Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Ghana Materials Industry, Part I

If you had come to me in February and said "Okay, so you are a professor of materials science and engineering in the new Faculty of Engineering Sciences at the University of Ghana: tell me something about the materials industry in Ghana," I would have had to pretend that I was deaf and dumb. I knew nothing about the industry.

That's why I proposed to my young colleagues that we undertake a project to identify some of these companies in the Accra area, visit them, and educate ourselves about their activities. It would be great if in the near future when somebody walks into the headquarters of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Legon and asks the question above, the lecturers can hand him or her a directory detailing the various companies, such as when they were established, their founders' backgrounds, company sizes, products, production rates, etc.

It is a young department, only 3 years old; last academic year, there were no senior students and only one (enthusiastic) junior. The department is bound to grow, and sooner or later students are going to ask the professors, "tell us about job opportunities." If we have that document, we will be prepared to answer their questions intelligently.

For our first visit, I remembered that my mate from secondary school, Ako Odotei (wearing a hat in the picture above), returned home from the U.S. several years ago determined to start a materials-related company. I searched him out and he was very responsive to our request to visit. His company, ICM Ventures, makes solid surface materials like the tiles, counter tops and sinks in the picture.

It was most encouraging to see a Ghanaian engaged in serious manufacturing. It was a refreshing contrast to the usual selling of imported goods from abroad. How can Africa advance technologically if her engineers don’t produce anything?

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