Ghana: 10 things about Kow Essuman, the legal brain behind President Akufo-Addo

By Kent Mensah

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Posted on July 3, 2023 08:40

 © Lawyer Kow Abaka Essuman, legal counsel of Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo.
Lawyer Kow Abaka Essuman, legal counsel of Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo.

Kow Abaka Essuman is a household name in Ghana’s legal circles and a staunch member of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP). He has been serving as the legal counsel of President Nana Akufo-Addo since 2017.

As a lawyer hailing from a family of scholars, the basketball aficionado and dog lover has spent most of his life studying and practicing law.

His father, Professor Ato Essuman – a three-term member of the advisory body of the president of Ghana, and the 2nd Lay president of the Methodist Church Ghana – is the chairman of the West African Examinations Council (WAEC).

Kow is married to Lady-Ann Essuman, also a lawyer, and they have two children.

The Africa Report looks at 10 things about this youngest individual ever to assume the role of legal advisor to a Ghanaian president.

1. Early life and education

He was born into an academic family, with both parents – Ato and Sally – professors in the education field. His educational journey commenced at the prestigious Prempeh College in Ghana, followed by his time at Holborn College in London, where he received the Best Student award.

Essuman furthered his studies at the University of Westminster, where he earned his undergraduate degree in law. Pursuing his passion, he earned a Masters in Law degree with honours in International Mergers and Acquisitions and Financial Institutions from Cornell Law School in New York.

2. Return to Ghana

After gaining professional experience in New York and England, Essuman returned to Ghana in 2010, embarking on a legal career at Reindorf Chambers, where he joined as a foreign associate. Determined to qualify as a lawyer in Ghana, Essuman pursued further education at the Ghana School of Law.

Alongside his legal practice, he also worked as a lecturer, specialising in trust law for the University of London’s Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) programme offered by Zenith University College in Accra. As a part-time lecturer at the Ghana School of Law, he tutored students in Advocacy and Professional Ethics.

3. Triple-barred

Essuman has a legal career spanning three jurisdictions. In 2008, he was called to the Bar of England and Wales by the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn. In 2010, Kow became an attorney and counsellor-at-law in New York state. Additionally, he has been admitted to practice law in Ghana, cementing his expertise and ability to navigate the intricacies of the local legal landscape.

4. Legal practice

Following his admission to the Ghana Bar, Essuman joined Bentsi-Enchill, Letsa & Ankomah, the premier corporate and commercial law firm in Ghana. Within four years he rose to the position of senior associate within the firm’s litigation and dispute resolution practice group. During this period, Kow represented a diverse range of prominent corporate clients, including companies in the mining, telecommunications, and real estate sectors, as well as a billion-dollar hedge fund based in New York in a high-stakes dispute against Argentina.

Notably, Kow’s exceptional advocacy skills were acknowledged by a Supreme Court justice, who hailed him as a “rising advocate”. This recognition in open court followed his successful argument before the Supreme Court, where he secured a favourable outcome for one of the largest mining companies operating in Ghana.

5. Global shaper

In 2013, Kow was selected as Global Shaper by the World Economic Forum, recognising his exceptional leadership and dedication to creating positive change. As an active member of the Global Shaper Accra Hub programme, he played a pivotal role in spearheading various projects and securing crucial funding. Noteworthy initiatives organised under his guidance included Accra Discourse, Shaping Davos, and YDialogues. In 2015, he was chosen as one of 80 Global Shapers to represent at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town, South Africa.

6. Social media

Essuman has been a focal figure in Ghanaian politics, actively engaging in social media campaigns since 2007. He took charge of managing social media campaigns for both the governing New Patriotic Party and the president during the election campaigns of 2008, 2012, 2016, and 2020.

7. Awards

In 2017, Essuman received Most Influential Young Ghanaian by Advance Media. As part of the Class of 2018, he was nominated for the 100 Most Influential Young Persons of African Descent award, aligning with the United Nations’ International Decade for People of African Descent initiative.

Acknowledging his contributions and support for the growth and development of young people in Ghana through the Head of State Award Scheme, Kow was presented with an Honorary Award in December 2019.

Kow received an Outstanding Achievement Award from the University of Westminster in 2020, highlighting his professional accomplishments.

8. Legal counsel to Ghana president

Following his victory in the 2016 election, President Akufo-Addo appointed Essuman as his legal counsel, making him the youngest individual ever to assume this role. After his appointment, Kow took steps to establish a legal department at the Office of the President. He works closely with the Attorney-General in advising the president and advises on constitutional, legal, and governance matters as well as actively participates in cabinet meetings.

Kow played a key role during the Covid-19 pandemic. He actively contributed to the legislative framework that empowered the president to implement restrictions aimed at containing the spread of coronavirus.

He also helped to shape legislative framework that resulted in the creation of six new regions, marking a significant milestone in Ghana’s decentralisation drive. This demarcation has not only expanded the geographical and administrative landscape of Ghana but has created inclusive governance at the grassroots level.

The lawyer also serves on the two statutory boards: the State Interests and Governance Authority and Minerals Income Investment Fund.

9. Young global leader

In March 2023, Essuman was announced as one of the Young Global Leaders of the World Economic Forum.

10. Faith in God

Kow’s life and journey are deeply rooted in his unwavering belief in God and his steadfast faith. In all his pursuits, he seeks to align his actions with the principles and values that he believes reflect God’s will, demonstrating his commitment to living a purpose-driven life.

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