Making Accra a financial hub in Africa: how and why it matters

Daniel Amateye ANIM

Africa is gradually emerging as a preferred business destination for most firms, multinationals operating in the global business environment. This may be principally due to its available rich natural resources, population size, growing democratic institutions, rapid urbanization and emerging retail industry. In fact, the region is consumption-driven, and that accounts for the emerging retail sector.

According to Euromonitor International, retail sales in the region amounted to over US$500 billion in 2018. Indeed, as the Africa economy continues to improve and expand, investors’ appetite and interest on the continent also increases. The financial sector therefore plays a pivotal role in driving investment opportunities.

It is the view of the writer that, Ghana is ripe to develop a financial hub within the sub-Saharan Africa. This stems from the fact that the country has a stable democracy, a vibrant judicial system, and now is the host to the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

What is a financial hub?

A financial hub is basically a designated area or city, usually where there is a high concentration of financial institutions. A financial hub may also mean a focal point where foreign and external financial intermediaries takes place, and which serves a particular region, mostly extending beyond the national boundaries of the host nation. Thus, a financial hub is a functional central marketplace for financial services, which encompasses lending and borrowing, money transmission, corporate finance, and foreign exchange, as well as money market trading. According to Choi (1984), an international financial hub means:

  • a source of global finance influence
  • the apex of a hierarchy in the financial central places
  • a market with peculiar sets of regulations
  • a geographical area for financial activities, and
  • an external currency markets.

Normally financial hubs are equipped with the appropriate technological innovations and commercial infrastructure, making it possible for individuals, businesses and institutions to conduct huge business transactions, mostly of international nature. In fact, financial hubs serve as a center for institutional investors, investment managers, and financial intermediaries such as banks, brokers, asset management funds, insurance firms etc. notable financial hubs in the world are New York, London, Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo.

Building a financial hub

Making Accra a financial hub demands:

  • High degree of technological infrastructure. The technological platform must have the propensity of connecting the other economies across the region. This can be done by ensuring that we enhance the pace of digital change and innovation across Ghana’s financial sector as well as the professional services sector. If it is done, it will make Accra attractive for major firms to establish their presence in the country.

In UK, for example, the fintech sector is actually making highly regulated financial infrastructure to evolve and further to facilitate business transactions. The government of Ghana must take advantage of its digitalization project to strategically develop a technological system that will inure to developing a financial hub.

  • Developing a robust capital market

The Ghana Stock Exchange is one of the best performing stock markets in Africa. Building a financial hub means that, the gains made by the Ghana Stock Exchange must be consolidated and further enhanced to ensure that, it becomes the most preferable destination for businesses and investors in Africa. With hard work and the appropriate strategy, we can make our stock market like the London Stock Market.

In fact, about 12.4% of the global total foreign listed firms are listed in London, 51% of investors in London Stock Exchange are international firms, 574 foreign firms listed, more than any other exchange globally. Our capital market should be able to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in order to boost and stimulate economy growth and development. Indeed, the London Stock Market, in 2017 attracted about £15.9 billion in FDI; and in 2020,

  • Innovative tax regime

Attracting international firms to establish their presence in Accra will require that, we design a tax policy that will encourage businesses as well as investors into the country. A tax system that will be very competitive and innovative both for businesses and the economy, as compared to other economies in the region.

  • Appropriate human capital

In the knowledge-based economy, new business models, innovative financial products and solutions are key and critical to developing a financial hub; hence the need for our educational institutions of higher learning to re-design their curriculum and courses which should focus on training and producing top-notch professionals with expertise in finance, investments, funds and pension management, portfolio management, risk management, international commercial law, international trade and finance. This cream of diversified portfolio of professionals will induce international financial and investment firms to re-locate to Accra.

  • Develop sound and responsive regulations

Due to the ever-changing nature of the business environment, there is the need to develop sound regulatory and supervisory regime. The rules regulating the financial sector must be aligned with the underlying risks, and should be constantly updated to ensure best practices, corporate disclosure and market discipline are strictly followed.

Indeed, we must equally look at our investment laws, as well as laws relating to the financial sector. It must be friendly to the investment community, yet, without sacrificing the fortunes of the country. This is because, market participants have always placed premium on sound and responsive regulatory systems. They prefer jurisdictions that provide stable and reliable financial systems.

  • Promote key and strategic markets

Making Accra a financial hub requires promoting the development of strategic and key specific markets and its related activities, which have the propensity of stronger growth potential. We must develop the debt markets as well as the wealth management industry.

Benefits of making Accra a financial hub

It is refreshing to state that, developing a financial hub is associated with cost, that is, the cost of building technological infrastructure, cost of developing human capital, putting up ultra-modern office accommodation for financial institutions, etc. however, it is my considered view that, the benefits of hosting a financial hub are quite substantial, and therefore, ought to be pursued by the Government of Ghana. Possible benefits of hosting a financial hub are:

  1. Increase in tax revenue: Attracting huge international financial institutions to Accra will lead to an increase in economic activities due to the volumes of trading activities both financial and commodities. It will equally lead to an increase in employment opportunities. This implies that, government revenue in terms of income tax and corporate tax will eventually increase.
  2. Increase in other businesses: A robust financial hub will lead to an increase in other businesses such as restaurants, retail shops, supermarkets, hotels and financial technology (Fin-Tech) companies. Making Accra a financial hub will speedily aid the development of the emerging Fin-Tech firms. As a result, more jobs will be created and government revenue in the form of taxes will equally beef-up.
  3. It will enhance infrastructure financing: A financial hub could be used to develop infrastructure financing ecosystem. This will attract international corporation with specializations in telecommunication, energy and transportation. Funds could easily be raised to finance Africa’s infrastructure needs. Currently, Africa’s infrastructure gap is estimated at $108 billion per annum.
  4. Opportunity for growth and regional development: Accra financial hub may provide the infrastructure opportunity for investment and the needed resources to drive entrepreneurship and economic growth across the economies within the sub-region. It can act as a propelling machinery for innovation in finance and subsequently contribute to developments in the real sectors of African economies. In fact, it can serve as a cluster of excellence and pool of expertise in economic and financial services, thereby leading to inclusive and sustainable development.


As much as I agree that, London, New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, Sydney etc. will continue to be formidable key global financial players, making Accra a financial hub in Africa, will equally be significant in propelling the full economic potentials of the region. In order to achieve this dream, there is the need to attract global players to locate and carry out more business activities in Accra. The managers of the economy must devise strategies so as to develop an enabling business environment capable of making Accra a financial hub. This dream is possible, achievable, provided it is considered as a national project embraced by political actors in the political economy.

>>>The writer is a Development Economist and Chartered Financial Analyst. Daniel is the Chief Economist at the Policy Initiative for Economic Development. He also the Director of Research and Analysis, B&FT. He can be reached on email: [email protected] Tel; 0244 476376/ 0201939350

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