Ghana’s ICT4AD Policy was carefully designed to address critical developmental challenges envisaged for the years ahead. It is therefore imperative that we continue referring to the key strategies outlined within it in our new quest to transform our country digitally. In today’s piece, I will briefly highlight two of the predicted developmental challenges and also look at some of the objectives in revamping our private sector to do more.
There is a challenge with turning the rapidly increasing youth population into national assets for development. The fear that there are no proper initiatives to ensure the youth become skilled to get relevant employment in the economy’s private sector is stronger today.
Most of our youth are running away from technical skill acquisition to concentrate on arts programmes in schools, only to complete and become unemployable. Today, the popular apprenticeship at various SMEs we witnessed in the past is no longer attractive.
Also seen as a challenge at the time of formulating this policy was the disproportionate informal sector. The bulk of the private sector has been informal for many years; however, this is noted as forming about 80% of our economic activities. This bulk has no capacity to absorb large numbers of the youthful unemployed population. So we have the youth chasing the few formal parts of the private sector and the non-existent public jobs.
The policy identified that our private sector is woefully underdeveloped. It also has a large chunk of it being occupied by the informal sector, which has no capacity to create any form of employment for any other person than themselves. This phenomenon therefore results in very low job creation potential for the entire economy.
Interestingly, the policy-framers also recognised that the government sector employment will continue to decline and the growing population of youth finishing school can’t get employment there. If this educated population is not getting jobs to do after school, then we have a real national security problem brewing. So, in setting our socio-economic development agenda, equipping the private sector to be able to create numerous jobs should be a priority.
Today we are digitalising Ghana; but how are we ensuring that the hairdressers’ salons, the seamstresses, the shoe-makers, the welders and the mechanics’ shops are all being equipped to do more? We are clearly not thinking in that direction. We are throwing various digital solutions out there in isolation.
For instance, in deploying the digital address system we can get all these SMEs’ locations mapped in and linked to a big national online portal for business sourcing. As these SMEs grow, they build capacity to take on more hands.
The policy statement
“Government, recognising the critical role that the private sector can play as a key partner in the process of moving Ghana into an information and knowledge economy, is committed to promoting and facilitating the private sector’s role in developing and participating in the Ghana information society and economy.”
Governments over the years have enabled the creation of physical infrastructure for telecommunications and some level of ICT infrastructure. These steps are commendable, but there’s lots more to be done.
However, seeing the Telecom giants such as MTN, Vodafone, AirtelTiGo around should not be mistaken as the entire ICT infrastructure Ghana needs to develop. There is a lot more to do my people, in various sectors of the economy where the largest proportion of the private sector is always engaged.
There is a need to support and ensure the development of knowledge-intensive industry in our bid for an information-based Ghanaian economy.
It is also imperative to develop needed fiscal mechanisms which can help us position ourselves to quickly respond to the now evidently changing needs of the knowledge-based economy.
We should also make it a point to project Ghana to be seen as a favorable destination for huge capital investments in the ICT service sector and its products.
We must encourage Ghanaian ICT products to meet international standards. This will make them competitive globally, thus making them good ICT-product exports for us. mPedigree is a very good example. This solution has been developed to help combat fake forms of everything in our markets today. This ICT solution is making waves in many countries.
So also is the example of the Collateral Registry that was started here in Ghana by Bsystems Limited as the first of its kind in Africa for the BoG. It is now being implemented in other Africa countries. We need more of such products for ICT exports to other parts of the world.
The policy also urges us as a people to take Research and Development seriously. One of our banes as a people is that we don’t like doing thorough research. I have seen this phenomenon even in my own ICT industry here in Ghana. We see research as waste of money and time, so we often deploy solutions that end up solving no problems for us.
In our quest to digitalise Ghana, the agenda to provide sustainable jobs for the growing population of our youth should be a priority. This we can achieve by retooling the informal private sector to be able to employ more of our people. If this digitisation continues to marginalise people, then we really have a national security problem brewing.