Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, Minister of Food and Agriculture, says the petroleum and gas Industry is not conducive for the creation of jobs and must focus more on generating money to be invested in other job-creating sectors such as agriculture.

He said the future of Ghana’s oil and gas sector would be mainly automation, with limited employment in the sector, thus initiatives, such as the KOSMOS Innovation Centre (KIC) were important for economic growth of the country.

He made the statements at a ceremony to announce investment awards for the second KIC Agritech Challenge.

He recounted a visit, with President Akuffo Addo, to a ‘huge’ state-of-the-art gas complex in Malabo-Equatorial Guinea, during a state visit two weeks ago, where he saw what government wanted to see with the future of Ghana’s oil and gas industry.

He noted that during the over two-hour tour of the facility, no personnel was seen, with only three people and a bank of computers in the control room controlling everything in the entire complex.

The complex, according to the Minister of Energy of that country, employed only 400 people.

“It tells you that the petroleum and gas industry is not friendly to employment. If you want to generate employment in your country, you don’t go to petroleum and gas. What you do is for petroleum and gas to generate the cash, then you put it in the ground.

“What KOSMOS is doing with this competition, to me, is exactly the intention of what we saw in Malabo. That they, as a petroleum and gas company, are trying to cultivate the interest of the youth of this country in agriculture is terribly commendable and I commend KOSMOS for their work,” he stated.

Dr Akoto said Ghana’s agriculture sector was down by all indicators, a phenomenon that was deepening rural poverty in the country, thus the essence of government’s Planting for Food and Jobs policy; aimed at increasing productivity in agriculture. To do this, he said, technology in improved seeds, fertilisers and others were important.

Mr Joe Mensah, Vice President and Country Manager of KOSMOS, said the flagship KIC programme, started in 2016 and aimed at inspiring young entrepreneurs to start businesses that transform the agriculture industry, focused on the nexus between information and communications technology and agriculture.

“If you want to attract the youth into anything today, it has to have innovation or technology there, otherwise it’s not attractive enough for them,” he said.

He noted that while the programme had exceeded the expectations of KOSMOS, it was only a tip of the iceberg as there was optimism that Ghana will take-off, and will do so with agriculture.

The project started in 2016 with about 100 applicants, out of which a final two teams were selected at the end of the process. In this year the KIC received about 400 applications, out of which six teams got to the final stage.

Mr Mensah said he expected quite an increase in applications in the third round of the KIC Agritech Challenge, adding, “…we have raised the bar and it tells you that next year the bar is going to higher”.

Six teams, out of the 25 teams, made it to the final awards of this year’s Agritech Challenge were awarded. AgriInnova and Qualitrace, will receive $50,000 each in seed funding as well as a 12-month incubation sponsorship at the Meltwater School of Entrepreneurs and Technology (MEST).

CompleteFarmer also received $50,000, sponsored by the Premium Bank, and a 12-month incubation support by KOSMOS Energy at MEST.

Unlimited received seed funding and incubation support sponsored by MEST, while the remaining two teams will receive other business packages including partnerships with other teams.

Ms Jackie Benyah, Deputy Managing Director of the Premium Bank, commended the winning teams, saying the partnership with KOSMOS on the KIC project was in line with the Bank’s vision to support Ghanaian business men and women to grow viable businesses.