Will Ghana be the next African regional hub?

Will Ghana be the next African regional hub?

As Nigeria fights the terrorism of Boko Haram and Côte d’Ivoire attempts to attain a lasting peace within its borders, the stability of historical West African regional hubs remains in question. In this context, Ghana is emerging as the new West African regional leader.

Ghana’s economic and political situation is looking bright — and the future seems even brighter for this former British colony. Ghana is experiencing big economic growth to the tune of 14.4% driven mainly by the boom in oil, cocoa, construction, technology and agriculture. In addition to the contributions of these sectors, the high price of gold benefits the Ghanaian economy. This has motivated many of the estimated 800,000 Ghanaians abroad, alongside a growing number of business travelers, to return to or visit Ghana. This trend has helped the hotel and restaurant sector expand by 11% in recent years. According to The Guardian, “Ghana is now one of 23 African countries that have reached middle-income status, a dramatic change in fortunes from the economic and political turbulence that followed independence in 1957.”

The country holds the eighth spot in a ranking by Slate of Africa’s safest countries, thanks to its relatively low level of unemployment and the absence of conflict in recent years. Furthermore, the banking sector is growing and benefits from what is happening in the broader economy. The majority of Ghanaians who were living abroad but have now returned feel that they have a real capacity to see their career progress upon return. They also express an eagerness to contribute to the development of their country. Furthermore, the country ranks sixth among African countries in the Doing Business 2014 report and is one of the countries with the highest progression over the last five years. This explains why the country is attracting so many foreign investors and private equity funds such as Amethis Finance, which invested $10 million in UT Bank. ENI and Danone are also pursuing expansion on there.

Last but not least, with the construction of Hope City, which began in June 2013, Ghana moves towards its development objectives. This ICT park project, which plans to foster technological growth and attract major players in the global ICT industry, aims high. This $10 billion tech city will create jobs for 50,000 people and will be home to Africa’s tallest building. The project has the support of multinational technology companies such as Microsoft, as well as that of  the Ghanaian government, which has big aspirations. Ghana aims to turn technology into one of the country’s main economic drivers. With the city’s smart and futuristic sustainable facilities — which will include an assembly plant for various tech products, business offices, an IT university and a hospital — it will be the ideal place where ICT players from all over the world can converge to design, make and export software and other products.

It is true, though, that the country is still overly reliant on its raw materials for growth. As such, diversification of the economy appears to be essential. But, with its diaspora coming back to work in the country, things are looking up. Investment in infrastructure goes along with a positive GDP outlook and increasing foreign direct investment to create the conditions for continued improvement. Another positive factor is the peaceful political climate, which is quite rare in the region and is appreciated by foreign investors. If Nigeria and Côte d’Ivoire do not succeed in resolving their security problems and, at the same time, Ghana keeps following this track, what will prevent this country from being the next West African leader?

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