Friday, November 18, 2011

Improve Africa health delivery-Veep

Vice President, John Dramani Mahama has predicted that Africa will fail to meet most of the health Millennium Development Goals targets come 2015, due to weak health financing capacity and health conditions.

“Within the Africa region, we are still struggling with combination of poor health policies, unfair economic arrangements and unfavorable financing arrangements that result in the unequal distribution of health services and damaging experiences.

“Our desire to attain universal health coverage should be built around shared aspirations to develop health on a sustainable basis with a different sense of urgency and determination,” Vice. President Mahama told participants at the first Pan African Health Congress on Universal Coverage in a speech read on his behalf in Accra.

The three-day congress aimed at initiating dialogue among health experts, policy makers, private sector operators, insurance scheme practitioners and implementers and health service providers in Africa. It was as well meant to discuss best ways to initiate and sustain long term health insurance schemes across Africa.

It was hosted by Centre for Health & Social Services (CHeSS), and supported by the Rockefeller Foundation and World Health Organisation.

Mr. Mahama observed that the continent has been presented with a unique opportunity to give meaning to equity in health.

He added: “Though countries like Ghana were making progress in health insurance, there were still challenges of many people with chronic conditions and lives threatening degenerative diseases having to look else were to facilitate their access to care.

“The challenges notwithstanding, was the wish of every government to provide access and financial risk protection as a policy goal within the context of universal coverage. This was in recognition of how critical health care was to the economy and social cohesiveness for governments which profess social justice and equity.”

He indicated that government took the bold step to introduce a national health insurance scheme as a way of removing financial barriers to access; this has received mixed reports of commendations and criticisms.

“African health experts must develop a clear technical framework that pulls together all the existing resolution, declaration and commitment to help move the agenda of universal health coverage into an implementable action plan,” Mr. Mahama urged.

Dr. Anarfi Asamoah-Baah, Deputy Director-General of World Health Organisation (WHO), said: “Health insurance was a unique intervention to facilitate access to health services and not about diseases or the ministers of health.

“Health insurance requires new skills within the health sectors, which includes economists, financial investment experts, lawyers and strategic managers who can think through and develop the system effectively.

“The WHO is open to these ideas including the participation of academia to partner with government to achieve universal coverage.

“Africa has the expertise and that what was needed was to leverage it and partner with international development partners to achieve the goal of universal coverage.”

Dr. James Nyoro, Managing Director, Rockefeller Foundation, Africa Region Office said: “The Foundation considers Universal Health Coverage as critical to creating affordable, high quality health services that ensures better health outcomes and financial protection especially for the poor and vulnerable groups in Africa and around the world.

“As a philanthropic organization, the Foundation has been working with some countries in Africa and Asia to catalyze change in fostering health Systems research and agenda setting for universal health coverage including enhancing professional capacity to plan and manage high performing health systems.

“Harnessing the resources of the private sector to finance and deliver health systems and leveraging on new technology particularly leveraging interoperable system to enhance the delivery of health service are complimentary to achieving success to the Universal Health Coverage.

“This support is in line with our goal of ensuring that more people can tap into the benefits of globalization while strengthening resilience to communities and individuals.”

Dr. Nyoro observed that a great deal of work has already been done on health insurance on the continent but there is a need to draw available materials together, focus on the neglected issues and integrate insights on these areas into the overall health insurance policy framework.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Budget 2012:Infrastructure for job-creation

The Finance and Economic Planning Minister, Dr. Kwabena Duffour, will talk about a wide range of initiatives in his budget statement to Parliament today, but the one with the real impact on families will be the massive infrastructural projects which will be undertaken next year.

Although the country’s infrastructure has improved over the years, the Minister in an interview with the B&FT said there is the urgent need to focus on upgrading its infrastructure indicators in tune with the rebased middle-income status.

Government has spent the past few years stabilising the economy, and the path is now set to build the requisite infrastructural and social projects to create jobs, Dr. Duffour said Ghanaians must benefit from the sacrifices they have made over all these years, he said.

Government is struggling to keep spending under control and avoid a repeat of 2008 when the then-ruling party boosted expenditure ahead of an election that it failed to win. The deficit soared to 24.2 percent of GDP at the time, sparking a slump in the cedi and pushing inflation to a five-year high, Standard & Poor’s said on Nov.

3. But the minister was quick to point out that government will be responsible enough not to throw the economy out of gear because of a looming election next year.

“I can tell you that we are continuing the fiscal consolidation, and that means the deficit will trend down next year. We in government are Ghanaians; why should we destroy the economy because of elections and come back to correct it? We will spend wisely and deliver the people’s aspirations,” he assured.

Dr. Duffour explained that embarking on the infrastructural drive is to correct the weak supply side that has characterised the economy all this while, making it possible for people to benefit from the sacrifices made in stabilising the economy.

The economy has made remarkable gains this year, with the budget deficit expected to reach a record 5.1 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the lowest in more than 5 years.

Statistics available indicate that the GDP growth rate will close the year at about 13.6 percent, with inflation at a single digit of 8.56 percent for October and international reserves settling at over US$5billion.

“Having achieved appreciable success on the macroeconomic front, the government wants to sustain infrastructure,” the minister said.

The GH¢3billion commercial loan from the China Development Bank is expected to feature prominently in the execution of next year’s budget to finance the Western Corridor roads project, railways and gas-processing facilities.

Parliament has already given the go-ahead for signing the loan agreement, but the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is expected to okay the deal in December.

The loan will be signed before the end of the year to enable disbursement to be done in January, 2012.

Besides the Chinese loan, government is expected to dig deep into its coffers to firm-up contracts for the Eastern Corridor roads and also fund social infrastructure: such as building new hospitals and clinics and refurbishing others, continuing with the policy to remove more schools under trees, and also irrigating the Accra Plains for farming purposes.

The 2012 budget will also announce the building of landing sites for fishing activities in the coastal belt with funds from the Chinese loan.

Duffuor mentioned, particularly, the massive injection of funds into resuscitation of the rail lines. The Ghana Railway Company is purely a national operation without any connections to rail services in other countries and is unable to carry the full volume of mining and passenger traffic, which has diverted a growing share of mineral traffic to the road network. This, he said, must be corrected.

Although rural road quality is remarkably good, the physical extension of the rural networks appears inadequate.

It is estimated that only 24 percent of Ghana’s rural population lives within two kilometres of an all-season road, which is below the 60 percent found in Africa’s middle-income countries.


Another initiative is the cleaning-up of the government payroll. Early this year, government started cleaning the public-sector payroll, beginning with pensioners.

This has been reported to be very successful with a lot of savings.

“As we speak today, work on the pensioners’ payroll in the Eastern, Volta, Western, Greater Accra and Central Regions has been completed.”

The exercise, he said, will continue in 2012 and it is expected that a lot of savings will be made to finance the migration of public-sector workers onto the Single Spine Salary Structure, which according to officials is about 80 percent complete.

Government also intends to link up the Single Spine Salary Structure with productivity to ensure that government’s money does not go to waste.


On the revenue side, the domestic revenue agencies markedly exceeded their targets. In the next budget, there will be more innovative ways of expanding the tax-net, while some of the tax measures introduced last year will be continued.

“There will be measures to widen the tax-net, and some of the measures currently on the ground will improve tax administration and make it more efficient.”

ECOWAS finalising common external tariff

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) says it is finalising the common external tariff that will lead to the establishment of a customs union.

This is aimed at the realisation of financial and monetary integration of member-states.

“Progress has been achieved in this regard with the effective take-off of the ECOWAS Multilateral Surveillance Mechanism and the adoption of the roadmap for the introduction of an ECOWAS single currency -- the Eco -- by 2020.”

Vice President of the ECOWAS Commission, Jean De Dieu Somda, made this statement in Accra at the opening of a three-day joint retreat of Commission officials and ambassadors of member-states aimed at reviewing the status of the region’s monetary cooperation, with 2020 as the target year for the introduction of the ECO.

The meeting among other issues will also discuss the status of the ongoing negotiation of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the region and the European Union, as well as impediments to smooth implementation of the ECOWAS flagship protocol on free movement of persons, goods and services.

Mr. Somda said: “The driving and underlying force of ECOWAS Vision 2020 and strategy is our collective determination to ensure that the community citizen owns the integration agenda.

“Achieving this goal requires our collective effort not only to make the ECOWAS brand, programmes and initiatives visible in the membe-states and beneficial to the citizens, but also -- and more importantly -- convince and empower the citizens to be owners.

“This aspiration can only be realised if the institutional arrangements underpinning this transformation are structured and empowered to act according to purpose.”

He explained that ECOWAS has been scaling-up its instruments and institutional arrangements to anticipate and confront challenges to peace and security in the region, particularly with regard to conflicts and political governance.

He mentioned that the Commission undertook measures towards updating the master-plan for production and transmission of electrical energy in the ECOWAS region; access to energy service for rural and peri-urban populations; and promotion of clean energy in addition to other activities relating to the coordination and monitoring of regional energy projects.

“The Commission has also facilitated the establishment of an ECOWAS centre for the promotion of renewable energy,” he said.

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Muhammad Mumuni, explained that the purpose of the Commission is to deepen regional cooperation, forge an integrated market and transform the potentialities of human and material resources for the prosperity, well-being and security of community citizens.

He observed that despite the persisting shocks to the global financial system, the economies of West Africa continue to demonstrate remarkable resilience due to a combination of prudent macro-economic policies and strong demand for the region’s resources.

“The region in 2010 achieved an estimated growth rate of 6.2 percent. Continuing efforts by member-states aimed at scaling-up investment in the social sector, formulating economic policies within the framework of a regional development programme, and diversifying the export base of their economies will ensure sustainability and mitigate the impact of future shocks.

“Ghana, with a projected growth rate of 12 percent this year, epitomises this new dynamism and optimism, and has become a model in the region,” he remarked.

Tigo pledges to excite telecoms market

Carlos Caceres, Chief Executive Officer of Millicom Ghana Limited, operators of Tigo network, has pledged to sustain the company’s investment in technology, data quality and network coverage to offer quality service.

This is to help the country close the gap in Africa’s telecommunication competitive market and to promote affordable pricing to telecom users.

“The Ghanaian market is highly competitive compared with other emerging markets like India and China. Tigo’s new strategies, going forward, will make the company a net winner,” Mr. Caceres told journalists in Accra at an event to officially announce new call rates for the network.

Tigo customers can now call Tigo to Togo for 3Gp per minute, and 8Gp per minute for calls from Tigo to other networks. The 8Gp per minute off-net calls is a default rate, but customers would need to register for free by dialling *555# to enjoy the 3Gp per minute on-net calls.

Tigo’s on-net calls used to be 7Gp per minute and off-net calls was 12Gp per minute, which were some of the lowest on the market.

“The many call tariff plans and promotions in the telecom market are very complex for the average phone user to understand, and they make it difficult for customers to know how much they are spending.

“The new rates replace all other promotional call rates on the Tigo network.

“The new rates are straightforward and they remain unchanged no matter the location or time of day, so customers do not have to get confused about different charges at different times of the day,” said Caceres.

He explained that for those who were on more than one network, the several tariff plans become even more confusing because it is difficult to monitor “how much you are paying during the day, how much you are paying at night, how much you are paying on weekends, and the different charges for different locations at any point in time.”

“We are prepared to welcome competition – but more importantly this move is more of a sign that we are listening to our consumers and that we want to move away from the days of complex tariff plans to a simple one like we have done.”

“We listen keenly to our customers, ensuring that we understand their ever-changing needs and bring out new, innovative products and services to meet those needs.”

Vodafone inducts 50 volunteers

The Vodafone Ghana Foundation has inducted 50 volunteers for its World of Difference programme, aimed at positively impacting the lives of less-privileged communities and individuals by leveraging on individual and corporate philanthropy.

In its second year of running, the programme gives individuals who are passionate about social development a platform to work with a charity of their choice for two months and support them with their professional and intellectual skills and expertise.

The 50 finalists are professionals in their individual careers, are driven by a quest for social good, and will be stepping out of their comfort zones to embark on projects they truly believe in.

The Vodafone Ghana Foundation will give them monthly stipends ranging from GH¢1,000 to GH¢2,000.

Following its successful launch last year, the World of Difference programme attracted over 500 applicants whose forms were taken through a thorough interview session by a four-member panel.

The Head of External Affairs at Vodafone Ghana, Patrick Boateng, said: “We are very happy to be empowering these 50 volunteers from varied professional backgrounds to go all out and undertake life-changing projects they have always been passionate about.

“Empowerment is our brand-promise, and we are glad to be providing them with the adequate training and support they need for the implementation of these projects which will make meaningful impacts in the lives of their selected communities”.

He added: “The Vodafone Foundation believes in partnering with like-minded individuals and organisations to bring about social and economic change in our society. We are confident that when we join hands we are able to achieve more.

It is the little contribution from each one of us that makes a difference when we put it all together. That is why we are empowering these young professionals to undertake their dream projects.

The 50 volunteers were taken through the Vodafone Way training and induction to groom them on how to take up the projects they have set for themselves individually.

The Vodafone World of Difference is an annual community charity programme launched in 2009. It currently runs in 17 Vodafone operating countries. Applications are opened to Ghanaian residents who are 18 years and above.

Ghana's FDI up to US$3.25b

The Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) recorded an increase in the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) valued at US$3.25billion: the corresponding value for the same period in 2010 was US$216.71million.

This figure represents an increase of 99.16 percent of the total estimated value during the third quarter of 2011, compared to the same period in 2010.

The total foreign equity was US$274.35million, while the initial equity transfer was US$27.97million during the period under review.

Mr. George Aboagye, Chief Executive Officer of GIPC, told the media in Accra that out of the 161 new investment projects registered, 105 representing 65.22 per cent were wholly-owned foreign enterprises valued at GH¢908.51million -- which was 18.63 percent of the total estimated value of projects registered.

The remaining 56 (34.78) percent were joint ventures between Ghanaians and their foreign partners valued at US$2.65billion and representing 81.37 percent of the total estimated value of projects registered.

For the corresponding quarter of 2010, 70 wholly-owned foreign enterprises were registered valued at US$253.86million and 27 joint ventures at US$.25million.

Meanwhile, during the second quarter of 2011, 71 wholly-owned foreign enterprises were registered and valued at GH¢339.09million, and 56 joint ventures valued at GH¢561.36million.

India, with 25 projects, topped the list of countries with the highest number of registered projects. With US$2.52billion as the estimated value of the investment, Korea topped the list of countries with the largest value of investment registered.

China, Nigeria, Britain, the Netherlands, Lebanon and the United State of America respectively topped the list of investing countries during the third quarter.

Seven out of the 10 regions directly benefitted from the registered projects during the quarter. The regions are Ashanti, Brong-Ahafo, Central, Eastern, Greater Accra, Northern and Western Regions. 85.09% of all the projects registered are located in Greater Accra.

From the number of new projects registered, it is expected that 23,998 jobs will be created. This is an increment of 402.38% over jobs created in the corresponding quarter of 2010.

93.23% (22,373) of the total jobs to be created in the third quarter will be for Ghanaians and the remaining 6.77% (1,625) for expatriates.

Mr. Aboagye said GIPC will continue to encourage both local and foreign investors and facilitate investment projects for the country's growth and development.

“The confidence gained in the Ghanaian economy is a result of the prudent economic measures being pursued by the government -- which have resulted in the economy being described as the fastest-growing in the world currently, and international recognition by various surveys on the economic potential of the Ghanaian economy – and continues to influence the flow of FDI.”

He explained that the delegation from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has been in the country to explore areas of economic collaboration in the energy, trade, food and Agriculture, water resources, and housing sectors.

The Centre launched a report dubbed “Ghana 2011” to expose the country’s economic activities and investment opportunities which included a detailed sector-by-sector guide for foreign investors.

The publication, Mr. Aboagye said, will provide an in-depth analysis of the country’s economy.

Look within to grow indigenous businesses - GCCI

Government must put premium on the private sector to create social development and drive growth to reduce poverty, says the Ghana Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI).

“Since government cannot provide the jobs directly but through the private sector, there should be a conscious effort in that direction.

“The way forward would be to ensure that appropriate macro-economic policies are implemented to create the much-needed enabling environment for businesses as well as entrepreneurs, the main stakeholders for the private sector to become the actual engine of growth,” Mr. Seth Adjei-Baah, President of GCCI, said in Accra at the launch of its 250th-year anniversary.

Mr. Adjei-Baah, who is also the Member of Parliament for Nkawkaw, speaking under the theme “Commerce and Industry in a Growing Economy”, said: “It is time for the nation to look within: government over the years has always created an environment to favour only foreigners. This, we think, is not the best – and we urge government to discard that idea to make the environment favorable for Ghanaian investors to explore as well.”

He indicated that the time has come for the country to undergo an industrial revolution, wherein all goods and services needed would be produced by indigenous companies.

“The mining industry is one example: Ghana cannot boast a single indigenous mining company, even though we have been engaging in mining for a long time.

“In the 60’s and 70’s Ghana had many vehicle-assembling plants; but, sadly, four decades down the line we cannot produce basic car accessories. We import almost everything, from toothpicks to airplanes,” Mr. Adjei-Baah remarked.

Hannah Tetteh, Minister of Trade and Industry, pledged government support to the private sector with the implementation of policies and strategies to enable businesses compete with their counterparts on the global market.

“Ghanaian industries could compete with their counterparts on the world market when they change their style of performance.”

She said the industries needed to focus on higher education and on how to promote Made-In Ghana goods in other countries, and advised local industries to partner their counterparts in other countries in the world to promote Made-In Ghana goods.

Mr. Emmanuel Doni-Kwame, Chief Executive Officer of GCCI, in recounting some achievements of the Chamber over the years pointed out establishment of the free exchange rate regime and review of trade facilitation at the ports.

The Chamber, in collaboration with other private sector development organizations, advocated the reduction of Corporate Tax from 55 percent in the 1970’s to ensure an enabling environment for businesses to operate effectively in the country.

Mr. Doni-Kwame said: “Ghana being acclaimed one of the fastest-growing economies in the world was a motivation for the growth of businesses in the country.

“A lot has changed since 1761 – we moved from an unsuccessful plantation economy to import substitution, to a controlled economy, then to a free liberalised economy and now an oil economy.

“The popularity of Ghana as one of the fastest-growing economies in the world gives us reason to reflect on our theme: Commerce and Industry in a Growing Economy.

“The chamber has been contributing its quota in policy formulation, especially making inputs to the national budget and monitoring its implementation.

“We have been able to research issues in greater depth, and this enabled us to make more meaningful and constructive representations in our role as social partners.”

He added: “We are celebrating 250 years of business advocacy, and we can already conclude that it has largely benefitted the country and our business community.

“The Chamber of Commerce is arguably one of the oldest institutions in the country, with its establishment dating back to the 1760’s at Fort Christiansburg in Accra by the Danes.

“250 years ago, the aim of fostering economic and cultural ties between Ghana and Denmark may have seemed ambitious, but today we can say that this aim has been reached successfully.”

‘We don’t need fanfare leaders’

Brutally frank, insightful, and intensely fought debates, and a very entertaining and memorable gala night were some of the highlights when the curtain was finally drawn on the three-day Vodafone Africa Business Leaders Forum that lived up to its billing.

The forum, organised by the Business and Financial Times and BIA Conferences, brought together about 1,000 delegates from several African, European and the Caribbean countries and the USA.

During an intensely fought debate at the Vodafone African Business Leaders Forum, one distinguished professor stated that: “When they get into power, our leaders think that their role is to distribute wealth - they do not create anything new.”

Professor Kwaku Atuahene-Gima, Executive Director, CEIBS Africa -- who is currently based in China -- went on to give a scathing description of the way in which some African politicians operate today.

“We also have ‘fanfare’ leaders, they like to win awards…so they first distribute wealth to their inner circle and then win awards for it,” he added.

According to Atuahene-Gima, one of the most important things that leaders need to do is self-reflect and become conscious of their flaws. He highlighted this as a particular failing of leaders in new democracies, where democracy is often mistaken for development.

“Democracy does not cause development -- in Africa we focus on this first, without developing the foundations for growth,” said Atuahene-Gima. “We need leaders who can break the rules and first do what is beneficial for their country.

“If you look at the leadership which got us here today, we need a very different type of leadership moving forward,” added Alhassan Andani, MD, Stanbic Bank, Ghana.

“The next big leadership challenge is to think beyond the level of the state in order to break through poverty. Development only happens when people learn to govern themselves, and generate wealth that touches everybody.”

These comments were made during a discussion on ‘whether Africa has the right strength and flavour of leadership to deliver the continental dream’. The overwhelming sentiment from both speakers and audience was that there needs to be a dramatic shift in the focus of today’s leaders.

“Leaders in Africa have to think differently -- a lot of the things that they do today are not useful for tomorrow,” explained Atuahene-Gima. “This is unlike China, where they always have a long-term plan. In addition, we must be able to ensure that leaders have strategies that they can implement -- merely having a vision is useless.”

In a debate on how to tackle Africa’s developmental challenges, Alec Erwin, CEO, UBU Investment Holdings, South Africa, highlighted the need for African leaders to have a focused developmental strategy in order to attract investment.

“It is important to have clarity of purpose,” said Erwin. “We need to attract resources in order to develop infrastructure in Africa, and we will only be able to do this through establishing public private partnerships.”

He emphasised that only by stabilising the economy, legal system and capital markets can African countries gain the foreign investment that they require.

“It can’t be done by proceeding with ‘business as usual,’” he added. “It means changing the way we govern in Africa.”

Dr. IrajAbedian, Pan-African Capital Holdings South Africa, agreed: “If we don’t actively engage and take the appropriate action, we will miss out on investment opportunities in Africa. We need to graduate from being subjects to being citizens,” said Abedian. “A responsible citizen….an engaged citizen.”

According to Dr. Kofi Amoah, CEO, Progeny Ventures Incorporated, Ghana, “Some investors come to Africa, look and turn away. To build a new paradigm, we need to consider key blueprint issues on the continent,” he explained. “These include our political space; human rights; the psychological state of our people; and the global environment.”

Debating on finance, banking, and investment, Daniel Asiedu, the managing director of Zenith Bank, said only 10% of the bankable population of Africa have bank accounts according to the IMF. He suggested that banks should be collaborating and not competing.

He called on banks to develop a common platform to provide banking services to the general population.

Dr. Amoah went on to suggest that when measuring the efficiency or otherwise of the financial system of any country, this should be looked at holistically.

He reminded delegates that banks are only one part of the financial system which includes other financial institutions, the government and, most importantly, the general population.

He called on governments to remember that international investors want stability in a country’s political system.

Meanwhile, Brooks Mparutsa, CEO of Hollard Insurance, in South Africa, cautioned against over-regulation. He suggested that it’s about innovation: innovation in the delivery of financial services to the communities that need them.

Dr. Yaw Perbi -- Global CEO, The HuD Group, Canada, emphasised the importance of education and developing the African youth.

“When we talk of Africa, everyone refers to our natural resources -- forgetting our human capital,” says Perbi. “The existing educational system was built to create factory workers, and it is not going to work. Our greatest resource is our people, and if we do not develop the people it is not going to work.”

Perbi highlighted the fact that 41% of people in Africa are 15 years of age and below; labelling them ‘the generation that must be saved’.

Dr. Esi Ansah, Chief Executive Officer, Axis Human Capital, Ghana, agreed that the current educational system in Africa takes the wrong approach; saying, “It’s important to remember that schooling is not the same as education – we need to be training people who are versatile and critical thinkers.

“The goal of education is societal transformation,” she added. “As a nation, we need to have key things that we are looking for at every level.”

She spoke of the importance of having multiple stakeholders in education, establishing career centres, and building sustainable funding models that decrease the reliance on government.

Stella Appiah-Nkansah, Director of HR, Vodafone Ghana, proposed an additional solution to Africa’s education challenge: recruit and retain the highly qualified Africans who are working abroad.

“Many of our compatriots find themselves in the Western world, with a desire to return home,” she said. “Of crucial importance is the recruitment and retention of these talented individuals.”

Appiah-Nkansah listed various strategies which African companies can pursue in order to attract young professionals back to the continent. These include developing strong company brands, offering attractive and flexible remuneration packages, and targetting African-centred career fairs.