Ghana goes big on ICT to drive economic growth By FRANCIS KOKUTSE in Accra | Monday, March 11   2013 at  10:42

Ghana's well-oiled plan to make the west African country a regional ICT hub and grow its economy is already paying huge dividends, with investors responding enthusiastically.

Local technology manufacturer, RLG, has in a technology partnership with Microsoft Corporation started the construction of a $10 billion technology centre, one of Ghana's biggest projects.

Dubbed HOPE City, it is located near the capital Accra and is intended to serve as an ICT hub for the rest of Africa.

HOPE City, an acronym for “Home Office People and Environment “ is the brainchild of Mr Roland Agambire, chief executive of RLG Communications.

The technology city fits snugly into the government’s attempt to use public-private partnerships to develop the sector.

Projected to be complete in three years, the centre is made up of six towers to be linked together by a system of bridges at different heights.

One of the towers will have 75 storeys--the highest in Africa--while two will have 60 storeys each and the remaining three 42 storeys each.

When completed, some 25,000 people will be housed there with about 50,000 people working there.

"HOPE City will be positioned to become the business destination of choice for local and foreign investors. It will become the sub-regions premier business location for high performance computing, advanced communications and large-scale data handling,” said Mr Agambire.

Infrastructure

The Ghana government is playing its role in the development of the required backbone to support such projects.

President John Dramani Mahama told law makers last month that the laying of a 600-kilometre rural-urban fibre optic broadband infrastructure from Ho in the eastern Volta Region to Bawku in the Upper East Region in the north has started.

In addition, President Mahama said, the government has set up the Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communications (GIFEC) and is using the “Connect School Initiative” to connect all 38 Teacher Training Colleges to the Internet.

It has already supplied at least 20 computers, along with the required peripherals such as UPS, printers, projectors and scanners to help support ICT training.

The ministry of communication is also supervising the connection of 26 Government-Assisted Technical Institutes to the Internet with similar supplies of ICT equipment as well as connecting 37 vocational training institutes to the internet.

Government officials say these projects are not isolated as they are intended to complement the national e-government project.

China support

The overall objective, communications minister Dr Edward Omani Boamah said, was to make "ICT one of the key drivers of national development."

Dr Boamah said the e-government network is a turn-key project under a cooperation agreement between the government and the Peoples Republic of China, which is providing $127 million.

"It is being implemented to ensure that improved network connectivity provide better access to health care and health information, opportunities for education and training, transportation, protection of environment and management of natural resources."

The ministry of communication is also helping companies to seriously take up Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) which has seen rapid growth in the past five years.

This has created IT-Enabled Services (ITES)  jobs as well. Finance minister Seth Tekper said in his 2013 budget statement that, currently, the ITES sector provides about 2,000 jobs, adding that, “Ghana’s potential to become a significant player in this niche market is recognised as being enormous, and is yet to take off."

RLG has also set in motion a training programme for thousands of young people to create jobs in the repair of ICT equipment.

Export tech

The company has also taken its training beyond Ghana by signing a deal with the Osun state government in Nigeria to train young people to repair mobile phone handsets.

The training programme in Nigeria is part of Mr Agambire’s dreams to export technology across the globe.

“What we are seeking to do with HOPE City is to collaborate with Microsoft in a new initiative to create economic opportunities for 300 million youth in Africa between 15-24.

He added that "the initiative is planned to actively engage Africa’s economic development to improve its global competitiveness while equipping the beneficiary youth with relevant start-up skills to enable them drive sustainable economic growth.”

Mr Agambire said the city would create an opportunity for young people to be part of local and global economy and have total access to knowledge.

ased on this, HOPE City is planned not only to serve as a business centre, but also has a knowledge centre, a university and is expected to accommodate 5,000 ICT students, with about 100 professors and 50 staff, with lecture halls, dining halls, libraries and common spaces.