AfricaLive: Please tell readers a bit about the DNA of Losamills Consult and your motivation for starting the enterprise.
Samuel Larbi Darko: We are a privately owned land surveying and engineering consultancy. I had a vision of starting this company back in my school-going days. I knew that there were only a handful of entities of its kind in Ghana at the time, so I knew demand would be there.
I worked with some companies along the way and leveraged the technology they had to make Losamills one the leading land survey companies in the country. We have a staff of over two hundred surveyors stationed all over the country, and our job is to serve the geospatial industry. Our work is to carry out location analytics to help the country in all its land-related projects. We do this by helping the government locate where exactly a project should be carried out. Before any project starts, the first professionals to go on the land are land surveyors (geomatic engineers) who determine the exact boundaries for the project to begin.
AfricaLive: What do you consider to be the primary opportunities and threats facing your sector?
Samuel Larbi Darko: Our biggest challenge at the moment is the determination of boundaries between land-owning groups. Constant conflicts have led to increased land guarding, where people are placed there to guard the land. It’s evident even in the courts where seventy-eight per cent of cases involve land. Land conflicts deter investment because projects cannot be carried out in disputed land. The stalling of projects due to land boundary uncertainties is, therefore, a major threat. If we can have a cadastral survey of the whole country, then this can guide people when buying land, and our sector will see a huge improvement. We need a system that takes into consideration all clan, tribe and industrial lands so that buyers can search who the real owners are to make land transfer processes easy.
The issue of survey equipment also has to be factored in. The industry suffers because survey equipment is so expensive and rare. If very few entities in the country can access them, we will have mostly inaccurate land surveys. Opportunities exist because we have some of the best arable lands in the world, but we must have a system in place that maps ownership accurately to deter conflict.
AfricaLive: What are your ambitions, both in the short term and long term, when it comes to trading internationally?
Samuel Larbi Darko: The Africa Continental Free Trade Area agreement has been ratified, and its secretariat will be in Ghana. The agreement is exciting for Ghanaian business owners because opportunities will open up for us to traverse different African markets. The AfCFTA agreement will help us sell out technology to our neighbours who experience the same issues we have. Countries like Nigeria, Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire have huge landmasses and will appreciate our land survey technology.
AfricaLive: Even as Ghana seeks to stick to its local content policy, there is also a drive towards attracting and welcoming foreign investors. How do you think the country can foster great foreign relationships with investors while also growing indigenous businesses?
Samuel Larbi Darko: The importance of working with foreign players cannot be taken for granted. Ghana’s geospatial sector can benefit greatly from some of the aerial land survey systems I have seen abroad.
We have a partner based in Switzerland who can help bring some useful technology to West Africa, to help us mark and record land details. We also have another potential partner in the United States who specialises in drone technology. Though drones are not typically used for land mapping and surveying, we are trying to pivot into that area because the technology can be useful to us.
AfricaLive: Ghana faces a significant long term challenge from the twin pressures of a growing youth population and increased workplace automation brought by the 4th Industrial Revolution. In short – you must create 10 million new jobs over the coming years to avoid mass youth unemployment and possible social unrest. What steps do you believe need to be taken to empower Ghana’s private sector to succeed in driving economic growth and job creation on this scale?
Samuel Larbi Darko: The private sector must be confident in its ability to deliver. Our confidence and desire to deliver will let the government know that we are ready to start taking on major impactful projects. We have a situation in Ghana where most private sector companies are wholly dependent on their founders. In the event the founder dies, the company goes down with him or her. A lack of succession plans is really hurting the Ghanaian private sector because we end up losing a lot of promising multigenerational businesses.
The government also has to have the initiative and foresight that’s required to help build a strong local industrial base. The government can only do this by giving local businesses a chance to try and fail until they get it right. We have to create room for local entrepreneurs to gain experience; otherwise, we won’t build a robust local economy. It’s not only about awarding tenders but also building expertise and confidence through training and funding.
AfricaLive: If you were to bring together Ghana’s leaders from government, higher education, and business to a roundtable meeting held at your HQ – what would be the main item on the agenda?
Samuel Larbi Darko: With the experiences that I have had in my over four decades of experience as a surveyor, I can say that access to land has been a key challenge. Almost eighty per cent of court cases in Ghana being about land is alarming.
The government must invest in a land demarcation system that allocates land accurately to every landowning group. A proper system will make land transactions easier and locations easily traceable. All stakeholders must be made aware of the need to invest in such a system so that we are to attract gainful foreign investment.
AfricaLive: What main message would you like to communicate regarding your company and regarding Ghana?
Samuel Larbi Darko: Ghana is an exciting market. We have been involved in projects such as doing land mapping for our forestry service, the military, and so many others. The project that stands out for me is the one we are currently doing which is an urban setting. We survey the assets for utilities taking into account all the features on the ground including roads, poles, pylons, rivers, buildings, service lines and all visible man-made and natural features and process them into a utility map for their usage.