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13 things Accra must have in order to become a global technology winner

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Tom McDonnell (CEO of monterosalondon, TV & Sports fan interaction specialists), who calls Accra his second home,  shares some interesting insights into the city of Accra from nightlife to art, music, football, food, transportation, eduction and more. 

In the feature, he also points out 13 things Accra needs to address to win at tech. They include:

  1. Fast, Cheap, Easy company registration. It is frankly ridiculous that setting up a company takes more than a few hours. Ghana must compete with the best countries for efficiency and make it possible to register a company within a day, ideally for free and done online. This has the added benefit of providing quantified data and tax receipts. Many people simply can’t be bothered and trade informally, reducing tax revenues.
  2. Fast visas on arrival, and fast visas for talented employees. Not having visa on arrival might be a “tit for tat” measure against western countries, but it’s hindering freedom of doing business. Any tech business who can prove they’re struggling to hire locally should have the right to bring people in when needed.
  3. Faster, more reliable internet. The fibre capacity is not bad but it needs to be much much better. I understand that various companies including Google, Facebook and Vodafone are all working on this, but it needs to happen fast.
  4. Reliable power. What a topic for Ghanaians. Dumsor (“On and off”) is the name of chronic electricity outages over the last few years and a major contributor to the downfall of the previous government. Ghana has a lot of gas (burned off at sea), and even more sunshine. Surely Ghana should be solar powered, not relying on coal ships. This needs to be fixed, now, or nobody in their right mind will setup a new business in Accra. Could someone call Elon Musk? There’s a deal to be done.
  5. More software engineering training facilities and education. Learning to code is not about doing a degree, it’s not about pieces of paper, it’s about actually learning to code. Those of us who code mostly learned from a very young age. My aunty taught me BASIC when I was 8.
  6. World-class healthcare facilities. Healthcare in Ghana is generally terrible. God forbid you have an accident and need treatment after dark, or have a serious condition and don’t get lucky. We’ve all lost close friends and family due to poor healthcare and the time has come to shake things up. Ghana needs to radically improve its state hospitals, improve the national heath insurance scheme, and to setup a mini version of Dubai’s Healthcare city for private healthcare to attract international staff and returning Ghanaians. Why would I come back home to Ghana with my young family if I can’t trust they will be well looked after? This is key.
  7. A “returnees” package. China has this locked down — if you’re a highly qualified, talented Chinese scientist or tech person and want to go back and start a business in one of their tech zones, they will make it worth your while. Ghana created some of the smartest minds, but many left Ghana long ago. As I said before, most Ghanaians would love to come home. My uncle is a top US government advisor on silicon chips — he lives in DC and Ghana needs him back. Getting him back means incentives, great housing, healthcare and of course, a well paid rewarding job.
  8. Modern, fun working environments. There is no reason why Ghana cannot have dynamic, beautiful technology parks like those in Silicon Valley, London, Berlin or Dubai. In fact, Ghana should aim to do them better.
  9. Leisure and sports facilities. Innovation can be mentally energetic but quite physically static. Providing top class sports and leisure facilities: tennis courts, football pitches and gyms is crucial to attracting the best talent.
  10. Safe food. Food tastes great in Ghana, but food preparation standards are patchy. They must be enforced so that visiting clients, staff or others can enjoy themselves without the worry.
  11. Tax incentives. While Ireland’s strategy of offering low corporation tax to American IT companies is flawed, it does attract big businesses and create jobs. Exchanging significant tax reductions for investment in innovation and local training could make a tremendous social and economic impact and speed up relocation or establishing innovation centres. Ultimately it will lead to greater tax receipts, it should be a no-lose situation.
  12. Access to public and private sector piloting. For new businesses, having real-world reference customers is critical. Through a combination of formal and informal introductions, schemes and workshops, pairing new ideas with businesses and public institutions (e.g. hospitals, tax offices), that need them, can help those that are destined to fail, fail faster; and those that can succeed, succeed quicker. Ultimately Ghana should stop hiring big American or UK businesses to deploy government systems, and hire local. More employment, more knowledge, more taxes, more people to learn and start businesses.
  13. Access to both capital, and companies to acquire! Informal investment from private “angels” is relatively common already, but seed and growth capital is hard to come by. The UK’s “EIS” scheme allow wealthy individuals to invest their cash with the ability to write-off losses and pay lower rates on gains. Along with R&D tax credits, effectively government hand-outs to companies that invest in building IP, it has significantly stimulated investment in UK businesses. There should be a version of this for Ghana to attract local and foreign high net worth individuals. But to invest in a business, funds want to see an exit; that means stimulating an eco-system of businesses that are ready to buy. So while enticing capital is important, so is enticing the big businesses that can afford to acquire tech companies that they can utilise or scale up globally.
Do you agree, share your views]]>