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The Rising Tech Industry in Ghana

Disclaimer: The views expressed are that of the individual author. All rights are reserved to the original authors of the materials consulted, which are identified in the footnotes below.


By Keturah Christie


The growth of Ghana’s tech industry

Ghana has shifted its focus on agriculture and implementing more efficient ways of farming to promote its economic growth and become a low-income country to a middle-income country by the end of the decade. This has created space for more incentive driven economic policies such as the ‘Obrobibini Peace Complex’ and NGO projects. The profit outcome of these policies has helped to facilitate the opening of sustainability training centers that has now contributed to the health and improved livelihoods of marginalized farmers struggling with efficient farming and equipment.[1] The success of the revamping of the agriculture sector has increased the country’s confidence to pursue other strategies such as the encouragement and maintenance of startup projects.. For example, ‘Ghana tech lab’, ‘Impact Hub Africa’, ‘Stanbic Incubator’ and more all offer “financial business support, mentoring and co-working spaces” which create more accessible ways for people to be involved in tech.[2]


Why tech matters: Bridging the divide between rural and urban communities

In the last two years the Ghanaian economy has witnessed some of the fastest growth in the world. Part of this is following the governments movement to diversify the economy via inward investments. In November 2018, the CEO of the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre, Yofi Grant, stated that “We are looking to make Ghana the best place to do businesses - technology is critical to our economy and we need to focus on it even more going forward”.[3]


In context, accessing digital services is quite difficult particularly in rural areas which face extreme poverty and are at the demise of their geographical isolation. Consequentially, the circumstances create an increasing and disadvantageous divide between those with access to the internet and digital services and those without - a problem which Ghana aims to bridge. Furthermore, in rural areas, despite agriculture employing over 49% of the population it only makes up 18% of the country’s GDP. Agriculture is also cost intensive and productivity levels are not high enough to compensate this and it is thought that this is due to poor infrastructure and supply networks from the sub-par state of road networks to weak and inaccessible internet connection. Following such issues - lead analyst at GSMA - Kenechi Okeleke discussed the importance of driving a rapid improvement of the digital landscape of Ghana. As a matter of fact, in the next 5-10 years, he optimistically indicates that 95% of mobile connection should be operating on 3G and 4G and will allow people across the country to access to cheaper smart phones which will aid in stimulating the use of mobile broadband services and reap all the benefits of secure internet connection.[4] Kenechi Okeleke’s role at GSMA also involves bringing stakeholders, innovators and government regulators together in order to increase accessibility across the country in an affordable manner. It is clear to see from passionate players like Kenechi Okeleke that the importance of the internet is not lost on the country and tech conferences validate the fact that the country also seeks to take advantage of new technologies as well, such as Artificial Intelligence, blockchain internet and data.[5]


Moreover, Ghana has considered the fact that 40% of the country are under 18 which are the demographic who are huge consumers and creators of digital services and thus over the next 5-15 years there are goals set in place to create an environment of innovation in youth education.[6] This is evident through the placing of telecommunication companies and pharmaceutical companies with telecommunication services such as ‘Rancard’ in the heart of Accra providing thousands of students an easy pathway to digital services.[7]


Mobile Technology and other beneficial tech platforms

Ghana has also seen Mobile Technology playing an increasing role in the following sectors: agriculture, financial services, education, utilities and health of which the combined make up 50% of Ghana’s GDP. This is significant as 10 million adults in Ghana still do not have mobile internet services which creates a digital divide between urban and rural areas as previously touched upon. Evidence of a move towards improving technology in Ghana is


seen on the ‘Mergdata platform” primarily used in agriculture by creating digital profiles for farmers allowing them access to value added services, credit advice and inputs on important details such as market prices, specific weather forecasts and agricultural practices specific to the crops they grow. All of this is available via mobile voice messages that are available through their preferred local dialect. This indicates a significant step towards not only bridging urban and rural areas but demonstrates a method that will begin to help Ghana’s economy evolve since technology is made more malleable to the unique local community it serves. Understandably, Farmline (company in charge of the Mergdata platform) plans to provide 126,000 farmers extension services and via partnerships aim to connect 1.3 million farmers by 2023.[8]


Another example of a tech platform that has been embraced by the newly technology-curious Ghana is ‘Jetstream’ which is a cloud-based web platform that aids in moderating the operation of small and mid-size enterprises (SME’s). This is incredibly important because SME’s in Africa pay the highest rates globally in order to import and export cargo in shipping containers. There is a clear lack of coordination because of little viability when it comes to factors such as transit times, landed costs and the physical whereabouts of their shipments and thus ‘Jetstream ' aids logistics by acting as the sole point of contact when trading across borders.[9]


The emerging pool of tech entrepreneurs

The foundation of startup ecosystems is always built upon talent and Ghana is beginning to cultivate a strong pool of individuals that will become future leaders in tech. This has been aided through the nations network to strong public instructions such as ‘Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology’ , The University of Ghana and private universities such ‘Ashesi University’, started by ex Microsoft employee Patrick Awuah. Additionally, pioneers such as co-founder of SOFTtribe Chinery Hesse are paving the way for other young people to start building their own tech companies. The culmination is Google launching its first Africa AI research centre in Ghana which is indicative of the progress the country has made in tech.[10]


With a continued and sustainable approach to diversify the tech industry in Ghana, it is accurate to say that there will be a noticeable improvement in not only the efficiency of the economy but the wellbeing of the community, who will now benefit from digital interconnectedness. While it may seem like the country still has a long way to go, a statement by CEO Samuel Tettey Amanor of BlueSpace Africa perhaps encompasses the movement Ghana is making: “Those walls and restrictions are coming down and technology is driving that based on the landmark political decision to work together across the continent.” The nations proactivity in investing and heavily involving the youth will be significant in the development of tech innovation and thus the economic growth of the country.


 

Image: https://africabusiness2020.com/2019/06/03/3-reasons-why-ghana-is-winning-in-tech/

[1] Kim Thelwell, 'Ghana Has Developed Its Technology| The Borgen Project' (The Borgen Project, 2021) <https://borgenproject.org/ghana-has-developed-its-technology/> accessed 16 June 2021. [2] MEST Africa, 'The Great Debate: Why Ghana May Be The Best Country To Launch And Scale Your Tech Startup!' <https://medium.com/the-gps/the-great-debate-why-ghana-is-the-country-for-your-tech-startup-e30cc3ac295> accessed 16 June 2021. [3] Martin Best, '3 Reasons Why Ghana Is Winning In Tech - AB2020' (AB2020, 2021) <https://africabusiness2020.com/2019/06/03/3-reasons-why-ghana-is-winning-in-tech/> accessed 11 June 2021. [4] ibid [5] 'Tech In Ghana' (Techinghanaconference.com, 2021) <https://techinghanaconference.com/> accessed 11 June 2021. [6] N(3) [7] N(1) [8] N(3) [9] N(3) [10] Ecosystem Accelerator, 'A Deep Dive Into The Ghanaian Start-Up Ecosystem | Mobile For Development' (Mobile for Development, 2021) <https://www.gsma.com/mobilefordevelopment/blog/a-deep-dive-into-the-ghanaian-start-up-ecosystem/> accessed 16 June 2021.

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