Leverage ICT, agric, energy et al to lessen COVID-19 impact – expert

Dr. Samuel Ankrah

A strong and better economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic requires government to make the ICT, agriculture, energy and infrastructure sectors key elements in its policy mix, Dr. Sam Ankrah-President of Africa Investment Group International, has said.

As countries reel under the pandemic’s economic impact, he said these sectors, if prioritised, can help Ghana turn the tide by creating opportunities for greater income for individuals and revenue for the state, food security, productivity, employment, investment and trade, even in the face of the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The catalytic effect on the economy of increased broadband penetration is well documented. Every effort should be made to encourage investment in digital infrastructure to increase access to the Internet,” he said.

In this regard, he said, development of digital infrastructure including fibre-optic networks, wireless networks, data centres, along with stricter regulation and optimisation of the radio spectrum, remain key.

Dr. Ankrah, who was asked by the B&FT which sectors he thinks could quicken the recovery process, said government must not relent in its attempts to put in place electronic systems to improve efficiencies in revenue collection, traffic management and fraud, as well as demonstrate leadership to a business sector that has been hesitant to embrace online tools such as cloud – which will accelerate economic activity.

“Sectors that will benefit from a focus on the digitisation of the economy are: agriculture, logistics, finance – banking, e-commerce, insurance, healthcare and media content – music, entertainment,” he said.

On why the agriculture sector should be seen as a priority in the recovery process, he said a holistic approach to it will ensure food security and sustainable employment amid the crisis; adding that one of the takeaways from the pandemic is that countries must take urgent steps to build food sufficiency.

“Ghana is blessed with fertile land and good weather; we must encourage and stimulate a much wider and deeper agricultural sector. Food security should be a focus as the impacts of climate change and water scarcity start to impact agriculture in the years ahead. Agriculture is a major employer, and so further investment in technology should be promoted to grow the sector,” he said.

These include technologies which improve crop yields through better practices – including crop selection, disease management, fertilisation and mechanisation. Another way he believes agriculture can lessen the pandemic’s impact is for the country to diversify away from cocoa to other tree crops as well as other staples and food crops.

He also wants emphasis to be put on increased investment in food processing to increase the value-added component. To ease movement of good and persons, he said, it is equally imperative to invest in upgrading existing and building new roads and railways to improve the transport network.

Dr. Ankrah, an investment banker, also holds the view that government should aggressively take steps to reduce the country’s reliance on fossil fuels, if it is to build a stronger and sustainable economy.

“It should diversify away from it and promote investment in renewables. Solar and wind should become the primary sources of power in the country.  Government should promote investment in renewable power plants across the country to ensure a stable supply of power and reduce reliance on the grid to distribute power.

“This will underpin investment in the agriculture sector – for example warehousing and refrigeration facilities closer to the point of production, as well as in agri-processing and light manufacturing.   This is the only way to achieve the One District-One Factory policy,” he concluded.

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