Sir John christened as Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie was born in the Ashanti Region of Ghana.
He attended Seventh Day Adventist Secondary School in Bekwai from where he obtained his GCE Ordinary level certificate.
He then proceeded to obtain his GCE Advanced level certificate from Konongo Odumase Secondary School in Konongo.
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Mr Owusu Afriyie was admitted to study political science at the University of Ghana after which he enrolled at the Ghana School of Law where he graduated with Bachelor of Laws (LLB). He was then admitted as a solicitor and counsel for the Supreme Court of Ghana.
Sir John entered into private law practice in 1981. During the John Agyekum Kufuor administration, he was appointed head of legal services at the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC).
He was later made to act as the Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the corporation. While managing his firm, Afriyie was also actively engaged in Ghanaian politics.
He served as the General Secretary of the NPP from 2010 to 2014. He lost his bid to secure a second term to Kwabena Agyei Agyapong.
He was also the CEO of the Forestry Commission from March 2019 till his demise.