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Digitising Ghana’s economy; best option to catch up with globalisation

Ghana has taken a giant step to digitise her economy, which a United Nations Report, funded by the Better Than Cash Alliance that advocates the transition from cash to digital payments, estimates that it could save the nation GH¢250 million annually.
The Report also predicted that the country would save one billion Ghana cedis in the next four years if she transits from a cash payment society to digital one. 
The Report urged Government to continue investing in digital infrastructure to propel the digitisation agenda.
Digitisation is the mass adoption of connected digital services by consumers, enterprises and governments as a key economic driver that accelerates growth and facilitates job creation (By Bahjat El-Darwiche & Roman Friedrich, 2013).
In the current sluggish global economy, digitisation can play an important role in assisting policymakers to spur economic growth and employment.
Strategy and Econometric Analysis estimates that despite the unfavourable global economic climate, digitisation provided a $193 billion boost to world economic output and creates six million jobs globally in 2011.
A Diagnostic Report of Ghana’s Digital Payment Ecosystem conducted by the Bankable Frontier Associates, an independent consultant, between April and June this year, with funding from the Better Than Cash Alliance, showed that 86 per cent of the value of government payments are done electronically.
The Report diagnosed the progress of digital payments and the challenges that lie ahead and to help Ghanaian policy-makers and private sector decision-makers to accelerate their progress towards digitisation.
Presenting the highlights of the Report at a stakeholders’ meeting in Accra, Madam Aneth Kasebele and Madam Elly Ohene-Adu, both from the Bankable Frontier Associates, said the nation was making a lot of progress digitising the payment system.
Madam Kasebele said the Government’s plan of improving the levels of financial inclusion with good internet connectivity and expansive mobile money agent networks attested to its commitment.
She said, for instance, in 2016 mobile money merchants facilitated GH¢550 million financial transactions and that 37 per cent of the value of all payments were now made digitally of the estimated GH¢561 billion payments processed through electronic channels annually.
In addition, she said, the Government’s implementation of a Treasury Single Accounts would improve efficiency and maximise savings from its digitisation efforts.
However, Madam Kasebele noted that on the whole the vast majority of payments, about 99.6 per cent by volume, were still made in cash.
She explained that individuals continued to purchase essential goods, including food, in the informal economy, which relied on cash.
Madam Kasabele said 99 per cent of the GH¢6.8 billion transactions conducted in Ghana in 2016 were in cash, with the retail goods constituting 96 per cent and that estimates show that the annual value of GH¢5 billion transactions made by individuals were done through cash representing 71 per cent, while 29 per cent was conducted electronically.
The Report, therefore, made some recommendations to improve upon the strides made so far including; improving payment interoperability, digitising government procurement payments and leveraging electronic fund transfer infrastructure for business-to-business payments, as well as incentivising digital payments at the point of sale.
Meanwhile, Vice President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, since assumption of office in January this year, has been championing the paperless ports operation, which he believe would ensure effective and efficient ports operations.
The Government, on September 1, 2017, introduced the paperless port operations, which it believes would not only remove human interface in the ports operations but also reduce revenue leakages and ensure faster turnaround in customs processing and clearance of goods.
The paperless ports enjoins the Ghana Community Network Services Limited and the Blue Consulting Limited, the two institutions providing electronic solution services to importers and exporters, to have a joint Single-Window platform for inspection of goods at the ports.
The Vice President said: “For compliance authorities, the world over, a single-window platform ensures an efficient and productive use of resources, enhances collection of fees, duties, and penalties, ensures enhanced risk analysis, reduces corruption, and ensures more comprehensive, streamlined and an automated compliance process”.
He has said ports’ inefficiencies bred corruption and waste and, thus, pledged government’s commitment to roll out appropriate policy interventions to improve efficiency to accelerate national development.
The Vice President, who addressed key stakeholders on Port Efficiency Conference in Accra in May, this year, on the theme: “Improving Port Efficiency and Trade Facilitation in Ghana,” noted that removing bottlenecks at the ports would improve their competitiveness and that of businesses of importers and exporters.
The Ghana Ports and Habours Authority (GPHA) handled about 70 per cent of the national and neighbouring landlocked Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger’s trade and traffic.
Some economic pundits believe that efficient ports services would have overall socio-economic impact on the country and the Sub-region at large.
I strongly believe that if this paperless ports policy would work and be sustained, then the required technology, infrastructure and human resource should be provided in terms of handling of cargo and traffic.
An initial assessment of the implementation of the paperless system at the country’s ports, has shown a revenue collection improvement of 56 percent few weeks of its implementation, the Vice President said, adding that revenue increased from GH¢130 million in the first week of September 2016 to GH¢213 million in the same period for 2017 following the implementation of the Policy.
Although the implementation of the paperless ports project experienced some hitches with hundreds of angry freight forwarders beseeching the Long Room of the Tema Port to protest over the delays in the system at the beginning, overall it has been beneficial.
Under the electronic port operations, payments of port charges and other statutory fees are made through mobile money networks, visa cards and other online banking platforms, which reduced human interface.
It also reduces the time spent for clearing goods at the port because one does not need to move documents from one agency to another since the agencies have been connected electronically.
In a 2013 Study conducted by renowned researchers Brian Slack and Claude Comtois on: “Ships Time in Port, an International Comparison,” the average time in port for vessels in Europe is about 25 hours, East and North Asia is about 17 hours, and South Africa is 64 hours while the Port of Tema did about 103 hours in 2016.
There should be infusion of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and marketing of Ghana’s ports worldwide, in order to increase cargo volumes to generate more revenue to the Government.
The Government should stick to its plan of rolling out the Digital Addressing System, National Digital Identification Cards and the Interoperability of the Payment System in the last quarter of the year so that the vision of digitising the country would materialise.
Ghana cannot afford to fail in this regard else the country would be left behind in the global arena, grope in the dark and stagger like a man without a vision in the world of digitisation.

By Godwill Arthur-Mensah

Source: GNA

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