Smart City in Accra-Ghana: A Gold Coast again

Accra-Ghana

Looking at the enormous benefit which comes with the development of a smart city, various plans are in place around the world to develop this concept and subsequently implement them in real life, and actually not only in the named First World. India, the second most populous country in the world, has also seen the indispensable benefits of smart cities and has therefore began steps to develop different smart cities in the country. Africa is not left out in the smart cities concept as Kenya and South Africa are all putting measures in place to develop various aspects of their capital cities to meet the smart city standards. The author explain us how is going in Ghana (the old Gold Coast) and why its capital, Accra, is an ideal place for a concept of a smart city. It is not surprising that the mayor of the city won the best mayor in the world in 2015. The city was also nominated to host the first smart city conference in Africa.

 

Ghana is, politically, a shining example of democracy on Africa. After returning to democratic rule in 1992, the country still boasts of having the best democratic system in the continent. The political system has allowed for the formation of various political and economic think tanks and social organizations which give their views on the various government decisions and actions or inactions. Ghana is also an active member of both ECOWAS and Africa Union (A.U.), with the past three presidents all serving as chairmen of ECOWAS. Former president John Agyekum Kufour also served as the chairman of Africa Union during his tenure as president of Ghana.

There is also a growth in the various parts of the country’s economy, chiefly among it is the area of information technology. Currently, job recruitment into various government institutions is done through online applications. The government also delivers electronic, instead of paper pay slips to civil servants, teachers and all professionals on the national payroll. The Electricity Company of Ghana and the Ghana Water Company, the leading utility service providers in the country, also do online billing and other technical services for their clients.

There has also been a national street naming exercise which helps in accessibility and easy location of people and properties, and the near completed national identification card would also help institutions and individuals to easily ascertain the credibility or otherwise of the various people they deal with in the country. Recreationally, there are various parks and club houses for children, students and workers. 

Ghana is a democratic country with a serene political atmosphere which supports general economic and social growth. It has very flexible legal frameworks which support business growth. Businesses in the area of production and exports are given various tax rebate to motivate their operations. 

 

The mayor of Accra won the Best Mayor award in the world in 2015

 

Last year, Accra won the grant of the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge, a concession that will help bring drastic improvement in the social and infrastructural development of the city. Accra was one of four African cities among the 33 cities chosen. IBM’s Smarter Cities Challenge, launched in 2014, is a three-year, US$50 million initiative in which IBM sends teams of experts in a range of disciplines,  using ICTs as a driving tool to help cities formulate strategies for improving the quality of life for their citizens.

To help in trade, the government has put in place various measures to attract and at the same time keep international and national investors into the country. I will discuss three of such policies in this article.

Currently, Ghana as a country has put in place various measures to ensure that it joins other Africa countries to embark on the smart city project. To inspire innovations and improve on development in the country, various bills and policies were introduced and are still in place.

Ghana

 

Three policies

The first policy I will discuss is the Public Private Partnership bill which has been passed into law as a means to ensure:

  • Accelerated delivery of needed infrastructure and public services on time and within budget.
  • Encouraging the private sector to provide innovative design, technology and financing structures
  • Ensuring good quality public services and their wider availability
  • Real financing benefits reflected in reduction in the initial public capital outlay, and a better utilization and allocation of public funds.
  • Economic growth and increased and wider employment possibilities. 

The second institution I will discuss, the Ghana Investment Promotion Council, aims to collect, collate, analyze and disseminate information about investment opportunities and sources of investment capital, incentives available to investors, the investment climate and advise upon request on the availability, choice or suitability of partners in joint venture projects. They are also to formulate investment promotion policies and plans, promotional incentives and marketing strategies to attract foreign and local investments in advanced technology industries and skill-intensive services which enjoy good export market prospects.

The Ghana Free Zone Board as a government organization has been created to provide incentives to investors in the fields of Agro Food Processing (fruits, vegetables and coca), Information & Communication Technology (Data processing and transcription, call centers, software development and computer assembling), Textile/Apparel Manufacturing (including accessories for garment industry and footwear), Sea Food Processing, Jewelry/Handicraft Production, Light Industry/Assembling Plant, Metal Fabrication, and Floriculture. 

 

Some incentives provided to these organizations include: 

  1. 100% exemption from payment of direct and indirect duties and levies on all imports for production and exports from free zones.
  2. 100% exemption from payment of income tax on profits for 10 years which will not exceed 8% thereafter.
  3. Total exemption from payment of withholding taxes from dividends arising out of free zone investment.
  4. Relief from double taxation for foreign investors and employees where Ghana has a double taxation agreement with the country of the investors or employees.

 

Non-monetary incentives include: 

  1. No import licensing requirements.
  2. Minimal customs formalities.
  3. 100% ownership of shares by any investor –foreign or national in a free zone enterprise is allowed
  4. There are no conditions or restrictions on repatriation of dividends or net profit, payments for foreign loan servicing, payments of fees and charges for technology transfer agreements and remittance of proceeds from sale of any interest in a free zone investment.
  5. Free Zone investors are permitted to operate foreign currency accounts with banks in Ghana.
  6. At least 70% of annual production of goods and services of Free Zone Enterprises must be exported, consequently up to 30% of annual production of goods and services of a free zone enterprise are authorized for sale in the local market.
  7. Free Zone investments are also guaranteed against nationalization and expropriation.

 

Ghana has put in place various measures to ensure that it joins other Africa countries to embark on the smart city project

 

ICT in Ghana-Accra

Ghana was the second country in sub-Saharan Africa to have “full Internet access.” In 2000, there were 30,000 Internet users. By 2007, the number of Internet users had increased to 610,000. A year later, there were nearly 1 million. Accra, the capital city, is connected to three submarine cables (Main One, GLO1, SAT-3), which originate in Portugal.

Technology skills are in high demand but few professionals have degrees in technology. Ghana’s universities graduate approximately 300 students in computer science and engineering each year. Nevertheless, the Ghana Multimedia Incubator Centre has helped bridged this gab by promoting ICT Entrepreneurship Development through the incubation of ICT business start-ups and to also develop the much needed ICT skills under the government’s ICT for Accelerated Development (ICT4AD) initiative. Other organizations such as MEST incubator systems, Ispace, and mobile web Ghana, Hub Ghana, mFriday, also help to train more information technology experts in the country. Ghana is a member of the Africa Virtual University and has signed a PPP to support, train and certify students.

As of 2008, there were 997,000 internet users. In 2009, 267,400 individuals had landline telephones and 15.11 million had mobile phones. Tigo Ghana and MTN Ghana, leading telecom service providers in the country have commissioned various billion dollar Data Centres in Accra to augment its mobile voice and data services across the country. There are other companies such as Siemens, Alcatel and Huawei which operate various ICT services to support businesses. Huawei has opened an ultra-modern office in Accra, which will also serve as its West African regional headquarters to serve Liberia and Sierra Leone. In 2009, the search giant Google expanded its operations in Ghana and appointed a country lead in Accra. 

All the above technological improvement in the capital city Accra has positioned the city to attract and improve in the sharing and growth of information between government, private and even quasi business bodies. It keeps the city in a competitive position to attract, keep and help international and local businesses in their growth and sustenance. To add to the information and technological accessibility within the city is the upgrade of the internet provision of the various mobile communications. As it stands now, data service providers such as MTN, Busy, Airtel and Surfline are all into 4G service provision.

 

Business and accommodation in Ghana 

Structurally, Accra is experiencing a massive growth. Research has shown that demand for high-rise living is increasing in Accra, offering a solution to the growing pressure on housing in Ghana’s capital. High rising buildings are built at almost every business operatable part of the city and on a daily basis. Commercial office spaces are being leased in fifteen to seventeen storeys. Heritage towers, Ridge towers, Cedi house and Premier towers are among the magnificent structures in the commercial hubs in the capital city. These structures are built to meet state of the art standards, and already contain or have the capacity to accept most of the most technological improvements in the world of business. They make doing business in the capital city a fun and efficient act.

In addition to the improvement in the ease with which people do business in the capital city, Accra has also seen a massive improvement in shopping. Malls are built and have redefined and shaped shopping, making life in the city more attractive, convenient and loving. In the past fifteen years, various shopping malls, viz: Marinamall, A&C, Accra Mall, Achimota and Teshie Malls and the West hills mall (the biggest shopping mall in west Africa), have made doing business in all parts of the city a little comfortable than before. 

Living in Accra is becoming more luxurious, especially for the middle class elites, as various estate agencies and companies are building, either on their own or in partnerships, various estate “mini towns” and complex residential apartments. Example is the Trasacco estates on the Spintex road and the ACP estates at Pokuase, which serve as accommodation to most local and international businessmen. There are many other residential towers like Chateau towers in Osu. The facilities provided in these apartments including swimming pool, fitness center, convenience shop and restaurant, make them a haven.

Various Hotels and resorts have also been built to meet the growing business nature of the city. The modern Movenpick Ambassador Hotel, Novotel, Kamperski and Golden tulip are a few among the most prestigious housing and leisure centers which have developed in the central part of the town. 

There has also an agreement between by the government of Ghana with Transatlantic BDR, a leading United States developer to build a new $6.5billion Sports, Tourism and Cultural Centre in Ghana. The project is expected to be one of Africa’s most strategic oceanfront attractions.

 

 

 

Transportation

Transportation within Accra is mostly done by road. Commercial vehicles, known locally as “trotro” and taxi cabs are the major means of transportation in the city. Because of the high number of people in the city, there used to be various high traffics in town during early mornings and after close of businesses in the evenings. This problem has been controlled by various governments doing their best to build modern and complex roads at places where the traffic is so high, and the latest of such roads is the George Bush Highways, Achimota Highway and the Kwame Nkrumah interchange. To make transportation easier and cheaper, the state joined in operating a public transport system, the Metro Mass Transit and the Rapid Mass Movement, to help businessmen and other people easily travel to and from the central business parts of the city. 

The state also provides services using train to commute people from Accra to Nsawam, as a means to help ease the congestion in the city. Rail transportation transports not less than two thousand people daily to and fro the city of Accra to other nearby cities. 

Currently, although no so much approved, people are gradually growing love for the services commercial motorbike operators, as this is a faster way of travelling to inaccessible and congested parts of the city. This means of transportation is however not safe for business operations. 

Meanwhile, Accra has been named as the next city to join Uber’s network in Africa. With a thriving urban population, people will have access to efficient transport through the ride-sharing platform.  

 

Media in Accra

Accra has a very robust media landscape. Media practice has gone through a tremendous transformation in terms of growth and the application of technology. With the help of a digital decoder and other service providers, viewers in the city receive close to over hundred (100) television stations. 

There are over hundred FM stations in the same city, and more than fifty (50) newspapers are produced daily. This makes the media very competitive, as it causes various media houses to charge very reasonable price on services whilst at the same time delivering on quality. There are advertisement professional bodies in the city that deliver on international standards and provide a wide publicity for business operators. Advertising has moved from normal posters distribution and are now done using high tech means such as motion and electronic billboards, which are displayed on giant screens throughout the principal streets of the city and beyond. 

The city has also moved from traditional face to face marketing to online marketing which makes it easy for people to reach a large number of people. Currently, there are over twenty online marketing companies with Tonaton and Olx being the leading companies in this business.

 

Education in Accra

Accra as a city can boasts of various schools for various classes of people. The country Ghana has a free basic education for basic schools. Despite this, there is a private participation in the educational development of the city. There are expatriate schools for foreign nationals, which run both the Ghanaian and other international curriculum, such as the British, Canadian and American. Example of these schools is the Lincoln community school, Galaxy international school and the Ghana Lebanon secondary school. The basic and secondary schools are run such that it is easy for a student to be transferred to another school without necessarily getting demoted. 

At the tertiary level, the city of Accra has a polytechnic, three public universities which specialize in almost all courses needed to help in the development of the growing mind. The University of Ghana, one of the public universities, is among the most prestigious on the African continent. There are about ten private universities which also specialize in communication, science and technology, journalism, film and television etc. Recently, various institutions specializing in various computer software developments and other high level tech programs have been established in the city. Accra in a nutshell is a center of education in Africa.

 

Sports and Entertainment 

Serving as the national capital, the city of Accra has all the facilities a modern sporting center needs. Ultra-modern football stadium, the Achimota golf park, the Azuma Nelson and Marcel sporting complexes are all structures in place to help in the development of the sporting needs of the people as well as provide a needed stress free leisure for the people. 

An Atlanta real estate partnership has also announced plans to build what could eventually amount to a $6.5 billion entertainment district anchored by a soccer stadium in Accra. All these will position Ghana to attract more international events and visitors. A coastal area, the city has a stretch and uncountable number of beach resort and very attractive beaches for various forms of exercises, games and relaxation. 

Entertainment in the form of music, drama and movie production is on the ascendancy in the city of Accra. Having formed a friendly relationship with the industry in Nigeria, a nearby English speaking country, the city experiences the release of at least one musical track or video from its most famous genres, hip life and currently dancehall. Various competitions are organized from time to time to expose new acts and those up and coming to the citizens. 

There are numerous night clubs such as Vienna City, Dansterdam and many other clubs which perform good music to the delight of their patrons. Accra thrives mainly on the heels of some of these nice entertainment programs, normally done on weekends at which people distress from the pressures of the week. 

 

Technological improvement keeps the city in a competitive position to attract, keep and help international and local businesses

 

Utility supply 

Electricity supply in the capital city is under the control of Electricity Company of Ghana, and the company supplies more than ninety percent (90%) of the energy needs of the factories, homes and businesses within the city. Despite previous power problems which were bedeviling the country as a whole, a lasting solution has been found to this problem and the city of Accra has a strong and powerful supply of electricity to the various industries, offices and homes. In addition to the services of Electricity Company are private engineering companies such as Anointed Engineering services, who supply plants and generators to augment the power supply of companies.

 

Ghana Water Company also supplies water to domestic and business centers within the city. With their newly installed desolation machines at Teshie, the company makes sure that there is a constant supply of water to all bodies in need of this valuable resource. In addition to the work of the Ghana water company, various borehole drilling companies are within the city to help drill automated boreholes for homes and offices who cannot afford to lose water for even a minute of their operations. These two resources connect all facilities within offices and homes to make life comfortable in the city.

 

Conclusion 

Against these backgrounds coupled with the various institutional, technological and physical networks within the city, it makes it an ideal place for a concept of a smart city. It is therefore not surprising that the mayor of the city,  Alfred Nii Oko Vanderpuye, won the best mayor in the world in 2015. The city was also nominated to host the first smart city conference in Africa. 

 

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GHANA, THE OLD KINGDOM OF ASHANTI 

Ghana is a West African country, bounded on the north by Burkina Faso, on the east by Togo, on the south by the Atlantic Ocean, and on the west by Côte d'Ivoire. Ghana became the first black nation in sub-Saharan Africa to achieve independence from colonial rule in 1957. It has a hot and humid climate in the Southwest and hot and dry in the North. Based on the 2012 population census, Ghana has a population of 24,652,402 (females-51%, males 49), giving the country an overall population density of 78 persons per sq km (201 per sq mi). 

The most densely populated parts of the country are the coastal areas, the Ashanti region, and the two principal cities, Accra and Kumasi. The population of Ghana is divided into some 75 ethnic groups, and the people of the land can be described as one of the most hospitable people in the world. About 37% of the people live in urban cities engaging in various services and secondary production activities.

English is the official language of Ghana and is universally used in schools in addition to nine other local languages. The most widely spoken local languages are Ga, Dagomba, Akan and Ewe. Primary and secondary education is free and compulsory in Ghana between the ages of 6 and 14. In 1996, 76 percent of primary school-aged children were enrolled in school. Secondary schools enrolled just 31 percent of the appropriately aged children. Vocational and teacher-training institutions had 38,000 students. Ghana has a literacy rate of 71.5% of the total population, at the ratio of male-78.3% and female-65.3%.

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ACCRA, MORE THAN A CAPITAL

Accra is the capital and largest city of Ghana, with an estimated urban population of 2.27 million as of 2012. It is also the capital of the Greater Accra Region and of the Accra Metropolitan District, with which it is coterminous. Accra is furthermore the anchor of a larger metropolitan area, the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area (GAMA), which is inhabited by about 4 million people, making it the second-largest metropolitan conglomeration in Ghana by population, and the eleventh-largest metropolitan area in Africa.

Accra stretches along the Ghanaian Atlantic coast and extends northern into Ghana interior. Originally built around a port, it served as the capital of the British Gold Coast between 1877 and 1957. Once merely a 19th-century suburb of Victoriaborg, Accra has since transitioned into a modern metropolis; the city's architecture reflects this history, ranging from 19th-century architecture buildings to modern skyscrapers and apartment blocks for offices and residency.

It serves as the Greater Accra region's economic and administrative hub. It is furthermore a center of a wide range of nightclubs, restaurants, and hotels. Since the early 1990s, a number of new buildings have been built, including the multi-faceted Silver Star towers and Villagio village at the Tetteh Quarshie interchange. 

 

The central business district of Accra contains the city's main banks and department stores, and the Ministries, where Ghana's government administration is concentrated. Economic activities in Accra include the financial and agricultural sectors, Atlantic fishing, and the manufacture of processed food, lumber, plywood, textiles, clothing, and chemicals. Tourism is soon becoming a thriving business for arts and crafts, history cites and local travel & tour agents. 

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   By EMMANUEL K. EDUAM. Managing Director K. Eduam Trading & Investments Ltd.

Smart City in Accra-Ghana: A Gold Coast again

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