Give or Take

Nana Yaa Ofori Atta

Never mind what the hard skills of the apparent qualifications are.  The real requirement for the successful applicant who bags the advertised role for Government Statistician, will be his/the ability to count, backwards.

Depending on who is guesstimating, Ghana has a population of 28 million people, give or take.  English inclusive, we speak somewhere between 11-14 official languages, drawn from an estimated 89 to 95 local dialects.  Since this is Ghana and everyone comes from somewhere, there are officially 10 regions.  In reality they are crisscrossed by around 247 Traditional Councils that run coterminously with an estimated 388 Paramountcies.  This is the tangled web from where our kinship loyalties may/not be drawn. It may explain why we can simultaneously pull and push so hard across, to and away from each other.

My paternal grandfather, Nana Sir Ofori Atta I, Okyenhene between 1912 and 1943, sired we are told, around 100 children or so.  For my teeming relatives and yours, for anyone living and/or working here already as well those who aspire to return from the Diaspora, to do business in Ghana successfully, one of the biggest hurdles they may face – several times on any one day – give or take, is to studiously evade excessive precision.


Precisely Fluid

Our last census carried out in 2010 by the Statistical Service (GSS) suggested that there were 24.6 million people residing in Ghana: 51.2 percent ‘implied’ as female and therefore 48.4 percent, male. 9.45 million people then, were aged 0-14 years; there were 14 million people in the category of 15 – 64 years old. The census provided a breakdown of gender per region and per district.

Top line message from that census is that the critical adult population of 18 years and above, those who should be in gainful employment then, was 13.6 million.  It did not say if their were indeed gainfully employed, doing what or where. 

Fortunately we have Development Partners who like to collect data, with approximations.  A report published in 2016 by the World Bank, ‘indicated that about 48 percent of the youth in Ghana, between 15 and 24 years, did not have jobs.’  Today, it is entirely and dangerously possible, that half of the potentially economic active population of Ghana is functionally at an increasingly frustrated stop.


A Certain Source

Between October – December of 2017, 75.2 percent of the population in the UK, aged 16 – 64 were in employment.  The bulletin by the Office of National Statistics issued in February 2018 summarised that in the last quarter of 2017, 32.15 million people were working, 88,000 more than were employed in the previous quarter (between July and September 2017), 321,000 more than in the same period a year before.   Female employment was measured at 70.8 percent, lower than the 79.7 percent rate for men. The UK generated 730,000 job vacancies in that quarter.  The statistics provides granular of employment by industry, employment or inactivity of disabled people, employment by country of birth, broken down to local authority and parliamentary constituencies.

Anyone in the UK who cares to track where the money and jobs are, whether government policies are delivering the courage from the private sector to create jobs can deploy these and other statistics.  Members of Parliament (MP) there can lobby for their constituencies as opposed to for individual constituents, families and friends as we do here.  MPs, unions and other groups there, can lobby as regional groups and cross reference themselves to lobby and advocate for industries that have backward linkages to their local patches.  The data is updated quarterly which means that the weekly Prime Minister’s Question Time and the quality of debates in parliament, in the media, on many issues across the country, can be very edgy in real time.


Around these parts, while there is indeed an industry and regional breakdown provided in its quarterly reports, there is also a time lag of 2 years for companies who register with the Ghana Investment Promotion Center (GIPC) to renew their permits.  It is apparently only in the renewal process that GIPC can confirm or not if they have indeed created and filled the jobs they threatened initially to provide for Ghanaians.

In short, no one institution today can provide real time data on employment let alone vacancies created and filled by whom and where in Ghana.  Everything is played, back via gramophone.

The Labour Office, an agency of the Ministry of Employment and Labour has acknowledged that it has not been able to fulfill its mandate of collecting and distributing accurate and credible data on employment.  The Office has been hamstrung it says, by lack of funding.

The state of statistics and data that the Labour Office cannot generate is an exemplar of the specifications and approximations that we must finally address. To bring the ‘Ghana Beyond Aid’ to life, Ghana and its citizens must work to earn their keep first, grow themselves, jobs, others and the economy.  We cannot say today, exactly how many people are employed in which industry doing precisely what with what succession plans in place, training and support to enable their professional growth.  We can not also it seems, adjust our educational and vocational training fast enough to fill jobs (assuming they are there) now and lean forward to pursuing the skills that will be required for jobs in emerging industries.


The Real Power of SMEs

President Akufo-Addo’s visit and the 2 speaking engagements he held in Germany last week was deeply symbolic.  It was in 1833, at the Berlin Conference, that the imperial empires of Germany and Britain met to sign a ‘Gentleman’s Agreement’ amongst themselves, annexing and divvying up Africa.  ‘One for you, two for me’.

134 years later, speaking at the 5th German-African Economic Forum, President Akufo-Addo referenced a report by ‘Honest Accounts’.  The group estimates that in 2015, while African countries received $161.6 billion in loans, grants and remittances from Europe, ‘$203 billion was taken from Africa, either directly – mainly through corporations repatriating profits and by illegally moving money out of the continent.’   He also said that a corroborating report by a panel led by former South African President, Thabo Mbeki estimated that $50 billion was lost each year through the illicit flow of funds.  ‘Four for me, a villa in Dubai for you, none for them’.


The President was delivering his speech in North Rhine-Westphalia, a state in western Germany famed for its magnificent Schloss Benrath palace and gothic inspired architecture.  In 2016, driven by the activities of some 750,000 Small and Medium size Enterprises (SMEs), they employ 80% of its active population, this state delivered a GDP of US$787 billion. Ghana’s national GDP in the same year was US$42.69 billion. ‘I grew my people and you did …?’

Blue Sky Thinking

Akufo-Addo’s message to the audience, was anchored on that which has made him the representative of the ‘new’ thinking.  Beyond the mantra of ‘Trade not Aid’ he said that his government intends to fully leverage our vast resources in minerals and active/employable citizens to attract investment in capital, technology and skills.  The 3 key areas our presidential Salesman-in-Chief was promoting were: agro industry, energy and power and building of infrastructure.  These are the areas he believes will grow the private sector and SMEs in Ghana and as he rightly added, in Germany.  If it is honest trade, it has to make economic sense and deliver a gain also to the investors. ‘One for me, One for you?’

Back in Accra, the Labour Office has announced the development of a new web based portal that it says will collect employment data and be open to the business community and institutions across Ghana.  Blue sky thinking is required here too to close the concentric circle.

When the test run, currently underway is of the new Labour portal in 2018, the new Government Statistician like his/her counterpart in the UK, must actually be able to use this data to query and detail with pinpoint accuracy exactly where the investment anticipated from countries like Germany went, how much employment has been generated, by gender, in which industries in which district/constituency/region of Ghana for capable, qualified and active Ghanaians.  Now that is a Give And Take. Sehr Gut!

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