The 24 hour economy : Matters arising



H.E. John Mahama has envisioned in his next government a system where there will be a 3-shift working environment making it a 24-hour economy. This is where there is distribution of goods, services and capital, supported by technology to keep economic players (Government, Private Sector Producers and Consumers) continuously engaged 24/7.

This is not novel in the world but of course will be a novelty in Ghana since it will be the first time any government will be purposively introducing a policy intervention to support businesses and companies to operate round the clock. This he envisages will promote internal productivity, enhance international competitiveness of local businesses and most of all create jobs for the youth to tackle youth unemployment in a more planned way.

The concept is said to come with incentives for the private sector, mostly those in industry, construction, financial services, retail centres, transportation service, leisure and hospitality to voluntarily plug in. The incentives range from financing support, tax benefits, lower tariffs on use of electricity, to enhanced security. Also certain strategic selected public institutions needed to support the private sector such as Ports and Harbours, customs, Passport Office, DVLA would be integrated into the system by way of a Government-Private sector partnership.

Since communicating this vision, there has been mixed public reactions. Whilst some think it is a good idea and a game changer, others think it is a bad idea which is already in existence and in any case cannot be implemented.

Personally, I believe there are direct, indirect and induced economic benefits to the country should it be successfully implemented. I, therefore, intend to give an opinion on the matters arising with respect to the surrounding negatives hoping to cure them.


  • Night Economy

An economy as defined by Investopedia is a system of inter-related production and consumption activities that ultimately determine the allocation of resources”  A night economy as it operates in Ghana may seem to be synonymous to a 24-hour economy but it is not. What readily comes to mind when we speak of a night economy is entertainment (night clubs, theatre, cinema, culture, etc) restaurants and other recreational activities but of course may not be limited to that. They are just standalone businesses operating at night and not inter-related. If there is anything like a day economy, what will readily come to mind is production oriented business activities not cinema, clubs or theatre. Currently in Ghana, the two systems standalone with no linkages.

The 24-hour economy would link the two (night and day) in a 24-hour continuous value chain cycle so to a very large extent, there will be little or no distinction between either day or night economies but one feeding into the other in a planned system. It will be a matter of choice for the consumer on when to do what. Those who would be working at night should be able to enjoy theatre during the day or go to a day club. I remember    whilst growing up in Takoradi  in the 70s and early 80s we used to go watch films during the day at Prempeh, Liberty or Princess cinemas. They had 12 noon; 3.30 pm; 6.30 pm and 8.30 pm shows.  Options were available for those who worked shifts at the harbour and the booming factories then. A night economy is more of a subset of a 24-hour economy where a planned and linked day and night make up the whole.

  • Lack of Demand

When Nkrumah invested in the Akosombo Dam, I wonder if there was enough demand for the power to be generated. When the Tema motorway was constructed with iron rods and concrete, we were told some people said it was a bad idea. Where was the vehicular demand for such a technology? I believe the business of government is to create the enabling environment for the private sector to take advantage of, which then creates a push strategy to stimulate demand. The immediate demand need not necessarily exist.

Thirty years ago, Adjirigano/Nmai Dzorn area was like a forest. There was no demand for settlement and the price of land was cheap. Once access road was constructed and electricity extended to the area, it created demand for settlement and the area started developing. Water was extended somewhere around 2013 and it has now opened up with the price of land now being sold in dollars, that is if there is any available.

Certain concepts are transformational and inter-generational in nature and not for immediate consumption. It takes visionary leadership to predict the future and to want to create such transformational environments such as the 24-hour economy so Ghana can plug into the 24-hour world.

  • Already in Existence and a Bad Idea

Yes, certain manufacturing businesses are currently working round the clock, day and night. This is based on an internal need by the business to do so. There is no government incentive nudging them and encouraging them to do so to be supported by the needed value chain in that line of business. Meaning they run a standalone system with no linkages and induced synergy effect for the economy.

Most invariably these manufacturing companies run a two 12-hour shift system with in-built overtime rates or two 8-hour shift system with an 8-hour rest and idle period or an 8-hour day shift followed by a 12 hour night shift with in-built overtime.

Workers doing the 12-hour shift are either paid or made to take extra day off during the week after doing a two 12-hour shift. Payment for overtime during the day is normally calculated as time and a half for the extra 4 hours being done. Work at night and weekends (unsocial hours) are normally paid double rate for the extra 4 hours, meaning a day’s wages for every 4-hour unsocial hour job done. This form of system requires two sets of workforce.

The difference in the 24-hour economy is that it comes with an 8 hour-3 shift system. This means another layer of workforce will be required instead of the same workforce doing an extra 4 unsocial hours to be paid for a full day’s job. The productivity of the same tired workforce doing an extra 8-hour job is not the same as a new set of energised workforce doing the extra 8 hours. The entrepreneur will get more productivity for the same amount to be paid to an extra labour force instead of overtime for the same workforce. That is the difference and it requires 3 sets of workforce, meaning opportunity for more employment.

I do not intend to delve into the chop bar, waakye economics because it comes across as a non-intellectual discussion. However, for clarification, if a construction company is running an 8 hour-3 shift system the waakye  or koko seller can sell 3 sets of waakye or koko pans. This will require her having more hands to cook and do the selling. That is an indirect economic impact on informal sector employment.

For me, a bad idea is something that does not make sense and inherently does not add value to an existing system and is most likely going to make it worse, retrogressive in nature. The 24-hour economy cannot in any imagination of the mind of a right thinking person be a bad idea. At worst it may be difficult to implement but definitely not a bad idea. The fact that an idea may be difficult to implement does not make it a bad idea and that is what leadership and governance is all about, to make it happen. A way has to be found.

There are a lot of ideas that could have been said to be bad because it seemed impossible. Going to the moon, a metal flying in the sky (plane) and I guess the concept of Artificial Intelligence which is even at its developmental stage now. These have become transformational ideas. Where there is the will, there is a way.

  • Cannot be Done

What cannot be done? Of course the kenkey seller can be forgiven saying that but not those of us who say we are intellectuals and to whom the kenkey seller gives her vote every 4 years to expect her life to be  better. What use is education then? How are other jurisdictions doing it? Are they human beings from Mars? If the uneducated kenkey seller sees 24-hour economy as a good idea and looks up to the educated political class who say it is not possible, then education has no value.

We have interlaced partisan politics with everything to the extent that the purpose of national politics which is about national governance and development for the common good of the citizenry has lost its shine. Partisan politics has robbed our mind of its reasoning and we must bow our heads in shame.

As a Santaclausian from Adisadel college, I believe that “others have laboured and we share their glory, ours is to do exploits and add to their gain, so those who come after will take up the story”.  Kwame Nkrumah and others have laboured and we sharing in the glory, what exploits are we doing to add to their gain, so the next generation will take up the story. The 24-hour economy is to add to the gain of our forefathers for the next generation to take up the story.

The UK, London, just started operating a 24-hour Tube service despite the fact that the Tube service has been in existence for decades and the UK we can say are more advanced in the implementation of this 24-hour concept. The implementation of the concept in Ghana will therefore not be a turnkey operation but phased out with sectors, businesses plugging in as and when the enabling environments are being created and enhanced. It is about change management and will take time for all of us to get adjusted. It is a process not an event and will not be completed within 4 years or 8 years. Like I said, London is now implementing a 24-hour Tube service after all this while. We cannot fail the next generation.

  • Digitalization

Digitalization is a means to an end and not an end in itself. An end-to-end (day and night) value chain support system is needed. A 24-hour economy will push digitalization to a higher level of digital transformation where the benefits can be reaped. Without a 24-hour integrated economy digitalization will not generate any synergy for a digital transformation. There should be a planned system 24/7 to plug digital Ghana to the digital world with its different time zones. With a national digital centre running 24/7, the youth can take up remote jobs outside the country by using the centre as their shared office without having to invest in their own ICT infrastructure.

in Ghana, digitalization in banking (e-banking) started over 2 decades ago but with little or no night time back office support to the consumer. No one to contact should you have challenges. Contact centres will have to be created by banks to support customers who choose to do banking transactions after their shift that ends after 5 p.m.

ATMs that support cash deposits have been in the system for a while but most ATMs have that function deactivated. Banks with the needed incentive will need to activate cash deposits by ATMs so customers can make deposits 24/7. This will of course require the assurance of a planned effort to provide the needed security.

  • Comic Relief

There have been certain other views on what the 24-hour economy means which are just for the comics and requires no dignifying. The sad part of it, is not necessarily the message which could have been said in jest but the calibre of the messengers, making it an affront to education. This reinforces the saying by Plato that “If you do not take an interest in the affairs of your government, then you are doomed to live under the rule of fools”.


It cannot be said in any imagination of the mind that the concept of a planned 24-hour economy is not beneficial to any economy let alone Ghana that is struggling with youth unemployment. More labour will be needed to get this done and the reason the organized labour front has embraced it.

It will require a deliberate government action and change management methodologies on a national scale backed by a well-crafted policy framework to nudge private sector players to plug in. The policy framework, must also be backed by an “idiot proof” detailed action plan with activities for each sector of the economy to give a clear indication of the risks to be mitigated and expected outcomes. This should look like a blue print architectural drawing that has to be built. Any builder that looks at it should be able to put the building up.

Things do not just happen they are created. Youth employment cannot just happen; it has to be created. With the current state Ghana finds her economy, it requires not even outside the box thinking but thinking without a box solutions and one of such solutions is the 24-hour economy. We should let it work not for ourselves today but our children and grandchildren. It is a sin qua non for the Ghana we want, not an event but a process.


The author Dr Kofi Anokye Owusu-Darko, is a Certified Management Consultant and Chartered Banker with about 30 years banking experience in senior management positions. (Contact: [email protected])

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