Preparing tomorrow’s workforce for a W.I.S.E.R. Ghana: An Interview with Tommy Zhou, Managing Director, Huawei Ghana


Question: Briefly introduce Huawei’s local business development over the years.

[Huawei Ghana] Huawei entered Ghana in 2001. Over the past 20 years, we have been committed to enabling more Ghanaians to enjoy high levels of ICT services, accessibility, and affordability, bridge the digital divide, and use ICT to stimulate people’s creativity and entrepreneurship, as well as stimulate the country’s economic and social development potential.

We noted that during recent State of the Nation Address (2021 SONA), H.E. President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo stressed the need for digital technologies and processes to “formalize the economy through digitalization and the government’s commitment towards this”. In recent years, the global digital economy has boomed.

The share of the digital economy in GDP has increased year by year and currently, the global average share of digital economy has reached 41%, with over 50% in some countries. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, studies have found that countries with a high share of the digital economy have been better at fighting the epidemic, while their economies have experienced a faster recovery.

Huawei is also actively participating in Ghana’s digital strategy, promoting the development and prosperity of the digital economy, and contributing to the realization of the vision of a “Ghana Beyond Aid”. In Ghana, we have done two things: one “ICT Infrastructure Development” and two “ICT Ecosystem Development”:

Under the guidance of the Ghana Government’s development strategy, we work with partners to continuously introduce world-leading ICT technologies, actively participate in Ghana’s ICT infrastructure development and continuously working to improve it to connect unconnected areas and populations.

For instance, we built the largest 4G network in Ghana in collaboration with our partners.  Another significant example is the recently launched Rural Telephony project with the government and operators using our novel innovative RuralStar Technology to deploy cost effective base stations that will provide voice and data services to over 3.4 million Ghanaians in over 300,000 underserved and unserved communities to extend the national mobile communication coverage from 83% to 95%.

We have also introduced advanced digital applications and services, such as mobile payment, among others to meet the country’s actual needs and transform Ghana’s advantages in communications technologies into advantages in overall competitiveness and socio-economic development.

We are committed to transferring knowledge and technology and fostering a local ICT talent ecosystem. Therefore, in accordance with the objectives of the Ghana Government’s Education Strategic Plan 2018-2030. Ghana, we actively cooperate with the local government, Industry and Education institutions to work together to develop Ghana’s ICT talent pool.

In 2017, we signed a strategic cooperation agreement with the Ghana government. We invested millions of dollars each year in cooperation with some ministries and government agencies two based on Huawei’s ICT Talent program (HIT) and have since provided ICT skill training in one way or the other to over 5000 beneficiaries in Ghana. The government is working with us again this year and plan to train 10,000 people over the next three years in Ghana.

Work with local partners to build a healthy and win-win industry and business ecosystem, and contribute to the sustainable development of Ghana’s ICT industry and the promotion of Ghana’s local enterprises in the global value chain. Huawei Ghana currently cooperates with more than 50 local partners, most of whom are small and medium-sized enterprises. During the cooperation, Huawei focuses on the transfer of skills in ICT, management, and security through training and benefit sharing to build an ICT industry and business ecosystem in which we can participate and grow together.

Question: What do you think is Ghana’s unique competitiveness?

[Huawei Ghana] I’d like to talk about four points:

Ghana’s location in the heart of West Africa makes the country a regional trade and investment, economic and financial hub that radiates regional markets.

In terms of connectivity, Ghana’s nationwide mobile coverage is over 83% with the number is expected to reach 95% in the next 3 years. According to a March 2020, Household Survey on ICT conducted by the National Communications Authority (NCA) and the Ghana statistical Service (GSS), Smartphone usage in Ghana stood at an impressive 46.1%. These figures prove that Ghana has a solid foundation for digital transformation of the industry and the development of the digital economy. According to the Ghana Statistics Service, in 2020, the information and communications industry remained the strongest growth in the services sector, with a year-on-year increase of 22.5%.

My third point is the ever-improving investment and business environment. Ghana is considered one of the best places to do business in the ECOWAS region by international agencies such as the World Bank. Ghana’s economy has maintained dynamic growth. In 2017, the economy reached 8.5%. Even in 2020, the growth rate was 0.4% as opposed to the negative growth experienced by most economies due to the pandemic and this show that the economy is highly resilient. Economic development and rising national income have created huge potential markets for digitalization in industries such as education, healthcare, finance.

Finally, there is the quality of the workforce. Ghana is well urbanized, Ghanaians are highly educated, proficient in multiple languages, and are used to cross-cultural communication. Many of our local Ghanaian colleagues have excelled and become department managers and Deputy Managing Directors.

Q3: In addition to ICT infrastructure construction and digital application introduction, skill transfer is an important task for Huawei. What does Huawei think about the importance of talent for national development?

[Huawei Ghana] As a company, we believe that investing in talent is more important than investing in business. We also see an emphasis on people as the basis for development in the vision of “Ghana beyond aid”. There is no doubt that talent is important to the development of the country. There are several meanings to this:

Firstly, Government’s Digital Leadership in the Digital Governance era is effectively maximizing as skilled citizens are better at using Advanced Digital Tools to govern and serve the people better

More so, Skill development enhances the knowledge level of ICT Industry Practitioners, thus highly skilled professionals are able to effectively use Knowledge and Skills to Innovate more.

Thirdly, Young people’s interest, enthusiasm, and ability to engage in ICT-related learning and work in the ICT industry –is largely dependent on skill development as more and more young people can devote themselves to diverse ICT professions and careers, hence expanding the national digital talent pool.

Finally, the ICT literacy of the general public is easily overlooked in most cases, however, it is important to note that, people can use ICT for personal, family, and community development.

These four layers form a talent pyramid of national ICT capabilities and are the logic that guides Huawei’s skill transfer and development of the ICT talent ecosystem. As a global leader in ICT, we are committed to contributing to Ghana’s ICT soft power, namely, human capabilities and digital literacy.

Q4: As an international enterprise investing in Ghana, what are the challenges and opportunities for the development of local talent teams and reserves in Ghana?

[Huawei Ghana] There is an old saying in China that It takes ten years to grow trees, but a hundred to rear people”. Talent development requires continuous investment, but the investment also pays attention to methods. We Promote government-industry-academia collaboration, since ICT talent ecosystem is a shared responsibility; we also try to build a chain of learning, practicing and applying.

Based on Ghana’s national strategy, we work with education and industry partners to support the construction of the above-mentioned four-tier talent pyramid in accordance with the requirements of the overall national strategy and planning documents such as “Ghana Beyond Aid” and “Digital Transformation Drive” of the Ghana Government.

The chain of learning, practice and use mainly refers to an open and sustainable system where everybody contributes and benefit from it.

In terms of “learning”, Huawei has partnered with 16 local universities to set up Huawei ICT academies. More than 2000+ people have passed trainings at Huawei ICT academies and obtained Huawei professional certifications. The courses include the most advanced 5G, Security, and Cloud Computing. Covers 20 + areas with 140 free courses.

In terms of “practice”, Ghana participated in the Huawei Global ICT Skills Contest and Developer Contest, attracting more than 5000 participants from around the globe, providing a global stage for African youth to hone their skills and demonstrate their capabilities.

In terms of “use”, Huawei also organized local business partners to jointly hold talent recruitment fairs to help Ghanaian youth find jobs in accordance with the principle of preferential recruitment of the winners of the competition.

Of course, there are many challenges. For example, the overall enthusiasm for learning ICT is low, and the gender imbalance in ICT. For example, there are less than 10% of women are enrolled in technical programs at tertiary institutions in Ghana.

On one hand, we have organized overseas training activities such as “Seeds for the Future” to promote exchanges between Ghanaian youth and young people from other countries around the world.

On the other hand, the launch of the Women’s Digital Technology Development Program, through WOMEN IN TECH AFRICA, in collaboration with government and industry organizations, Programs such as the National Institute of Technology have encouraged and inspired more women to participate in ICT professional training and pursue ICT-related careers.

In addition, we have applied ICT tools to education. In the midst of the epidemic, we have adhered to online interactive teaching and online real-time business visits, so that young people can experience the important value of ICT in the current global public health crisis.

Q5: Are there any impressive success stories?

[Huawei Ghana] Yes, we have many but I would like to highlight three stories:

In the global finals of the 2018/2019 Huawei ICT Competition, three students from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Ghana qualified to represent Africa at the Global finals of the competition and performed impressively against their counterparts from top universities around the globe to emerge as one of the excellent teams. This shows that Ghanaian youth are fully capable of becoming world-class ICT experts as long as they have the willingness and enthusiasm to engage in ICT learning. This is what inspires us most.

Female engineers from Ghana who have taken been part of the ICT Academy from their Universities in Ghana have moved on to become “Techpreneurs”. Ms. Ida Padikour is an example of this. She currently runs a Tech firm which seeks to change the narrative of Startups and Technologies developed by Ghanaians and Africans in general. Some of them are currently working on with us on the building of rural networks through the rural telephony project to bring connectivity to unserved communities. These go a long way to highlight the importance of skills in National development.

For outstanding performers in programs such as Seeds for the Future and Huawei ICT Academy, we work with our local partners to give priority to them for internships and job opportunities, which is part of our localization strategy. Over 100 outstanding Huawei ICT Academy products have worked and had internship and National Service opportunities at Huawei and Huawei partner companies.

This does not only show that Huawei Ghana’s long-standing localization strategy is effective, but also that Ghana’s young people are highly competitive in their careers.

As you can see, the examples I’m talking about are not necessarily Huawei employees. This shows that talent is mobile. We do not want to be a terminal for Ghanaian ICT talent, but rather a fuel station for them on their career path. They have gained something from international companies like Huawei.

They will take what they have learned and continue to grow. This is what we hope to see, because ultimately, we will all be the beneficiaries of this virtuous circle of talent ecosystem. Ultimately, these young Ghanaians, with their ICT skills, engage in various industries, which will promote Ghana’s digital development and build a robust digital economy, for a Wealthy, Inclusive, Sustainable, Empowered, and Resilient Ghana, or in short, a W.I.S.E.R Ghana.

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