Indian businessman backs Ghana`s cricket development

Accra: When he arrived in Accra in 2001, Indian industrialist Akoliya Patel only wanted to mine for gold and diamonds that he is now doing across Africa. More than a decade later, he has also become Ghana`s main financier to develop cricket in this West African nation of 25 million people that was a British colony till 1957.

Last year, two coaches from India came to train members of the various cricket clubs that have sprung up around capital Accra.

"As a keen cricket fan, I started going out to watch matches and realised that even though the country had budding stars, it lacked proper grounds and players were poorly trained; so l felt it was important for me to contribute my quota to improve the game," Patel told.

The main motivation is not just his love of cricket. It is also because "I live in Ghana and breath the air here, so I must contribute in whichever way that l can to make life easy for those whose life I can touch".

"It is also important that we use the wealth we generate to improve the lives of those who need to be helped," said Patel. For this reason he has spent so much money to support poor people who have not been able to pay their hospital bills. Patel has also become the anonymous philanthropist, providing help to people who need medical care.

Patel, who is chief executive of Balaji Gemlust Company (BGC), has single-handedly financed the construction of a world class cricket oval at Achimota in Accra and has also brought in a Ranji Trophy player, Amolak Singh, to train the country`s national side.

"The players we have put together are good and only need to be improved, and that is why the coach has come to train them," Patel said, adding: "It is my dream to see the country`s players become international stars."

After handing over the oval to the Ghana Cricket Association, Patel promised to maintain the grounds because it is his dream to make the game grow in the country.

Patel, who became a diamond exporter in Ghana by 2003, said: "Initially, I invested 1.5 million dollars in the divested state-owned Consolidated Diamonds at Akwatia in the eastern region."

The investment paid off as he became the biggest diamond exporter for three years.

The success, howvever, was short lived as the government decided to sell its shares in the company, and thereafter sold these to a local entity. Patel, consequently, moved into other businesses.

"I got into gold mining as well as real estate and farming," Patel said.

He has built a number of houses that he has sold. He has recently acquired 280 acres of land in the Accra suburbs of Kuntunse and Adjinkotoku for constructing more houses.

Besides, Patel has acquired 5,000 acres of land at Atebubu in the Brong Ahafo Region which he intends to use for commercial farming towards helping improve Ghana`s food supply.

"I have a business and my involvement in the Ghanaian economy is to contribute my bit to the development of the country," Patel said.

He is involved not just in Ghana; his other businesses are spreading in the West African region. "I have set up gold and diamond businesses in Liberia, Burkina Faso, Guinea and Côte d`Ivoire," Patel said. Patel has set up an office in Uganda, which he intends to use as a springboard to the East African region.

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