An analysis of some key factors towards Ghana’s socioeconomic development
The question of development has engaged many scholars over the years. As an ardent observer and involved in the analysis of policies pertaining to Development Economics and followed the field over the years with great interest and enthusiasm, I am always intrigued by the question “development”, that is, why are some countries developed, whiles others are not.
Two of the renowned scholars in the field of Development Economics – Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, sees “development as freedom”, or in terms of the ” Human Development Index “, while Nobel laureate, Joseph Stiglitz in his book “Making Globalization Work” argues that, “development is about the transformation of the lives of people, not just transforming economies.
For Dan Buettner in the “Blue Zones of Happiness” he emphasizes that, development is realised when the population is happy and experiences the fullness of life.
On the other hand, Ban Ki-moon indicates that, when we talk about development, ” we need to go beyond gross domestic product as our main measure of progress, and fashion a sustainable development index that puts people first”. (Former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon- Remarks to the High-level Delegation of Mayors and Regional Authorities, New York, USA, 23rd April 2012).
While, David Cameron sees development in terms of the improvement in people’s welfare and argues that, “It’s time we admitted that, there is more to life than money, and it’s time we focus not on GDP but GWB- General Wellbeing”. (at the Google Zeitgeist Europe Conference in May 2006).
For, Angel Gurria development should be seen in terms of how government policies lead to the improvement in the quality of life of people. Thus, Angel Gurria argues that “Improving the quality of our lives should be the ultimate target of public policies. But public policies can only deliver best fruit if they are based on reliable tools to measure the improvement they seek to produce in our lives “. (OECD Secretary- General Angel Gurria in his introductory remarks at OECD Forum 2011, First Session on Measuring Progress on 24 May 2011 in Paris, France).
And the Former President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy also sees development in terms of the transformation of the living conditions of people. Sarkozy says, “Nothing is more destructive than the gap between people’s perception of their own day-to-day economic wellbeing, than what politicians and statisticians are telling them about the economy”. (French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the unveiling of the Stiglitz Report in Paris on 14 September 2009).
On my part, I have looked at development with many questions. I have observed that, although freedom, high GDP indicators, improvement in wellbeing and happiness are important to development, they have not answered effectively why some countries have freedoms, high levels of happiness and wellbeing but have not been able to make a great leap into the 21st Century – they lack in areas like advanced skills, infrastructure, ecommerce, work ethics, finance and leadership development which are essential ingredients for growth and progress. It appears then, that, the old ways of looking or analyzing development are failing.
In his book “In the Defense of Liberal Education”, Fareed Zakaria presents cogent arguments for his position and makes the case for why liberal education is important. He argues that, liberal education provides the platform for unifying the forces of production in any given industry. Whilst, this may be true, the skill sets the liberal arts education provides appear to be inadequate for modern day firms or organizations. It appears, many institutions or organizations are increasingly relying on added training for many university graduates of the liberal arts to be good fit for these firms and corporations. For example in Ottawa, Algonquin College has become very important College for University graduates to gain post graduate education and training in a number of skills areas, which the regular University liberal Arts and Social Science programs do not cover but are needed in the work place urgently. Some of these critical skill areas are: – database management, database administrator, computer gaming and programming, web design, registered practical nurse, youth counselors, addiction specialists, paralegals, event planners, coding specialists, electricians, chefs, police officers, fire fighters, paramedics, etc.
It is imperative that, the liberal Arts and some Social Science programs need to be re-evaluated to ascertain their direct relevance to the workplace. If students cannot work after graduation because of what they studied at the university, then what is their relevance to the production process and development? How will they develop or improve their skills if they cannot work effectively in the workplace because their university training has not given them the requisite skills for the jobs they are doing or engaged in?
In Ghana, this realization has dawned on policy makers about how the educational system and university training has not had great impact on the production process, skills development and technical expertise and advancement needed by various industries.
But, another big question is whether, the training programs and course content available at the moment are adequate enough to overcome the structural imbalances that have existed over the years.
In this regard, former Polytechnic Institutions in Ghana have been given added momentum by being named as Technical Universities and whether these changes have provided the advance technical expertise that brings in high skills training and advance courses is difficult to tell. But certainly, one could possibly argue that, there is still a huge technical and knowledge gap.
The lack of adequate infrastructure across board in many sectors of the economy has been a huge drawback to our march forward toward growth and advancement. Poor infrastructure in terms of roads, railways, ports and harbour, transportation, medical facilities, telecommunication systems, factories, industries, courts, research agencies/institutions, supply chain systems, water, power, etc. Where there is infrastructure depravity as is the case in Ghana, economics of scale is absent, raising the unit cost of production. This is why Ghana and many countries around the globe buy from China as their unit cost of production is low. In terms of price, it is hard to compete where cost of production is high. Until we (Ghana) get our infrastructure right where power is cheap, it’s supply is regular, water is readily available for domestic and industrial consumption, roads are efficient to quickly transport goods and services from one area to the other, telecommunications is advanced and efficient, we will not be able to reduce our unit cost to make our goods and services less expensive but of high quality. Until we overcome these challenges, we will not be able to compete effectively in this globalized world.
In his book “21 lessons for the 21st Century” Yuval Noah Harari argues that with the increased speed toward advanced technologies, those without the necessary skills will find it hard to compete in the 21 century. The question therefore is will Ghana be able to embrace these rapid changes in technologies and make a great impact in data utilization, computation, data analysis, data mining, automation, artificial intelligence and bring about great economic integration and rejuvenation. At the current pace of technological skills development, this achievement is questionable.
Ecommerce has become a very important tool for trade, business advertisement, business transactions and expansion in the modern economy. Unfortunately, in Ghana, internet connectivity which facilitates the easy use of ecommerce tools is poor or at its developmental stages. This makes it more difficult for firms and businesses in Ghana to connect with other companies in Ghana and Internationally to transact businesses and work on projects effectively, although one could argue that, the establishment of the e-ZWICH system has facilitated some business transactions through “Mobile Money” and PayPal System. Nevertheless, this calls for more government Investment in telecommunication infrastructure and expansion, increased development in fibre optics and spectrums that can improve internet connectivity and availability for businesses, institutions, agencies and consumers at a low cost.
Venture capital to facilitate big, new, creative and advanced technological projects that could drive real industrial growth, effective production and help improve the use of new technologies is lacking in Ghana. The few venture capital companies in Ghana struggle to raise funds to support these massive projects. Government support in this area is lacking or inadequate, although the Export Promotion Council has been making frantic efforts to bridge the gap in this area. Thus, the lack of quick and easy access to venture capital affects exploration and expansion into new technologies. However, government can play a major role in this process by providing support, the climate and platform for businesses in these new industries to thrive.
That said, it is thought that, where there could be some amount of private-public partnerships, an appreciable level of venture capital financing could be available in Ghana. This could possibly lead to the expansion of businesses and improvement in the use of advanced technologies that could be beneficial to the greater expansion of the economy, growth of the financial sector and businesses in general.
One of the greatest problems that has frustrated the industrial development of Ghana over the years has been poor leadership. Since Independence, Ghana has not followed a consistent plan for development and industrial growth. Our first president, Kwame Nkrumah largely followed a socialist system with the establishment of many state owned enterprises. This was abandoned by Busia and his regime which tried to follow a market oriented system but was not able to establish a reliable private sector to drive the economy. The military governments of the 1970s and the 1980s tried a mixed system of government with different industrial strategies yet not much was achieved. The 1990s and 2000s saw great amount of structural adjustment programs supported by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, yet again, industrial growth and development did not match the pace of industrial expansion needed by the country to meet its growing industrial, economic and technological needs. At best, the country has been termed as a middle income country, yet the gains from such development status has not reflected very positively in the living conditions of ordinary Ghanaians. This does indicate that, leadership has been poor since Independence. The affairs of the country have not been directed in such a way as to generate the level of economic growth and robust economy that is favourable to a majority of its citizens. Hence, it has become quite clear that, the lack of effective leadership over the years has been a big problem to the positive transformation of the country.
Work Ethics is very important to the production process. And where Work Ethics is poor, production suffers greatly. In Canada, where I live, Work Ethics is very high and productivity is equally high. Even in fidget temperatures, say minus 30 degrees, people still make it to work. No excuses are made. But in comparism to Ghana, when there are weather changes, say heavy rainfall, workers take advantage of the situation and make excuses and do not report for work. This reduces the level of productivity, performance and output. Workers in the government sector in Ghana are particularly guilty of this. Thus, production is low and revenue generating capacity is poor and effective planning and income projections for development programs are greatly affected. In addition to this, corruption and the challenging government bureaucratic processes slow down the pace of many vital development initiatives and frustrate progress.
From the above mentioned points, it is possible to conclude that, Ghana’s poor development and growth could likely be attributed to low skills development, poor work ethics, low level of infrastructure, almost nonexistent ecommerce, inadequate finance, poor venture capital and inefficient leadership to help coordinate resources and drive the economy into an industrial power house and a more developed nation.
It is therefore, necessary that, if Ghana is to have a great leap into the 21century, then, the dynamics or the fundamentals of the economy need to change quickly with more advanced skills, new infrastructure development, good work ethics, improved ecommerce, increased availability of finance and strategic leadership. This is possible, it is Ghana’s to behold for we are bold, strong and free and above all, a determined nation fighting hard to succeed.
It should be noted that, other factors like the mindset of people, culture, business ethics, judicial system, health, pandemic (Coronavirus), trade relations, security and environmental conditions all have great effects on the growth and development of a nation.
By Kordson Kwasi Ayrakwa
(BA, MA, MAIBA, MAGID)
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect The Chronicle’s stance.