Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Let Us Innovate Our Way Out Of Our Present Difficulties

There are a number of reasons why our present leaders must always welcome the contributions of creative individuals and civil society organisations, such as #OccupyGhana, to the nation-building effort.

For a start, many of the ideas generated by such individuals and civil society groups,  are often innovative.

Taking the heads of public-sector organisations to court for failing to discharge their constitutionally-mandated duties, is bound to have a positive effect on public-sector productivity in the long-term, for instance.

That is why we must commend #OccupyGhana for taking the Auditor General to court - they have started a trend, which will make the top echelons of the entities that make up Ghana's public-sector, more conscious of their obligations to society.

We must innovate our way out of our present economic difficulties. Those difficulties, will make Ghanaian businesses that survive the present power crisis and the economic downturn following in its wake,  leaner and better at adapting to change, going forward.

Why, for example, do our leaders not take the innovative approach of going to the Ghana Stock Exchange to raise the money state institutions  and organisations owe the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) - and pay off the entire public-sector debt to the ECG that way?

President Mahama's administration could float 45 percent of the government's shares in the ECG in an initial public offering  (IPO), give 5 percent of its shares to the management and staff of the company, and hold on to the remaining 50 percent shares.

Will that not kill two birds with one stone: make the ECG more or less  debt-free and provide it with interest-free capital,  as well as give Ghanaian investors an opportunity to acquire a stake in a company with huge potential?

Because we have entered the age of cheap satellites deployed by companies like Urthecast, although it might sound esoteric now, we must not dismiss the possibility that in the not too distant future, the ECG could one day leverage the wires it has to millions of building across Ghana.

There is indeed no reason why someday the ECG could not  become a market leader harnessing the data generated by the internet of things and also deliver super-fast internet packages into those selfsame buildings - perhaps using its own optic-fibre network to deliver connectivity to the "last mile" to empower rural Ghana.

Instead of wasting its energies chasing hawkers from Accra, the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (as well other metropolitan and district assemblies across Ghana), ought to see them as a potential source of revenue.

They can be sold uniforms that will make them easy to identify and to monitor,  and be encouraged to pay taxes regularly - either to revenue collectors with the type of point of sale devices used by the banks, or with their smartphones to mobile money accounts the metropolitan and district assemblies hold with the telcos. Will that not help cut down youth unemployment numbers dramatically across the nation?

There is an energy in the activities of those hawkers that makes our towns and cities pulsate with life - so why not harness that energy and generate additional revenues for metropolitan and district assemblies countrywide?

With the astronomical prices that redwood logs command in India and China,  instead of continuing to remain cash-strapped because of the paucity of funds it receives from the government,  why does the Forestry Service of the Forestry Commission not  sell the hundreds of redwood logs in containers it has seized from illegal loggers attempting to ship them out of Ghana, directly to reputable and well-resourced importers in China and India - who can come here to ship them from Tema port at their own expense: after paying the Forestry Commission the prevailing market prices in U.S. dollars for the logs in their home markets?

The Forestry Service of the Forestry Commission must resist the maneuverings of the criminal syndicates involved in the unlawful felling of redwood trees, who are desperately trying to get the logs released to them, by claiming that the redwood logs in the seized containers predate the export ban.

It is a moot point as to whether or not any of the logs would meet the strict-proof burden of being legally felled in a court of law. At any rate, technically, not a single one of those seized containers predates the export ban. And that is a verifiable fact.
Finally, if invited here by the government, between them, the U.S. company SolarCity and the Kenyan company, M-Kopa, have free-market business models that will make solar power systems affordable for all income brackets in Ghana. They could partner the ECG to roll out their respective financing plans for accessing power from rooftop solar power systems across Ghana.

One hopes the powers that be will talk to them asap.

Let us  innovate our way out of our present economic difficulties - instead of surrendering to the nation-wrecking negativism of the doomsayers in our midst: who lack the imagination to see the very bright future this wonderful African nation (blessed with such a talented, mostly well-educated and dynamic young generation), has awaiting it.

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