Remarks by Ambassador Virginia Palmer at Tech In Ghana
November 28, 2023
Thank you. It is my pleasure to visit Tech In Ghana for the first time. This is the see and be seen event for Ghana’s ICT ecosystem! Congratulations to the Tech in Ghana team and to our friends at the British High Commission.
The ability to harness technology will remain a key driver of individual, business, and societal transformation for years to come and the United States is proud to partner with Ghana to support the development of its digital economy and infrastructure.
There is a lot to celebrate in this vibrant space. Ghana has already established itself as a hub in Africa for Artificial Intelligence (AI) and fintech innovation. And on climate-related technology, Ghana is leading the way in West Africa, creating an enabling environment for electrical vehicles, charging stations, and their supporting technologies.
Ghana has also embarked upon a digitalization program that is transforming how the Government delivers services, creating more transparency and efficiencies.
For example, the Electricity Company of Ghana’s digitization drive is helping to create a cashless payment system, reducing revenue leakages. In March, the ECG announced that it increased its monthly revenue by 25% as a result. That is a huge boon to Ghana’s economy.
In this way and others, digital innovation is playing an important role in improving Ghana’s fiscal governance and assisting its financial recovery.
The ICT services sector remains one of the growth engines of Ghana’s economy. And it is opening up new venues for Ghanaian companies to provide cross border services within the West Africa region and beyond.
We are seeing this new dimension in our two-way trade with Ghana. Ghanaian app creators, fintechs, database programmers, and website designers are landing contracts to provide those services in the United States. And the same is true in the other direction, as well. We bring expertise in cyber, blockchain, and cloud computing, for example. These activities are creating employment in both of our of countries.
Digital Transformation with Africa
At the Africa Leaders Summit in Washington last December, the U.S. Government announced the Digital Transformation with Africa or DTA initiative.
DTA seeks to expand digital access, literacy, and infrastructure across the African continent. It marshals U.S. government resources and private capital to work in three key areas: digital economy and infrastructure; human capital development; and the digital enabling environment.
In addition to various areas of support we have in Ghana and across Africa to support digital connectivity, this week we have a strong U.S. government team from Washington in Accra from our State and Commerce Departments and USAID. This team is here to support the goals of DTA and the important discussions Ghana is leading at the Global Conference on Cyber Capacity Building.
Further, our Embassy brought 10 U.S. partners to Tech In Ghana – from leading companies in cybersecurity and blockchain, to universities, training and certification partners, to experts in financing and international partnerships. They want to meet with all of you and to explore areas of collaboration.
Across Africa, there is a call for investment in infrastructure. This includes digital infrastructure, where the needs are great.
Last month, our Development Finance Corporation announced a major investment in a data center here in Ghana. Additionally, our U.S. Trade and Development Agency, “USTDA,” recently reopened an office in Accra. USTDA is providing feasibility studies that help to mobilize additional capital to fund key ICT infrastructure.
Yet we cannot take for granted the progress Ghana has made, in part thanks to large, early investments by companies such as American Towers Corporation.
That infrastructure created the backbone for Ghana’s current digital economy. Those existing investors are still here, and in some cases are owed significant arrears for services already rendered. Potential future investors – in any country and any business sector – always observe the treatment of previous or current investors in making their own determinations about what opportunities to pursue. Thus the timely completion of outstanding arrears payments will help ensure that Ghana continues to attract the next waves of investment and reinvestment.
As a side note, I would note that reinvestment means more than just new infrastructure. It also means investment in projects that give back to the communities in which those companies operate. Just last week, I helped American Tower Commission its 19th Digital Community center across Ghana to provide training and support digital literacy among Ghana’s youth population.
Education and Training
The critical role of education, training, and upskilling comes to my attention time and time again.
We saw a huge milestone a few weeks ago – the number of students from Ghana attending U.S. colleges and universities grew by over 30 percent this past year, one of the highest increases of any country in the world. STEM and engineering continue to be major areas of study.
And within Ghana itself, BASICs International is working to train students on Amazon Web Services and Cisco systems. Lab Four is developing curriculum to provide ICT and cybersecurity certifications. Northeastern University is partnering with the University of Ghana and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi to offer joint degrees. These are just a few examples.
These educational experiences give rise to a lifetime of personal and business collaboration between our countries and companies. Many of you have this lived experience and straddle several international business worlds yourself.
Ghana’s Innovation and International Partners
What is particularly encouraging to me is the international recognition and support that homegrown Ghanaian national champions are getting from U.S. and international foundations and private sector partners.
For example, in July, Ghana’s minoHealth AI Labs received a Global Grand Challenges grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. minoHealth AI will use the grant to continue its pathbreaking work on using AI for medical diagnostics, with the goal to bring better and less expensive healthcare to more Africans.
Ghana is leading the rest of us forward. Our collaborations are supporting African solutions to African challenges and opportunities.
In Ghana, there is often so much great activity “hiding in plain sight.” Therefore, it is particularly gratifying to come to this event, where that activity is no longer hiding, but is showcased for further development.
I wish you great success over the next two days as you delve into panels of experts to explore emerging tech issues in Ghana and meet to form partnerships that solidify Ghana’s role in the global digital community.