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Tuesday, August 4, 2020

JK Siaw…the Industrialist Ghana never wanted

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Joshua Kwabena Siaw, popularly known as J. K. Siaw, was a Ghanaian industrialist and philanthropist who, in 1969, established Tata Brewery Ltd. Siaw is remembered for opening the largest wholly African-owned brewery company in West Africa in 1973.

As an entrepreneur, J.K Siaw in 1957, began selling enamelware until the Ghanaian government under Kwame Nkrumah banned the importation of those goods.

In 1964, Siaw’s first request to the government to be granted permission to set up a brewery was rejected. He applied again in 1967 and that application too was rejected on the grounds that licences had been given to Ashanti and Takoradi breweries.

On his third attempt to set up a brewery, it became successful and on July 26, 1969, it was approved.

The approval was given to “Tata Trading Company” to establish a brewery in Cape Coast in the Central Region of Ghana. Tata Brewery Ltd was commissioned on January 30, 1973, Siaw’s 50th birthday. It was officially opened by the then Head-of-State Colonel Ignatius Kutu Acheampong.

Tata Company secured exclusive export rights for the “Maltex” drink to neighbouring Togo, Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Senegal, and The Gambia. By 1976, the brewery had employed 750 Ghanaians and only four foreigners.

As a philanthropist, J.K Siaw made a clinic, a subsidised canteen, and free transport to work for the workers and their families. Vaccinations were also provided free of charge to them. Siaw sought to build housing for the workers not too far from the site.

He also presented to the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital an electro-cardiograph, a piece of equipment the hospital was deficient of. Siaw also donated towards the construction of a hospital in Akwaseho in 1975 and a road from Akwaseho to Obomeng.

In 1979, all of Siaw’s assets were confiscated by the AFRC regime of Ghana under false allegations of tax evasion. He sent numerous petitions to the military government and had applied for safe entry to be allowed back into Ghana without risk of arrest but was denied.

Joshua Kwabena Siaw died, in exile, in London, in October 1986. His body was flown back to Ghana in December that same year. He did not recover his assets and was considered a criminal by the state, despite the allegations being baseless.

J.K Siaw’s family have not since received any compensation for the ordeal that they went through. #HistoryVille

Credits: Ghanaian Museum

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