The Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector in Ghana stands as a robust driver of economic growth, demonstrating impressive resilience in the face of fiscal challenges and currency devaluation. With an estimated value of approximately US$1 billion, experts project this sector could surge to a substantial US$5 billion by 2030. This growth trajectory firmly establishes Ghana's ICT industry as a pivotal force driving economic progress and fostering innovation across the West African region.

Telecommunications Insights

Ghana's ICT landscape has welcomed renowned U.S. tech companies such as American Tower Corporation, Parallel Wireless, Tech Gulf, Google, X (formerly Twitter), IBM, Microsoft, Cisco and others. These industry leaders have established a strong foothold in the market, contributing significantly to its growth. For example, Google took a significant step by inaugurating its first Artificial Intelligence (AI) laboratory in Africa in Ghana in 2019. TechGulf is also making substantial strides, not only by developing data centers but also by creating one of several thriving tech startup hubs in Ghana.

Ghana currently has four registered mobile operators: MTN, Vodafone, Glo Ghana and Airtel Tigo. MTN Ghana, headquartered in South Africa, leads the market with over 17 million subscribers, constituting a substantial 57% market share, while Vodafone commands a 23% market share. As of August 2021, the National Communications Authority reported a staggering 41.4 million mobile voice subscriptions, reflecting an impressive 132% penetration rate.

The country plans to implement 5G without auctioning spectrum. Instead, it will establish a shared infrastructure company for widespread 4G and 5G services. The approach aims to reach 80% of the population through collaboration with network operators and private investors. This aligns with Ghana's goal of extending digital services to rural areas. Also, the government approved two new submarine cables to improve internet accessibility and affordability.

Moreover, the platform of mobile money, overseen by the regulatory authority of the Bank of Ghana, has witnessed exponential growth in Ghana as well. This innovative payment service conducted via mobile devices has reshaped how consumers make transactions. Ghana has the second-highest data penetration rate and the fastest-growing mobile money market in sub-Saharan Africa, significantly boosting financial inclusion. Out of the four major telecommunications companies in Ghana, MTN has the largest market share. With over 30 million registered mobile money accounts and transactions surpassing US$36 billion, the sector has become a cornerstone of the nation's financial ecosystem.

The Government's Digital Vision

The government's endeavors are concentrated on accelerating the implementation of key digital initiatives, such as the National ID, digital address systems and land record digitization, with the ultimate aim of enhancing productivity and service delivery. Additionally, efforts are underway to digitize fiscal revenue collection, foster a cashless society and elevate the quality of online education delivery. Investments in the national fiber network backbone are likewise a priority, aimed at extending and enhancing internet connectivity. The government is equally committed to promoting digital literacy and supporting Ghanaian tech entrepreneurs in establishing tech hubs and exporting IT-enabled services, including business process outsourcing (BPO).

Challenges and Opportunities

The Ministry of Communications and Digitalization oversees the regulatory framework for Ghana's ICT sector, with the National Communications Authority shouldering the responsibility of licensing and regulating all businesses within the communications sub-sector. In terms of commercial prospects, the industry presents promising opportunities across various sub-sectors. Digital infrastructure, including data centers and fiber optic cables, commands an estimated value of US$400 million. Additionally, software sales by prominent companies like Oracle, IBM and SAP contribute significantly, amounting to approximately US$200 million. The cloud infrastructure sector, showing immense growth potential, is valued at US$15 million. Cybersecurity, an increasingly critical facet, represents a market valued at around US$30 million. Emerging sectors like Fintech, Health-tech and Ed-tech collectively present a lucrative opportunity with an estimated value of US$115 million. Finally, training and services within the ICT industry offer substantial revenue streams, amounting to approximately US$150 million.

However, Ghana, like many nations, faces a multitude of cybersecurity challenges. These hurdles are far-reaching, encompassing threats to critical infrastructure, data breaches and cybercrimes that target individuals and businesses alike. Recognizing the gravity of these challenges, the Ghanaian government and various stakeholders have launched concerted efforts to fortify the nation's cybersecurity defenses.

The country’s cybersecurity strategy is a standout model for rapidly building cyber capacity while ensuring citizen safety. The nation's Joint Cybersecurity Committee is tasked with addressing the surge in cyber threats due to increased internet usage. Unlike many African countries, Ghana has a national cybersecurity strategy and incident response capabilities and has ratified key international cyber treaties. Also, Ghana's citizen-centric, multistakeholder approach empowers civilians to help shape cybersecurity policies. This inclusive strategy strengthens trust between the government and citizens. A civilian-led approach, led by a National Cybersecurity Advisor, proves effective in managing pervasive cyber threats. Ghana's governance structure includes the National Cybersecurity Council, the Joint Cybersecurity Committee, and the Cyber Security Authority. This framework accelerates the development of Ghana's cybersecurity institutions, enabling rapid decision-making and results.

Additionally, this approach propels Ghana to regional leadership in cybersecurity, and as such, it is climbing in the global rankings. The nation actively assists neighboring countries in capacity-building. Ghana's incident response capabilities, including CERT-GH and sectoral CERTs, enhance resilience, particularly in sensitive sectors like banking. External partnerships with organizations like FIRST, AfricaCERT, and support from initiatives like the U.S. Security Governance Initiative and the World Bank contribute to Ghana's cybersecurity progress. Ghana's resistance to digital authoritarianism safeguards internet freedom and strengthens trust. And its civil society organizations play a vital role in awareness campaigns and policy development.

Overall, the thriving ICT sector in Ghana stands as a potent engine propelling economic growth. It has created a surge in job opportunities, particularly for youth, and spurred innovation, giving rise to a dynamic ecosystem of startups and entrepreneurs. ICT tools and systems have revolutionized efficiency and productivity across various industries, while improved connectivity has democratically extended access to information and services. In addition, the government's embrace of e-governance has ushered in transparency and efficiency in public services. Striking a delicate balance between fostering innovation and ensuring consumer protection remains crucial, as does the need to bolster the skills base to keep pace with the sector's rapid evolution.

Simply put, Ghana's ICT sector is seen as a significant contributor to the country's economic growth and development. With government-led initiatives, a thriving startup ecosystem and a growing digital infrastructure, Ghana is poised to continue its impressive growth in the global technology arena.

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