“Why some nations are rich and others poor!”

·  Time for Ghana to usher in The Age of Digitisation.

ksi wkshop
A workshop in Kumasi to update principals in ICT

One of the key questions fit for the purpose of education in this age was launched in no better place than in the Ghana Education Service (GES) syllabus. Serving as a preamble, the syllabus charged teachers to consider the reasons “Why some nations are rich and others poor!”

I stand ever ready to give a monumental hug to whoever had the visionary mind to put that gem in the syllabus. In training teachers in Ghana, that query happened to be my very first port of call, knowing darn well that the cognitive abilities of human beings are the same across the continents. It’s all about how each nation chooses to organize their affairs and manage their time, considering that all countries have 24 hours in a day.

Today’s column is the final instalment of Moses Baiden’s classic keynote address at the Ghana CEO Summit 2017, Kempinski Hotel, Accra, 22nd – 23rd May, 2017. Many thanks to readers for the positive responses so far. Baiden’s address follows:

The four industrial revolutions

The 1st industrial revolution in the late 18th and early 19th century saw the shift from a rural agricultural economy to an industrial one. It was the advent of textile, iron, coal and the steam engine. The world economy expanded exponentially and dramatically.

The 2nd industrial revolution took off late in the 19th century and continued into the 20th century: Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone, Thomas Edison’s light bulb and phonography, Thomas Newcomen’s steam engine, the Wright brothers’ plane, and many other inventions created brand new industries.

In these 1st and 2nd industrial revolutions, spanning over 300 years, Africa and Ghana did not participate meaningfully. First, we were busy fighting amongst ourselves, and later selling off our enemies, and sometimes our friends, into slavery for short term profit. The most visible negatives were the inferiority complex and a stigma with our colour that persists up to today!

The 3rd industrial revolution departed from the mechanical, electric and analogue systems, devices, and products; it ushered in the computer age. From the 1980s, this age saw the emergence of personal computers and then the internet, which created the Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) age.

This 4th industrial revolution – the Age of Digitisation – is the mother of all revolutions and will alter the world fundamentally and dramatically. As a country and as businesses we need to carve out a sound vision and be deliberately involved in a major way.

The digital revolution in Ghana

Let me use a familiar cliché – Government has to ‘create the enabling environment’ so that digital companies can be created right here in Africa, in Ghana. Mr. President, the CEOs of this country – and I think I speak for all of us – would like you to declare a new age of enlightenment defined by vision, passion, values, patriotism and the national interest to create an ethical, meritocratic, transparent, professional, digital, open and performance driven environment in Ghana.

This environment must promote the capable, the knowledgeable, the passionate, the hardworking and the diligent; the pursuit of efficiency and productivity will attract the brightest and the best to Ghana and keep them in Ghana to give birth to the great digital entrepreneurs. We have to expand our economy and move it to the first world. Policy, law and education are needed to create the digitised environment and cultivate the minds of our children and adolescents with the right content, discipline and orientation for the 4th Industrial revolution: the digital revolution.

Politre-preneurs and Tender-preneurs

One of the most significant statements that you have made is that your government is open for business and to promote the private sector. Your proclamation that public service is public service – and people wanting to make money should join the private sector and not your government – is new, fresh and significant indeed. An economy that is based on “politre-preneurs” and “tender-preneurs” will not create any lasting value and will in the end leave a legacy of poverty for our children. Digitally constrained economies are deficient, largely because they have yet to establish an ICT ecosystem that can capitalize on the benefits of digitization.

Alas! Ghana is classified as a digitally constrained economy, but we can change this to become a world leader in 10 years. The government must strive to provide this environment or we risk missing the digital revolution. Let us not create a Ghana in which any initiative that is not pre-authorised by the government in power never sees the light of day. If we do, Ghanaian entrepreneurs will simply stop trying. For those that tried, it has been 60 years of – in the words of Etienne Balazs – “endless paperwork and endless harassment”.

Public Private Dialogue

Critical for this digitised economy is a regular collaboration between business and government. The lack of a serious Public Private Dialogue over the past 60 years – to shape and deliver the economic transformation vision for the country – has been an unacceptable omission. Mr. President, your presence here gives us hope and affirms the seriousness that you attach to the role of the private sector and the importance of a public private dialogue to advance our country in creating wealth, expanding our economy and lifting millions out of misery.

(Email: anishaffar@gmail.com)

Digital innovation for national and business growth.

· Moses Baiden’s address at the Ghana CEO Summit, 2017.

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently … Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

Steve Jobs often comes to mind whenever I teach courses or do presentations in “Leadership and Critical Thinking”. Jobs’s remarks form a default mind booster whenever I find myself with a skeptical audience, those so passively contented with the status quo that any idea of change scares the living daylights out of them.

The Digital Revolution

In that vein, how refreshing it was when Moses Kwesi Baiden Jnr of Margins Group mailed me a keynote address he delivered at the “Ghana CEO Summit, Accra” 22nd – 23rd May, 2017. The title was “Digital Innovation Economy for Business Growth: A dialogue on how business and government can work together to foster innovation and expand opportunities”.

Moses Kwesi Baiden, Jnr

He noted that “revolution” in the political parlance and context is a scary word, but its Latin root merely means “to turn around.” He said, “Mr. President, you have asked us not to be spectators in the governance of our country and we hear you. We cannot in this 4th industrial revolution be spectators or sit by to import knowledge and systems wholesale without Ghanaian industry and business’ significant participation. Our companies must invest in knowledge in this 4th revolution to grow wealth here in Ghana and keep it here, and our government must create the environment to promote our companies, based on merit and performance.”

Government and private sector collaboration

In detailing how government and the private sector can collaborate and innovate to benefit from the digital economy, Baiden listed the following key concerns (slightly edited):

  1. National ID and Addressing System

I applaud the government for taking steps to kick-start the national ID project and digital addressing system to create the trust infrastructure so crucial to a modern-day digitisation economy. These two initiatives are critical and key components of a holistic digitisation infrastructure.

  1. E-Government

Government services delivered efficiently and cost effectively to the citizens without frustrations, delays and time wasting and bribes, depend on a fundamental database with individual’s relevant data and biometrics attached to a unique number, from cradle to grave, identifying positively citizens and foreigners and delivering their rights, duties, privileges and obligations due them digitally in real time.

This foundation will usher us into the digitised e-government ecosystem for delivery of government services. Government must partner with the private sector to push for this in order to deliver government services like Passports, Vehicle registrations, Drivers’ license, Taxes, Fines, Land titles, Housing, Local Government, Performance tracking, Health, justice, Elections, Budgeting, Crime detection and prevention – in real time.

  1. E-Commerce

This 4th Industrial revolution whose factors of production are knowledge and brain power more than the traditional Land, Labour and Capital gives us a tremendous opportunity. We can teach our young population, armed with digital devices, to build digital applications that will create the global companies of today and tomorrow and teach our people to scale globally without infrastructure, a phenomenon described in the new business jargon as, INFRASTRUCTURELESS SCALING’ which describes the new digital companies like:

UBER – the biggest taxi company without taxis; GOOGLE – the world’s biggest library with no shelves of books; FACEBOOK – the world’s biggest publisher with no newspapers; AIRBnB – the world’s biggest hotel with no hotel rooms; SNAPCHAT – the world’s biggest photo studio with no cameras.

From Amazon’s retail revolution and Netflix, the world’s biggest movie theatre with no theatres, giant global companies are being built – right under our watch – in university labs and garages with new knowledge and new tools. We can and must harness this opportunity. This knowledge is available in virtual classrooms to all.

Economic impact of digitisation

Ghana can double the digitisation index score for the poorest citizens over 10 years, and move us to the first world in a decade.

According to research, if emerging markets could double the Digitization Index score for their poorest citizens over the next 10 years, the result would be a global US$4.4 trillion gain in nominal GDP, an extra US$930 billion in the cumulative household income for the poorest, and 64 million new jobs for today’s socially and economically most marginal groups. This would enable 580 million people to climb above the poverty line. All aspects of our lives will be significantly improved by digitising our economy.

Mobile and digital money payments, supply chain management, access to capital loans, interest rates, agriculture and commodity exchanges, stock markets, transport business and industrial efficiencies will all be greatly enhanced and this will increase the velocity of economic expansion and wealth creation in our country.

According to the consulting firm Booz Group, digitisation provided an additional US$193 billion to the world economy and 6 million jobs worldwide in 2011. The most advanced economies (North America and Western Europe) accounted for approximately 29 percent of the output gain, but just 6 percent of the employment impact. Emerging economies accounted for 71 percent of the gain in gross domestic product (GDP) and 94 percent of the global employment impact. Booze Group further revealed that an increase of 10 percent in a country’s digitization score fuels a 0.75 percent growth in its GDP per capita.

 [To be continued]

(Email: anishaffar@gmail.com)