Interview: Roland Agambire
How competitive is Ghana as a base for value-added production in consumer electronics?
ROLAND AGAMBIRE: One can say that the perception within the industry has changed and people are realising new opportunities coming within the sector. It is true that earlier on people would have never thought that local ICT manufacturing could have a significant impact on the country’s economic development, but this perception has changed. What first needed to be done was to create the necessary structure, starting with an adequate human resource base, followed by agreements in this industry to form alliances with mutual benefits.
If we are developing software, the product should be exported to the rest of the world, instead of focusing solely on the African market. A good starting strategy will be to create applications that will not only serve Ghanaian market needs, but which serve the global consumer. Our partnership with Microsoft was based on the fact that in future the company will have access to our software. Alliances of this nature are pushing Ghanaian companies to meet international standards, so it is indeed possible for Ghanaian developers to be competitive on a global scale. When it comes to the production of hardware we can observe a similar trend. Localisation with regard to hardware assembling in fact lowers the final cost of the product, making it more affordable to serve the lower end market. Africa has the raw materials to produce ICT products, it is now a matter of partnering with the right global players and shifting production to African countries.
How do you think demand in West Africa for electronics will evolve over the medium-term?
AGAMBIRE: In the medium term, more young people are becoming increasingly sophisticated in terms of technology advancement. This will help a lot of them to begin to create appetite for more electronic gadgets. African children want an alternative in life. Poverty still hinders higher penetration rates for electronics, as affordability is an issue. With increasing economic activity and a rise in middle income levels, we are seeing consumers’ disposable incomes changing, especially when a country moves from a low-income to a middle-income country. We have seen a growing number of sales of computers, so the market has increased in terms of size, and we expect to see a lot of growth through cheaper products like tablets.
What sort of supply chain issues do manufacturers in Ghana need to keep in mind?
AGAMBIRE: One factor that hasn’t been fully taken advantage of is that Ghana is positioned in the centre of the world, meaning that you can get to any part of the world within the shortest possible time, ranging from six hours to the US and seven hours to the Middle East.
This fact itself should make Ghana a natural place for distribution, and the country is preparing for that development through airport and port expansion plans. Supply chain issues will become a lot easier for producers who wish to export their goods and services. Also, cheap labour is abundant and there is a focus on research and development, which will result in less expensive production and assembly procedures. That is where the opportunity of Hope City lies in, bringing the top ICT world players together and exporting to the rest of the world. It will certainly have positive spillover effects on other sectors. We expect to see high investments in the ICT sector over the next three years.
To what extent are electricity costs a concern for the development of industry?
AGAMBIRE: Ghana has been facing an electricity problem for the past six months but the government is working hard to resolve those issues. One has to understand that lifestyles are changing and new businesses are emerging, so electricity providers are facing a challenge to keep up with the rise in consumption levels.
In the medium to long term, the government must address factors such as population growth and changing consumer patterns, which they are now doing.
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