Twitter delivered a surprise for Africa when it mentioned it was establishing a regional headquarters in the West African nation of Ghana, triggering vigorous debate concerning the enterprise setting for know-how start-ups throughout the continent.
For the social media large, its resolution was based mostly on shared values – Ghana helps “free speech, online freedom, and the open internet”.
The truth it additionally serves as the HQ for the African Continental Free Trade Area – established to speed up intra-African commerce and freedom of motion – appears to have cemented Ghana’s attraction as a gateway to the area.
Ghana was a method of turning into “more immersed in the rich and vibrant communities that drive the conversations taking place every day across the African continent”, Twitter said.
Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo was fast to retweet the information, saying it was the beginning of a “beautiful partnership” and significant for the event of Ghana’s tech hub.
“These are exciting times to be in, and to do business in Ghana.”
Yet many trade leaders have been initially shocked.
“In Africa what has generally been considered the tech hubs of the continent have traditionally been Egypt, Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya,” says Kenya-based Kagure Wamunyu, who leads the enlargement of Kobo 360, a digital haulage start-up that connects freight homeowners with lorry drivers.
Kenya in specific, she says, has efficiently nurtured an enabling setting for the know-how ecosystem and leads the pack in relation to excessive ranges of web penetration.
“So it was an interesting choice, but the move to Ghana is still a win for the continent.”
‘Quality of management’
On reflection, Nigerian tech pioneer Femi Longe agrees Ghana was an apparent choice.
“Nigeria is a big attractive market but if we’re honest it’s a very harsh place to do business. Ghana has invested quite a lot in recent years on creating an environment that is attractive for people coming from the outside.”
He has labored in two of the continent’s most vibrant tech hubs, in Nigeria’s important metropolis Lagos, he co-founded the Co-Creation Hub which then acquired Kenya’s iHub – one other main innovation centre.
He thinks the proactiveness of Ghana’s president clearly performed a pivotal position in Twitter’s resolution.
“If you look at Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria in terms of political stability and quality of leadership, there’s only one country that stands out.
“If an organization is considering the potential influence of presidency coverage, I might go together with Ghana. Ghana is an entry level to Nigeria, so that you get the complete advantages of entry to the Nigerian market with none of the dysfunction that comes with being there.”
Nigeria ‘stifling entrepreneurship’
And Nigeria’s “dysfunction” became a talking-point after the announcement with start-up founders sharing their experiences.
Nigerian Information Minister Lai Mohammed blamed the media’s negative coverage of Nigeria for Twitter’s snub, saying: “This is what you get once you de-market your personal nation.”
However, some, such as Nkemdilim Uwaje Begho – the CEO of Lagos-based digital advertising and marketing agency FutureSoft – argue that the problems go far deeper in Nigeria, the place insurance policies are typically reactive not enabling, failing to seek the advice of those that work in what’s a thriving tech trade.
“Across sectors we’ve seen regulators step in to regulate after technology companies have disrupted the market,” she says.
“While regulation is good, what it sometimes means is that you’re creating barriers to entry by creating high licence fees for example. Regulators need to think about the bigger picture and the long-term impact of these regulations and policies.”
A latest instance of regulation stifling entrepreneurship was the 2020 ban of business motorbike taxis from core enterprise and residential areas of Lagos – launched as quite a few internationally funded ride-hailing platforms, together with Gokada, ORide and Max.ng, launched to service the large demand.
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Ghanaians in the meantime are hoping that their financial system will bounce excessive on the Twitter trampoline – but in addition need to see native folks being employed.
“It would be good to see if they introduce a quota, that maybe the government imposes to get them to recruit a certain percentage of Ghanaians,” says Regina Honu, who runs Soronko Academy, a digital abilities improvement centre in Ghana’s capital, Accra.
“With other organisations coming in you see a lot of diasporans returning and there will be lots of other Africans looking to come and work in Ghana. Hopefully they will come in and engage with developing talent.”
Her organisation is amongst quite a few firms flourishing inside Ghana’s more and more vibrant tech scene.
When George Appiah, govt director of Ghana Tech Lab, which helps develop innovation and entrepreneurial abilities, began out nearly a decade in the past, there have been solely three know-how hubs in Accra.
Today there are round 50 throughout the nation, together with the corporate he based, Kumasi Hive.
“Compared to other countries where you might find the tech space thriving in only one city like Nairobi or Lagos, in Ghana we have the ecosystem growing in such a way that you have a lot of start-ups in Kumasi, in Takoradi, in Tamale and then Accra. It’s very decentralised and that’s a testament to the depth of the ecosystem.”
In 2012 the federal government had little or no curiosity in the sector, he says.
“Now we have a government who is appreciating the digital space and the role of tech start-ups.
“Efforts have been made progressively to offer insurance policies to assist start-ups. Local investments are rising over time.”
‘Hotbed of innovation’
While this is laudable, Ghanaian entrepreneur Herman Chinery-Hesse says domestic technology firms are often undervalued while international companies are placed on a pedestal.
He founded one of West Africa’s leading software development firms, the SOFTtribe, more than 25 years ago and says he would have expected to see more home-grown firms or African social media platforms with clout.
“Where are the Ghanaian ‘Twitters’? Are native firms being given the assist that they should additionally turn into ‘Twitters’?”
Despite these sentiments, Mr Chinery-Hesse says he does believe there will be a “spill-over” in terms of jobs and a potential influx of foreign multinationals influenced by Twitter’s presence.
It all points to Ghana becoming the “hotbed of innovation”, as former senior Twitter executive Bruce Daisley puts it.
“I feel it is an actual eager endorsement of Africa,” he says about Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey’s Ghana move.
“Jack was actually impressed by the spirit of invention and the spirit of entrepreneurial creativity. I feel this small child step is a mirrored image of that.”