This year, Tech in Ghana moved its UK-based event to coincide with London Tech Week, allowing a portion of the 55,000 attendees to get a taste of the Ghanaian tech ecosystem first hand, writes Martin Best, Managing Director at Full Reach.
Those new to Ghana may not appreciate the speed of change in the country nor the degree to which tech-focused services are fueling growth. There’s significant room for expansion in the economy – a young population that ‘skipped’ a tech generation straight to smartphones. The use of mobile money and e-commerce is normal for these consumers and not a ‘thing for tomorrow’. Below GSMA Intelligence lead Kenechi Okeleke talks about some of the reasons why Ghana is on the cusp of a step change in tech:
Below sources: GSMA / HOOTSUITE
With the Ghanaian economy posting some of the fastest growth in the world over the past two years, the government are keen to attract and diversify inward investment into the economy. At Tech in Ghana Accra in November 2018 (lead pic above), Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) CEO Yofi Grant stated: ‘We’re looking to make Ghana the best place to do business – technology is critical to our economy and we need to focus on it even more going forwards.’
3 REASONS WHY GHANA IS WINNING IN TECH
1. GHANA IS SEEING ITS ‘WEAKNESSES’ AS A TECH OPPORTUNITY
It may look small on the map but try getting across the country and you’ll see that for many rural inhabitants, accessing services is no easy matter. This geographical isolation leads to poverty and low growth. Agriculture employs over 40% of the population but represents only 18% of GDP in 2017 (down 14% points since 2009). Farming is riven by low productivity, and high costs of non-farming related expenditure. Weather patterns, yield optimisation and market prices are all ‘luxury’ items beyond the reach of many. Most of these smallholder farmers live and work in remote rural communities that have poor internet connectivity, poor road networks and low levels of education.
Step forward Farmerline, which combines digital technology with 200+ field agents who deliver information and resources to smallholder farmers. They aim to help farmers increase productivity and yield, generate more profit and build sustainable businesses. They do this by offering inputs such as location-specific weather forecasts, market prices and good agricultural practices suited for the specific crops they grow; all made available through mobile voice messages in the farmer’s preferred local language. All this information is managed and shared from their bespoke Mergdata platform. The platform creates digital profiles for farmers which allows them to receive value-added services such as receiving inputs and advice on credit. This gives farmers immediate access to farming inputs which they can pay for at a later date.
‘Mergdata offers decentralized traceability, certification audit, farm mapping, farmer education, and analytics solutions to help organisations that work with farmers achieve their sustainability and food security goals efficiently,’ says Amos Olerty Wussah, Senior Consultant at Farmerline.
‘We’ve collected insights from 200,000+ farmers in 13 countries and mapped over 1m acres of farmland. Over the next three years, Farmerline plans to leverage technology to connect over 126,000 farmers in Ghana to extension services. We also have an ambitious goal of reaching and transforming the lives and work of 1.3 million farmers directly and through partnerships by 2023.’
2. GHANA IS A LEADING TECH NATION NOT JUST A DEVELOPING ONE
Those who haven’t been to Ghana might not realise how easy it is to get by without touching physical cash; mobile money can suffice in everything from taxis to school fees. Beyond the mass consumer tech jump is also a movement to modernise how SMEs operate. Once such example is Jetstream, a cloud-based web platform which consolidates international freight shipments and cross-border shipping.
African SMEs pay the highest rates globally to import and export cargo in shipping containers. Often, they have no visibility into basic things like transit times, landed costs, and the physical whereabouts of their shipments. What they cannot see, they cannot control. When it comes to the unglamorous work of moving physical goods from A to B across borders, there is a fundamental lack of coordination between the thousands of customs agents, shipping lines, freight forwarders, and truckers who comprise cross-border supply chains in Africa.
Jetstream’s tech platform, combined with real-world coordination with third-party logistics providers in Africa (customs agents, shipping lines etc.) is designed to solve the SME’s entire logistics problem; being the only point of contact they need when trading across borders. With Jetstream, B2B cross-border trade from Africa is converging with eCommerce logistics.
‘A farmer or factory owner in Africa shouldn’t have to become an expert in tariff rates and sailing schedules in order to move five tonnes of dried cassava from Ghana to Malaysia, or to buy fertilizer from India for example,’ says Miishe Addy Co-founder and CEO at Jetstream Africa (pictured below).
‘We create that level of convenience and transparency by putting the fragmented pieces of the supply chain together. You book a shipment on our online platform the same way you would book an airline ticket. You give us details about where your cargo is going, where it is from, and the info we need to clear it through customs. Jetstream then takes that online information and dispatches orders to our network of third-party logistics providers – from customs agents to shipping lines — who physically execute the shipment.’
Based in Accra, Jetstream report to have two million kilograms of cargo in their pipeline from their HQ in Ghana; with a view to expanding their physical footprint to Lagos and other African port cities by 2020.
3. DIGITISING TRADE MEANS MORE THAN OFFERING AID
Some were taken aback in 2017 when newly elected President Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo declared Ghana as ‘moving beyond aid’, but this mindset has placed Ghana on the side of reform and a growing belief in economic self-determination.
This sentiment is shared by many of the country’s entrepreneurs, such as Founder and CEO Samuel Tettey Amanor (pictured below) who runs BlueSPACE Africa Technologies in Accra. Thanks to the recently signed AfCFTA trade treaty, the company will create a linkage with Banks/Insurance/and Trade partners to spur growth on the continent; increasing cross-border payments & FX businesses for companies in Ghana and across Africa.
‘How can it be that intra-African trade is only 12%, when intra-EU trade is at 68% for example?’ Samuel says. ‘Those walls and restrictions are coming down and technology is driving that based on the landmark political decision to work together across the continent. With our BlueSPACE (BlueTRADE Platform), we’re fully supporting the aim of increasing intra-African trade by as much as $35 billion per year by 2022 as stated in the last meeting BlueSPACE represented with IMF officials.
52 of 55 nations across Africa have now signed the treaty and this is allowing entrepreneurs to see their own region in a new light. At a company level, it addresses the challenge of a business operator exporting goods to an African counterpart with an average rate of protection of around 12.4% compared to 8.4% when exporting overseas.
Ghana still has a long walk ahead. Countries such as Malaysia and South Korea have all found the ‘middle income trap’ a challenge to navigate with mixed success. But with a bullish, young and educated population, a proven democracy and an ever-more-influential diaspora the ingredients are there for greater diversification of the economy.
Founder of Tech in Ghana, Akosua Annobil is keen to widen the interest in Ghana from the diaspora to the mainstream Tech scene – and London Tech Week offers that visibility. She says: ‘What might surprise many observers is how international the Tech in Ghana event is. By holding this year’s event within London Tech Week, we’ve seized the opportunity to further internationalise and widen participation.
‘Whether you’re an American based Venture Capitalist or a European tech start up looking to expand, our event is a window to an economy that is booming, and sincerely pushing the tech agenda in both the public and private sectors. Ghana is a entry point to a continent that offers stability among a whole region of growth. It’s tech-based businesses that offer many of the solutions to unlocking those opportunities in the coming years, which is why this event is so important.’
Farmerline, Jetstream Africa, and BlueSPACE Africa will be at Tech in Ghana London on Monday 10th June.
Martin Best is a London-based global Fintech expert and the Managing Director of Full Reach, a strategic and creative marketing agency based in London and Copenhagen. Visit FullReachGlobal.com