Joshua Kwabena Siaw Popularly known as J. K. Siaw was a Ghanaian industrialist and philanthropist, who in 1969 established Tata Brewery Ltd, later known as Achimota Brewery Company (ABC) and now known as Guinness Ghana Breweries.
J. K. Siaw is notable for opening the largest wholly African-owned brewery company in West Africa in 1973.
He was born on January 1923 in Obomeng near Juaben in the Sekyere District of the Ashanti Region. He was then named after Chief who went by the nick-name “Gyato” because of his wealth. Some of Siaw’s associates called him by this nick-name as well.
His father came from Akwaseho and his mother from Juaben in the Ashanti Region. J. K. Siaw worked with his father on a cocoa farm before attending school at the age of 12 in 1935, and he took to basket-making as a way to make more money to further his own education.
In 1942 aged 19, Joshua Kwabena Siaw became a teacher of Standard One class in Akwaseho. After a couple of months, he went to work at the Orthodox Mission School and then to the Bremang Gold Dredging Company near Bogoso, in Ghana’s Western Region. After just one month, he went to Effiduase Banko to work again as a teacher from June 1943 to March 1945.
Siaw then went to work at the New Juaben Grammar School but left after a year because the headmaster, Mr. Sarkodea, was mismanaging the school. Siaw established Christ College in 1946 with his father, before apprenticing with a pharmacist for a year. Christ College evolved into Ghana Secondary School in Effiduase by 1976.
J. K. Siaw then decided to go into business and borrowed £50 to start up as a cocoa broker. He made £600 in four months as profit. In April 1950 he became a siding clerk at Kwahu Praso, transporting cocoa to Accra, which is Ghana’s capital. He repaid the £200 security charge for the clerking employment with interest in six months and was bound for a further six months, by contract but he decided to stay for only four. In 1953 he worked as a siding clerk, this time for the Cocoa Purchasing Company, which paid £6 a month. He became a cocoa and timber transporter in 1954.
As an Entrepreneur, Joshua Kwabena Siaw in 1957, began selling enamelware until the Government of Ghana 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. Despite being offered an investment of 400,000 cedis from Siaw, Takoradi brewery could not happen. On his third attempt to the government to set up a brewery, it became successful and in 26 July 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 30 January 1973 during Siaw’s 50th birthday. It was officially opened by the then Head of State Colonel Ignatius Kutu Acheampong.
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 begun the building of a road from Akwaseho to Obomeng.
In 1979 all his assets were confiscated by the AFRC regime of Ghana under alleged allegations of tax evasion. He had sent numerous petitions to the military government PNDC and had applied for safe entry to be allowed back into Ghana without risk of arrest.
Joshua Kwabena Siaw died in London, in exile, in October 1986. His body was flown back to Ghana in December that year. He did not receive his assets back and was considered a criminal by the state, despite the allegations being baseless.
Guinness Ghana Breweries PLC is the leading total beverage business in Ghana.
Source: Ghanaian Museum