The name Togbe Afede XIV, the Agbogbomefia of Asogli State has become a household name and personality in Eweland, Ghana and the world over.
The entrepreneur, who is also traditional ruler of the Volta Regional capital, who once headed the National House of Chiefs, has chosen to acquire the reputation as a strong advocate of the people, and soon registered among the most prominent of voices.
Consistent in his speeches are painstaking attempts to condemn corruption and greed in plain language, and he is known to always admonish chiefs to seek the development of the people.
Yet for some in Ho, the towering figure of a traditional ruler impacted little on the livelihoods and economic development of the capital and the Region.
Togbe as entrepreneur
Real name James Akpo, Togbe Afede, the 14th to bear the name, is a product of the sacred Yale University and has major stakes in the nation’s economy with an investment portfolio that has a power plant producing significantly for the national grid, and which is named after Asogli.
He owns an international financial services firm, a domestic airline, and is chairperson of one of Ghana’s oldest football clubs.
Togbe Afede is also the Chairperson of the World Trade Centre Organisation in Ghana.
The royal is however yet to establish a direct economic venture in his home Region, at least according to some, the majority youths.
Views of the people
“What has he championed for the youth? Togbe owns no business or companies right here. Twenty years of rule politically will be five terms under his stewardship, and it is enough to change the Ho story and by extension Volta. At least a water bottling plant, Asogli poultry farm or factories to produce canned tomatoes or so, will have been a sellout, as it will employ the many youths,” a young native told the GNA.
The assertion is widespread, but so is the view that Togbe Afede XIV has elevated the Asogli State.
Kojo, an avid youth from Ho-Bankoe, also holds some views against the Paramount Chief over youth employment, yet he spoke with joy, of how Togbe Afede enhanced the image of the State, which for them was most evident in the increasing popularity and patronage of its annual Yam Festival.
The Asogli Te Za (Yam Festival) has become a global sensation with lots of impactful programmes including the anti-corruption celebration, a summit of Ewe Chiefs in West Africa, and a women empowerment day celebration.
It is also being positioned as a major tourism driver for the Region with several tour programmes and events in the lineup.
“Togbe’s coming has rebranded the yam festival and brought many companies to support the festival,” Kojo stated, but would proceed to re-echo the position of the teeming youth.
“But there is no development. We only celebrate festivals and then nothing more. What does the community gain? I am not aware of anyone benefiting from the Asogli Education Fund,” he worriedly stated, asking that traditional leaders use their influence to help the youth acquire sustainable livelihoods.
GNA can attest that several students and other individuals are beneficiaries of the Asogli Education Fund with the Stanbic Bank donating some GHC50,000 for that purpose a week ago to the fund.
Kojo wanted natives to gain placement on protocol list for UHAS, Ho Technical University, Nursing College, and the security agencies in Ho.
Some others the GNA engaged with said they expected an edifice of a palace befitting his status but none in 20 years yet.
Togbe Afede seems to have taken notice of the concerns, and for the first time, included a youth forum in the festival’s activities last year.
The Agbogbomefia spoke of plans to support the youth, which he said required every individual to identify potential growth areas.
The second edition of the forum, this year, has been termed a “Youth Empowerment and Entrepreneurship Day,” and was held at the Ho Technical University Auditorium on Wednesday, September 13.
Togbe Afede has on several occasions blamed his inability to develop a business empire in Ho, on the unavailability of land.
On display at the Asogli Palace for more than a year now, is the miniature presentation of a Volta City project of several hundreds of residential apartments, to be built at a location in the Region with residents preferring it around Ho, at all costs.
Posts on his social media handles reveal ongoing efforts to get a place for the new city.
A planned operationalisation of the Ho Airport by Africa World Airlines, his airline company, was aborted after fellow domestic carrier Passion Air tried and failed to sustain the route
Aircraft maintenance facility
Togbe Afede, who has been mooting for the establishment of an aircraft maintenance facility, would this year launch an Aviation Academy as an ambitious step towards youth sustainability and the utilisation of the USD$25 million Ho Aerodrome.
Admirers of Togbe said the impact of his reign on the economic growth of the Municipality and the Region should not be underrated even in the seeming absence of any direct investment there.
Many called to consider the broader impact of national investments such as the Asogli power plant and said the ongoing aggressive investment and development of the Volta economy must acknowledge the exploits of the globetrotting Paramount Chief.
Togbe Afede’s contribution to the quality and participation of the chieftaincy institution in the country continues to get recognition, and his leadership encourages many to speak and to act against the ills of society.
But as the Volta Region begins to enjoy economic focus, the role of the traditional ruler of the capital in the realisation of the development aspirations is enhanced, and many expect more from under his entrepreneurial sleeves.
The Volta Region is now among Ghana’s hottest tourist destinations with an attraction mix that is unmatched.
The Aviation Academy, when launched, is sure to create some buzz, but it is the full realisation that would establish hope among the youth.
Steven Tetteh, Secretary to the Asogli State, said the academy would be a first of its kind in the country, to provide opportunities for the youth to acquire skills and jobs as pilots, aircraft engineers, among others.
A humanitarian foundation is also expected to be launched, and the State Secretary said other initiatives were in the offing while support for critical sectors including health and education were being sustained.
Togbe Afede continues to be recognised for his humanitarian commitment, having supported various disaster communities including the tidal waves in the Volta Region, and also Appiatse residents, who suffered gas explosions.
He most recently showed swift response to a major flooding incident in Ho and succeeded in getting the Sunon Asogli Power Company to help set up a humanitarian fund for a permanent solution to the flooding.
The Asogli State is working with the Ho Municipal Assembly to redevelop all drains and waterways in the Municipality, and the GNA is aware of plans by the Assembly to name Togbe Afede its Ambassador for the Ho Oxygen City Project.
This year’s Yam Festival is on the theme “20 Years of Selfless and Inspiring Leadership,” and Togbe Afede would sit in State on Friday, October 6, and host the grand durbar the next day.
Togbe Ayim Adzokoto II, Paramount Chief of Takla Traditional Area, who chairs the festival’s planning, said programmes and events such as the summit of Ewe traditional leaders and the anti-corruption day, were being institutionalized.
He promised a more exciting event and urged all to help ensure an incident-free celebration of the man, whose exploits brought recognition and pride for Eweland.