Enhancing the economy through digitalisation

It has now become inevitable for Ghana to change the dynamics of the economy. This has become essential considering its precarious economic position, which demands a pragmatic blueprint to facilitate a transition to a formal economic activity.

The blueprint should have the capacity to ensure the well-being of all Ghanaians and guarantee social stability and cohesion.

Research has proven that policy initiatives around the world have no universal policy framework, but rather a set of approaches that can be combined and adapted to each specific country’s context.

Additionally, experts have postulated that formalisation is not an event, which occurs in a moment, but a process, which involves several phases.

Perhaps, it is in line with this that the Vice President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, giving his keynote address at the maiden national policy summit held at the Accra International Conference Centre in May last year, outlined three major strategies government had adopted to formalise the economy.

The Vice President told the summit participants that plans were far advanced to issue national ID cards, provide digital addresses for all residences, and to ensure an interoperability of the telecom and financial sectors of the economy.

These strategies have been packaged in phases, to systematically address the challenges that have strained the socio-economic transformation of the country, to bring relief to the suffering masses and put the country in a middle income status.

Processes to formalise the economy have since been set in motion, following the launch of the National Digital Property Addressing System (NDPAS), popularly called GhanaPostGPS, last October with the objective of providing every location in Ghana with a unique digital address.

Ghana Post has partnered a Ghanaian technology company, Vokacom, and the Ministry of Communications to ensure the successful roll out of the system.

The benefits that will accrue to government, particularly in revenue collection, and to the business community in Ghana with the introduction of the system seem too attractive to be ignored, as I listened attentively to Gideon Kyemanu Sarsah, Chief Operating Officer and Edwina Awuraba Andrews, Human Resource & IT Director at Vokacom on the sideline of a function I attended in Accra recently.

“The advantages are very enormous. In fact, the digital address is going to become the way of life of how the country does business,” they said. For instance, whilst all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) as well as local government agencies can use it for planning purposes, municipalities and district assemblies can also employ it to value properties.

As they spoke about the system having the capacity to facilitate collection of levies and property rate for local government agencies, they expatiated that the NDPAS can also make it easier to share one’s property address.

Central government can rely on the system to do unhindered revenue mobilisation to achieve its target, because the addressing system will also create a database of businesses for a more improved and systematic means of tax collection as each business will be registered.

“With registered businesses on the system, it provides easy location of addresses, which will reduce risk for businesses to access loans, reduce cost of doing business and invariably create job opportunities for Ghanaians,” they said.

The system will also help the country in the identification and registration of lands in the country when integrated with systems from the Land Commission. This means real estate developers and other investors should be able to acquire legitimate lands and avoid litigation, while banks will find it easier to locate their clients and borrowers.

The latest figures from the Bank of Ghana show that the quality of banks’ loan portfolio still remains a source of concern. The Non-Performing Loans (NPLs) ratio moved from 21.6 per cent at the end of October to 22.7 per cent in December 2017, with over half of these loans in the loan loss category.

“This step by the government to implement on a national level a system developed by a Ghanaian firm will create opportunities for other Ghanaian entrepreneurs in the technology industry. Moreover, technologically savvy youth can leverage on the system to create efficiencies and further enhance their businesses,” the Director of IT and Human Resources at Vokacom said.

It would be recalled that during the launch, President Akufo-Addo said the digital property system would help transform the economy because of its multi-faceted benefits.

He said, for instance, whilst the introduction of the new system would further make access to financial service and credit facilities less cumbersome, the location of the blue kiosk, the ‘waakye’ seller or the ‘koko’ seller will have an address for customers to easily trace, adding that, “the property addressing system also means that the ‘koko’ seller can now open a bank account.”

The GhanaPostGPS team is said to be working with the utilities, Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) and Ghana Water Company, to ensure that all the digital addresses are on the utility bills etc., whilst providing the added value of enabling citizens to easily locate service providers by searching on the app.

Minister of Communications, Mrs Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, is highly optimistic the National Digital Property Addressing System will boost the operations of the Ghana Post Company Limited, since it will now play a key role in the roll-out of the addressing system, and this is expected to empower the company to overcome the numerous challenges it had encountered in the last several years, despite its prospects.

The dominance of Ghana Post in the communication industry in the past, has for a long period of time suffered setback because of competition from private courier agencies, telcos, internet service providers and others.

“The inability to keep up with technological advances in the past bedeviled Ghana Post and almost killed it. Ironically, the technological advances of today have become the salvation and rejuvenation of Ghana Post, and this is what we are about to witness today,” the Communications Minister said at the launch of the system.

With the introduction of the system, Mrs Owusu-Ekuful’s pledge at her ministerial vetting last year that her outfit will transform the Ghana Post into a profitable business entity, which many thought was impossible, is now a dream come true.

Now Ghanaians doing business can be rest assured that the issue of wrong or double deliveries of parcels because of not being able to find the right address is over with the new digital addressing system.

“This will reduce the cost of doing business for Ghana Post.  It will also be the basis for all e-commerce platforms so that people can now sit in Ghana and buy things online in Ghana and from abroad and have them delivered directly to their homes,” the Vokacom COO noted.

Certainly, the whole nation would be looking up to the GhanaPostGPS to attain nationwide use for spatial database information for good governance and socio-economic progress.

Being the key player in the game plan, much would be expected of Ghana Post and its partners to achieve their targets timeously to enable the National ID and interoperability systems to work effectively to facilitate the smooth migration to a formalised economy.

The Vice President has said that, “a formalised economy represents the single most important transformation of the economy of any country.” The relevance of this statement would be felt, if the drivers of this policy framework live up to expectation.

Therefore, let us all support this life-changing innovation to fully realise the dawn of a new era when every Ghanaian living in any part of this country and business entities in particular, would no longer use landmarks to give directions or locate property, among others.


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