocobod does not ensure this, we cannot meet their production target,” Kwaku Gyamfi, an organiser for the National Cocoa Farmers Association, told The Africa Report.

As the international market price of fertiliser continues to soar, Mac Manu’s leadership will be important to deliver Cocobod from the fix of setting the best price for fertiliser for farmers.

Meanwhile illegal resale of heavily subsidised fertiliser is booming, especially across the border to Ivory Coast and Mac Manu will need to stem it urgently.

4. The strategist

Described by President Akufo-Addo as a “knowledgeable fellow” with a deep understanding of political systems, Mac Manu is a chief strategist for the NPP.

His work as campaign manager for Akufo-Addo’s 2016 and 2020 presidential bids presented tough tests for his credentials, but he delivered a difficult victory.

Before he came to national prominence, he successfully flipped the Western Region from a majority National Democratic Congress (NDC) region to a majority NPP one as the regional chairman of the party.

5. Party leader

He was the national chairman of the NPP from December 2005 to February 2010.

Prior to that, he had been building an important grassroots network as a polling station officer into his time as the western regional chairman of the NPP from 1996 until 2005.

6. Centre-right apologist

For more than five years Mac Manu has been serving as an executive member of the International Democrat Union, a global alliance of centre-right political parties. He is currently the union’s deputy chairman after an election in 2020.

At the continental level, he is the honorary chairman of the Democratic Union of Africa (DUA).

7. Kenya deportee

In August 2017, Mac Manu was deported from Kenya upon reaching the country’s airport as an election observer for DUA.

The Kenyatta government accused him and two associates of being mercenaries brought in by the opposition to interfere in the elections.

Cocobod knows that the activities of illegal mining have caused setbacks to cocoa farming.”

One of the deportees, Joseph Anokye, was reported to have been introduced to opposition candidate Raila Odinga by President Akufo-Addo to help them with the electronic collation of results as was done for the NPP in Ghana.

Published results showed that incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta had been re-elected but after contesting the results, the courts annulled it and ordered a rerun.

“I can only be happy about the decision of the court,” Mac Manu told the press in Accra.

The rerun ended with a Kenyatta victory.

8. Controversies at GPHA

President Akufo-Addo appointed Mac Manu to the board of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority in 2017. He later joined the board of Meridian Port Services, a joint venture that operates the container terminal at the Tema port.

A 2021 article by Africa Confidential reported that Mac Manu was interfering in the work of a government committee investigating how the country’s equity in MPS reduced to 15% from an initial 30% and how MPS ended up getting a monopoly on handling containers at the port.

Mac Manu was said to be constantly defending MPS during meetings of the committee although his role as board chair of the port authority required him to protect the country’s interest. He denied that his membership of the MPS board while serving as GPHA chair resulted in a conflict of interest.

Port unions in May 2018 accused Mac Manu of awarding contracts to friends and relatives, including his wife, without due procedure. He denied the claims. The unions later retracted and apologised.

9. Businessman

Before going into full-time politics, Mac Manu was a famous businessman in the western region of Ghana. He founded and actively managed Macal Tyre, Janus Macal Rubber Company and Special T Travels Limited.

Mac Manu was accused by port workers of awarding Special T Travels, managed by his wife, a contract to handle all ticketing for staff travels at the country’s ports while he was serving as chair of the GPHA.

10. Family man

Peter Mac Manu, 69, holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the School of Administration, now the Business School of the University of Ghana.

He is married and has six children.

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