City Focus: Accra
With one of the fastest growing economies in 2018, Accra looks set to define the future of Ghana by investing in the technologists and entrepreneurs of today, and tomorrow.
In the summer of 2009, then President of the United States of America Barack Obama addressed the Ghanaian parliament in Accra. “I've come here to Ghana for a simple reason: The 21st century will be shaped by what happens not just in Rome or Moscow or Washington, but by what happens in Accra, as well,” he said. “Your health and security can contribute to the world's health and security. And the strength of your democracy can help advance human rights for people everywhere.”
He closed his speech with a striking message, that this was the moment that Africans of tomorrow’s world will look back upon and say that this was the time when the promise of Accra was realised, when prosperity was forged and a new era of progress began.
Powerful words, but almost 10 years later, how has Accra responded?
A growing population of the next generation
The capital city of Ghana, identified as the fastest growing economy in 2018 by The World Bank, Accra is the most populous city in Africa. As of 2018, Accra’s population of 4,010,054 represents around 16% of Ghana’s entire population.
In a report published by New World Wealth, Accra was found to be the 10th wealthiest city in Africa. The city is home to around 2,3000 millionaires and 100 multi-millionaires, with total wealth held in the city amounting to $35bn.
Combine the city’s huge population and its surging wealth with the fact that over half (56%) of its population are under the age of 24 and that shows a future for Accra defined by the younger generation. According to the World Population Review, 45% of Accra’s residents are also immigrants that have lived in other African countries, showing that Accra is well and truly a city on the up as more and more younger people move to the city to embark on their career journeys.
Accra represents the administrative, economic and educational centre of Ghana. Some of the largest banks in Ghana have corporate headquarters located in the heart of Accra. These include Barclays Bank of Ghana, recently voted the best bank in Ghana, as well as First Atlantic Bank, Zenith Bank and Standard Chartered Bank. Accra is also home to the Electricity Company of Ghana, which celebrates 50 years as the leading supplier of electricity across the whole of Ghana.
Accra’s digital transformation
Africa is experiencing a major boom in technology and network infrastructure, with more and more Africans getting online over recent years. With major companies looking to invest across the continent to tap into and enable this technology transformation journey, one of the world’s major online powerhouses elected to establish an AI research center in the heart of Ghana. Through its Launchpad Accelerator Africa program, Google has spent the last ten years delivering its digital skills training program to more than two million people. With a goal of reaching 10 million, while also supporting 100,000 developers and more than 60 technology start-ups, Google has and will continue to play a key role in the technology transformation all across Africa. In June 2018, the company announced that it will open a Google AI Research Center in Accra, designed to combine its research interests in AI and machine learning with its experience in Africa to push the boundaries of AI while solving challenges in areas such as healthcare, agriculture, and education.
But it’s not just Google that has turned to Accra to tap into the growing significance of the city and wider Ghana. In 2017, the very first Tech in Ghana Conference took place in Accra following a successful launch earlier that year in London. Tech in Ghana is a platform described as being at the “cutting edge of Ghana's technology landscape, priding itself on being at the cusp of the country’s next generation of entrepreneurs, industry investors and global collaborators”.
Following the success of 2017, the third conference will be taking place in November 2018 at the Accra Digital Centre. Speakers at this year’s event include the Head of Digital Transformation at Stanbic Bank Ghana, the General Manager of Mobile Money Ltd (MTN) as well as a number of CEOs of some of the most exciting and innovative technology start-ups from all across Ghana.
A centre for entrepreneurial growth
The Accra Digital Centre (ACD) is an $8.3mn digital centre built in collaboration by the World Bank, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Ministry of Communications Ghana. Located in the heart of Accra, the Accra Digital Centre was initiated as part of a vision to create opportunity for sustainable entrepreneurial employment for young Ghanaians. As a sign of its significance in a time of incredible technological growth, a new board was inaugurated to accelerate and champion the development and management of technology parks and digital centres across Ghana, specifically the ACD. Upon welcoming the board to the Accra Digital Centre, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, the Minister of Communications, said that the board would help the ACD realise its vision to “help position Ghana as a regional digital hub to enable the country leap into the digital age”.
Supporting this leap into the digital age, will be West Africa’s first Tier IV data center which is being constructed as part of a collaboration between Etix Everywhere, Ngoya and Africa Investment Groiup (AIG). Announced at the end of 2017, the multi-tenant data center will be carrier-neutral and will also include the construction of a nearby solar plant that will provide round the clock power to the data center. "The boom in internet access on the African continent will lead to an increasing demand for carrier-neutral data centers,” said Antoine Boniface, Managing Director of Etix Everywhere. “This is the reason we are delivering a network of interconnected data centers providing a Pan African platform for the delivery of digital services."
These are but a few examples of Accra’s transformational growth. With a population growth rate that shows no signs of slowing down, Government readily embracing this new world of tomorrow by investing in the necessary infrastructure to provide a true platform that will incubate, accelerate and foster the next generation of entrepreneurs, businesses and technology companies that will define the future of Accra.
As President Obama himself said, Accra will play a significant role in shaping the 21st century as a shining example of what Africa can bring to the world stage.
5 minutes with... Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, CEO, Tapoly
Founder and CEO of award-winning insurtech firm Tapoly, Janthana Kaenprakhamroy heads up Europe’s first on-demand insurance platform for the gig economy, winning industry awards, innovating in the digital insurance space, and leading with inclusivity.
Here, Business Chief talks to Janthana about her leadership style and skills.
What do you do, in a nutshell?
I’m founder and CEO of Tapoly, a digital MGA providing a full stack of commercial lines insurance specifically for SMEs and freelancers, as well as a SaaS solution to connect insurers with their distribution partners. We build bespoke, end-to-end platforms encompassing the whole customer journey, but can also integrate our APIs within existing systems. We were proud to win Insurance Provider of the Year at the British Small Business Awards 2018 and receive silver in the Insurtech category at the Efma & Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards 2019.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I try to be as inclusive a leader as possible. I’m committed to creating space for everyone to shine. Many of the roles at Tapoly are performed by women and I speak at industry events to encourage more people to get involved in insurance/insurtech. Similarly, I always try to maintain a growth mindset. I think it’s important to retain values to support learning and development, like reliability, working hard and punctuality.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
Build your network and seek advice. As a leader, you need smart people around you to help you grow your business. It’s not about personally being the best, but being able to find resources and get help where needed.
How do you see leadership changing in a COVID world?
I think the pandemic has proven the importance of inclusive leadership so that everyone feels supported and valued. It’s also shown the importance of being flexible as a leader. We’ve had to remain adaptable to continue delivering high levels of customer service. This flexibility has also been important when supporting employees as everyone has had individual pressures to deal with during this time. Leaders should continue to embed this flexibility within their organisations moving forward.
They say ‘from every crisis comes opportunity’, what opportunities do you see?
The past year has been challenging, but it has also proven the importance of digital transformation in insurance. When working from home was required, it was much harder for insurers to adjust who had not embedded technology within their operating processes because they did not have data stored in the cloud and it caused communication delays with concerned customers at a time when this communication should have been a priority, which ultimately impacts the level of customer satisfaction. This demonstrates the importance of what we are trying to achieve at Tapoly in driving digitalisation in insurance and making communication between insurers and distribution partners seamless.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
Start sooner, don’t be afraid to take (calculated) risks and make sure you raise enough money to get you through the initial seed stage.