Young Ghanaian entrepreneur and Deputy Board Chairman of Foklex Media Awards, Dabone Atta Snr, has won the Alumnus of the Month (ALMO) award for April by the Tokyo-based Graduate Institute of Policy Studies (GRIPS).
The Alumnus of the Month program recognizes alumni from the GRIPS who have made exceptional contributions to their field of profession, as GRIPS ambassadors or who are otherwise doing interesting and exciting things.
Nominations are done by former students, professors and staff of GRIPS. The criteria for the selection of the best alumni is based on the following:
• Academic excellence.
• Professional accomplishments in their field of expertise
• Continuing interest in and support of GRIPS activities.
• Doing something particularly interesting or exciting.
GRIPS, over the years, has produced a number of outstanding alumni who serve in prominent positions in the government, academia or international organizations.
Read an interview with Dabone Atta Snr with the University prior to the recognition as the alumni of the month of April, 2018.
In your current capacity, what do you see as the main opportunities and challenges for Ghana over the course of the next five to ten years?
With Ghana Ministry of Finance colleagues and fellow GRIPS students Peter Aidoo and Mohammed Shafiq Mamudu.
The government is currently championing the ‘Ghana Beyond Aid’ agenda, which seeks to move Ghana from an aid-dependent nation to a self-reliant nation and promote development. There are therefore a number of government interventions to facilitate doing business in Ghana and promote both domestic and foreign investments, particularly in the area of infrastructure development.
Ghana currently has a developed and well-functioning capital market which attracts both domestic and international portfolio flows to support the government’s development programmes. This is however hinged on strong fiscal discipline and clearly outlined debt management strategy.
The government has also introduced a number of education and health policies to develop its human capital base. In the next 5 to 10 years, Ghana will have a highly skilled labour force capable of taking advantage of rapid technological change to boost productivity and increase economic competitiveness.
These positive developments notwithstanding, Ghana faces a challenge of weak institutions and it is for this reason that the government is taking necessary steps to address some institutional lapses and revamp the public sector to deliver effectively and efficiently.
– Atta with his twin brother, with whom he has established Voice FM 94.3.
What are some of the biggest challenges you face in your work? And what have been the most interesting or rewarding aspects of your career thus far?
As a debt analyst mindful of the rising debt levels, one of the key challenges I face in my work is how to align economic policies and social policies to ensure that the government can raise adequate funding either externally or domestically to fund key pro-poor social interventions while managing the debt levels and other risk exposures. I envisage this challenge to become even more pronounced as Ghana moves to a self-reliant economy, with decreased access to concessional funding.
The opportunity given to me by the Ministry to participate annually in the development of key policy initiatives gives me joy, most especially when I see my contributions in the National Budget and Economic Policy Statement every year and its impact on boosting economic development.
You have recently been appointed as Deputy Board Chairman of Foklex Media Awards. Please tell us more about these awards and your role in it.
Foklex Media Awards/ Production is a private organization whose core mandate is to strengthen and promote media engagement in Ghana, as a tool for championing societal change and development. In line with this, Foklex Media has instituted an awards scheme, which has been running for the past 7 years, to honour outstanding radio personalities working in various radio stations who have impacted lives positively through their work in Ghana.
I was appointed as the Deputy Board Chairman in the latter part of 2017 based on my vast experiences and contribution to media development in Ghana. I lead the awards process which includes shortlisting nominees and reviewing their work to select deserving journalists who have commended themselves to the hearts of their listeners and have excelled in their respective fields to bring about a positive change. I also coordinate the events planning team and help to raise funds in support of the organization’s operations.
What led you to GRIPS? What is the most important thing you got out of your studies here, and how has your experience at GRIPS prepared you for future endeavours?
I chose to study in GRIPS in my pursuit of academic excellence. Before making the decision, I perused the course structure and I was enthused by a strong inter-disciplinary approach to studies offered and the vast range of skills one could acquire. Additionally, the calibre and skills of faculty members of the university are admirable. I also wanted to study in a culturally diverse environment to enhance my communication and other social skills. GRIPS was just perfect to meet my needs, and I have never regretted my decision.
One thing I can boast of is that I was trained of how to design and implement policies that will yield good results for low and middle-income countries. This boosted my confidence to return home to serve as an agent of change. I, therefore, came back to the Ministry of Finance, Ghana immediately after the course since I was in hurry to impact the knowledge I have acquired from GRIPS. My contributions at the workplace have been tremendously phenomenal. In fact, the entire Ministry has benefited from my GRIPS education because years ago, the Ministry would have otherwise hired a consultant to perform the role and responsibilities I currently handle in my line of work. The knowledge I acquired during my study at GRIPS together with other soft skills acquired through my interactions have helped me so much in my career and I thank the Japanese Government for this wonderful opportunity given to me. GRIPS gave me confidence and I can say my future within the civil service is very bright.
Have you had any involvement, professional or otherwise, with Japan since your graduation?
Yes, I had the opportunity to attend an Executive Program in Public Finance Management / Government Debt Management in July 24, 2016, to August 6, 2016, in Tokyo which was sponsored by JICA. The course was aimed at strengthening the capacity of target government officials on public financial management by way of providing lectures and exercises including practical skills and knowledge on government debt management, as well as specific focus on strategic framework of Asset and Liability Management.
How do you maintain a balance between your work and the rest of your life? And what is your favorite thing to do when you are not working?
I have developed a broad interest in a lot of social activities which helps me to keep a healthy work-life balance. Primarily, I mostly spend quality time with my family when I am not working. God has blessed my wife (Joycelyn) and I with two daughters (Weslie and Stacy) and I love spending my leisure time with them.
In my small way of ensuring food security, I started small scale rabbit and quail farming for my family and also to share with the needy in the community. This has since grown into a large scale project and I currently own about 1800 rabbits and 1200 quails. I enjoy taking care of them. We supply some restaurants in Ghana with our rabbits and also do rabbit kebab and get orders for parties, funerals and other social gatherings. For the quails, we sell their eggs and we are one of the leading marketers for the quail’s eggs in Ghana with our brand name D & J Farms.
Additionally, as a way of giving back to the community where we were born and bred, my twin brother and I opened a radio station (Voice FM 94.3) in my hometown. It is currently one of the leading radio stations in Ghana. I do manage some of their production work and content development in my leisure time.
What are some of your fondest memories of your time spent at GRIPS? And what do you miss about Japan?
There are many fond memories of my time at GRIPS. Notably, my election into the office of Head of Academic Affairs for that 2009/2010-year group in GRIPS. Assisting people from various countries on academic issues and to cope with the academic challenges was a wonderful and rewarding experience. I made a lot of friends as the Head of the Academic Affairs. Deep within my heart, setting up GRIPS Christian Campus Fellowship on GRIPS campus is a joy to me. This gave an opportunity for Christians from various countries to meet under one umbrella to pray and also support one another. Again, the cross-cultural exchange programmes organized amongst students at TIEC in Odaiba were exceptional. I remember I was adjudged the best traditional dressed in the 2009/2010 at the TIEC cultural dress competition in Odaiba and this is still fresh in my mind.
I miss Japan for its high tech-based economy that allows daily tasks to be done with the speed of time, for example, the Yurikamome train, and also the warmth of the people and the strict adherence to order. I also enjoyed my skiing trips in Niigata and the famous local sake.
If you could give one piece of advice to anyone considering studying at GRIPS what would it be?
GRIPS offers you the opportunity to study in one of the world’s leading graduate institutes that emphasizes developing critical thinking and problem solving skills. The cross-disciplinary approach to studies and research ensures that you acquire a wide range of knowledge and skill set to analyze issues holistically. The institutes also provides students with the state-of-the-art study environment and facilities to support their studies. GRIPS also has a very strong and credible faculty to assist students. The opportunity to also study in a culturally diverse community will expand your horizon and hone your interpersonal and communication skills, making you a better citizen of the world. The GRIPS education is building the world’s transformational leaders.
How would you like to maintain involved with the School? What do you expect from GRIPS as an alumnus and do you have any suggestions on how to further utilize the GRIPS alumni network?
GRIPS can introduce a mentoring programme where an alumni can be paired with incoming or current students to mentor them on coping with both academic and social life in Japan. We can also strengthen country alumni engagements and collaborate on development projects. We suggest that for countries with an alumni base of at least five persons, GRIPS should coordinate reunions and other programmes for which reports will be submitted to the Alumni Office. GRIPS can also offer opportunities for alumni to collaborate with faculty in the area of research.