Year of Yield: What is Ghana’s return on their big year?

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Sun, 24 Nov 2019 Source: Edwin Kwakofi

With 2019 seeing a rapid rise in interest in Ghana by the diaspora, Canadian Techpreneur currently based in Ghana, Renato Rossi explores how Ghana can ultimately cash in on the #YearofReturn and turn it into a “Year of Yield”.

Business anywhere in the world during an election year yields some sort of risk, let’s get that straight. When we discuss African states, historically speaking, elections have brought forth stagnation and volatility in business. Deals stall, uncertainty rises, and worries begin to accumulate even 1 year in advance, but why?

As a Canadian citizen abroad, I have the luxury of voting for my federal election, and it got me thinking about the uncertainty of my country’s political standing. With several opposing views in contention for the throne, which route will Canada take on tax, immigration, infrastructure and healthcare?

While watching the Canadian Federal Leaders Debate, I saw the dark and nasty side of human nature as competition brought the true emotions out of the candidates. Instead of diving into potential scenarios back in the true north, I began thinking about Ghana and how its landscape would change over the next 12–18 months with the next federal election coming into play.

I recently watched a documentary, Big Men, about events that transpired surrounding Kosmos Energy, Jubilee Field and the transition in government from John Agyekum Kufuor to John Atta Mills. Without commenting too much on the topic, it was clear that there was friction in the execution of the Kosmos deal. Media surrounding the event portrayed several versions of the story, but the final result, for both Kosmos and the two transitioning governments, was not the intended one.

I understand this doesn’t necessarily directly affect the SMEs in the country, which make up an estimated 85% of the total registered enterprises, but in keeping the theme of a large outlook, let’s think big (outside of the oil, gas and mining — OGM sectors). How does an election year affect the foreign investment space in Ghana? How does this affect money investing in Ghanain businesses in terms of capital requirements set out by the GIPC under the current government? With the Gold Coast’s recent attention on the international stage, these questions not only need to be asked, but answered as well.

One item to look to is the growing tech scene. Giants like Google AI, Facebook, Amazon and Oracle have begun launching programs, partnerships and even headquarters here in Ghana. Plenty of these relationships all stem from the rapidly growing startup ecosystem. These large corporations have recently created opportunities for collaboration with entrepreneurs on the continent to gain access to the market.

Now, how does this benefit Ghana, its SME ecosystem and these big tech players? One word, data. Through their collaborative efforts, tech giants like google create data on the tech ecosystem, consumer behaviour and ultimately, become ingrained in the fertile soils of the Ghanaian startup scene. One can say that seeing these players here, from an outside perspective, creates further confidence that the startup scene, tech specifically, is progressing at a favourable rate. But this is not to say that the country is in good ‘investment’ standing, there are many questions that lay below the surface of the Ghanian market. More questions than answers, unfortunately.

What do diaspora see when looking at Ghana? What information is available about the financial happenings of the space in general? What do the sublayers of the tech and investment landscape reveal and, more importantly, is it even accessible to the world outside of the West African Nation?

As the Year of Return comes to a close, what can be said of Ghana’s attempts to boost diaspora return? What can be said of the country’s ability to showcase not only itself, but the continent?

I am more interested in what Ghana can do with this recent publicity. Documentation of effectiveness and understanding where the country can benefit most is great for post-mortem analysis, but how can Ghana ensure its valiant efforts this past year are not lost in the books of its rich history?

I would strongly argue that this election forthcoming, is one of the most important elections, not in the history of Ghana, but for the future of the Black Star nation. Ghana has an incredible chance to change its trajectory moving forward, in many more ways than just tourism. With the oncoming election, Ghana has an opportunity to exude confidence, negate volatility and tout reliability. With the substantial efforts of Year of Return as a whole, there remains only one question. How can Ghana get it right?

You can follow along with the series by author, Renato Rossi via his twitter and online here as he embarks on a mini-series to uncover the answer to questions asked in this article, but also dig deeper to find questions that will require answering.

Columnist: Edwin Kwakofi