by Stephanie Overby

Eye on Africa: The Budding IT Services Industry in Ghana

Oct 01, 20052 mins
IT LeadershipOutsourcing

Ghana boasts some advantages -- a 75 percent literacy rate, English as its official language and a stable, democratic government that is developing an IT policy -- that could make it attractive to outsourcing providers and their customers.

Ghana isn’t high on most CIOs’ lists of locations for outsourcing. Though the West African nation boasts some advantages—a 75 percent literacy rate, English as its official language and a stable, democratic government that is developing an IT policy—there are also many obstacles. For one thing, university IT departments don’t teach the skills graduates most need on the job, which leaves training to employers.

The Trestle Group Foundation, a nonprofit arm of the Trestle Group consultancy, aims to change that. The foundation’s mission is to stimulate economies in underdeveloped countries—in part by helping these countries become viable offshore outsourcing destinations. If Ghana and countries like it can develop their IT services capabilities sufficiently to attract projects from the United States or Europe, then the result will include knowledge transfer, jobs and revenue, says Dana B. Smith, executive director of the Foundation. The organization has a project in the Philippines, and is considering programs in India and Jordan.

In Ghana, the Foundation hopes to help universities develop their IT programs, reduce the cost of these programs, as well as set up business incubators, says Juerg Herren, a board member. Herren recently returned from a visit to West Africa where he met Daniel Ashitey, a Ghanaian who went home to start an IT services business after 12 years working as a wireless engineer, network designer and consultant in the United States and Canada. Ashitey would like the Foundation to sponsor lectures and conferences that feature experts on IT best practices. Smith says he would like to engage business executives from developed countries as teachers or mentors for Ghanaian IT professionals and young businesspeople.

Of course, capabilities without clients will do little to help Ghana’s young outsourcing companies. High profile Ghanaians, like U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, could be a critical force in driving IT work home, says Michael L. Best, an assistant professor with the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at Georgia Tech. “Ghana needs to put some effort into its brand, just as India did,” he says.