Interview: Kwabena Akyeampong
What can be done to improve access to broadband networks and ICT, and to what extent are private sector players involved in developments?
KWABENA AKYEAMPONG: Since its inception 10 years ago, GIFEC has only put up 51 masts and towers across the country. In the near and medium term, this figure must increase dramatically. For under-served rural communities that do not have a network or a telephone system, a mast is constructed within the scope of the rural telephony project. Ghana’s largest mobile provider, MTN, was welcomed because its plans to build 75 additional masts came at no cost to GIFEC. Public-private partnership (PPP) initiatives are also expected to boost connectivity in rural areas.
A collaboration between MTN and Swedish firm Ericsson is bearing fruit, and the former is also partnering with China’s Huawei to allocate 70 more masts. Over the next two to three years, through the Rural Telephony Project, the number of masts should exceed 300. Other foreign investors include Denmark’s BLUETOWN, which is in Ghana to do a feasibility project. Following the study, the company may enter into a PPP with GIFEC to improve rural telephony, a project which BLUETOWN would fund. As such, the private sector recognises that the $37m government-built very small aperture terminal (VSAT) hub project, which collates all calls so that they reach Ghana at the same time, makes for an attractive investment that is mutually beneficial.
What sort of reforms might help bring down the cost of access to broadband?
AKYEAMPONG: Currently, if telecoms companies want to connect through a cellular site in a rural community, they have to build their own systems. This is quite expensive for most companies if the community is very small and cellular traffic is low. These telecoms firms simply need to configure their systems so that they can run them through GIFEC’s hub, which reduces the cost of servicing rural communities from an infrastructure point of view. Universal access to internet and telecoms services is then guaranteed for two years and renewed at the end of that period. Over the next two to three years, Ghana will be challenged to increase 4G LTE connectivity, as only MTN has a telecoms licence for the technology. The best-case scenario will see Ghana graduate to the next generation, 5G, in 2022 or 2023.
How can Ghana increase foreign direct investment (FDI) in critical ICT market infrastructure?
AKYEAMPONG: Assuring foreign investors that they will have access to the VSAT hub, which drastically reduces their capital and operating expenditure, will draw FDI towards Ghana’s ICT sector. Being one of the first countries in sub-Saharan Africa to have the infrastructure necessary for reliable internet access, Ghana has refined the niche ICT services it provides over the past 20 years. Despite the infrastructure and technology present, the population still needs to utilise these services in significant numbers.
For example, markets in Kenya and Rwanda have access to a larger block of East African users, and because sizeable FDI inflows have occurred in the recent past, the right conditions are present for the ICT sector to flourish. Despite starting ahead of these countries in the mid-1990s, Ghana has lagged behind in certain ICT metrics and now needs to catch up. Mimicking these East African markets could help show other ECOWAS member states that Accra could act as a legitimate West African centre for ICT.
The potential for an ECOWAS hub to be based in Accra is possible, it simply needs to be acted on through the actions of PPPs, regulatory bodies and entrepreneurs, and with the assistance of foreign investors. Another major component of infrastructure improvements in 2017 will be the implementation of the Western Corridor Fibre Optic backbone.
Read More from OBG
Highlights from The Report: Ghana 2022
Marking 10 years of Oxford Business Group’s coverage of the country, The Report: Ghana 2022 details how the West African nation navigated the Covid-19 pandemic crisis and has emerged in a position of comparative strength. A number of measures have been taken to balance government revenue and spending, and the country remains a safe haven for foreign direct investment, which stood at $830m in the first half of 2021. As such, Ghana’s economy is forecast to expand …
Leading the way: The widespread rollout of 5G in the GCC is unlocking productivity gains, helping Kuwait meet its long-term economic goals
With connectivity widely recognised as a key driver of the post-Covid-19 economic recovery, the GCC countries are poised to expand their 5G networks and in turn increase the value of the region’s ICT industry. 5G in the GCC Kuwait’s 5G strategy is part of the wider digital ambitions laid out in New Kuwait 2035 of accelerating digital development to attract foreign investment, laying the foundations of a sustainable economy and stimulating domestic growth. Kuwait launched its commercially av…
Tirer parti de la richesse souveraine de Djibouti pour stimuler le développement économique
In English Harry van Schaick, Directeur Éditorial - Afrique d'Oxford Business Group, s'entretient avec Slim Feriani, PDG du Fonds souverain de Djibouti (FSD), sur le climat d'investissement du pays, l'amélioration de la gouvernance et la Vision 2035. Djibouti s'attelle à diversifier son économie dans tous les secteurs, y compris le transport maritime, le tourisme, les services financiers et l'économie numérique, grâce à l'utilisation d'un modèle de type PPP avec d…
“High-Level Discussions are Under Way to Identify How We Can Restructure Funding For Health Care Services”
Popular Sectors in Ghana
Popular Countries in ICT
Recent Reports in Ghana