Ghana Leaders Fund Big Projects

Ghana Leaders Fund Big Projects

African nation aims to improve infrastructure, attract tech and shipping

With one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa, Ghana is riding an oil boom. But leaders of the West African nation have ambitions beyond the oil field, funding big-budget projects to make it a hub for technology and maritime trade.

In 2012, oil overtook cocoa as Ghana’s second-most valuable export, with gold remaining the country’s top foreign-currency earner. Over the next five years, Ghana’s oil industry expects at least US$20 billion of investment, mainly from foreign companies. Approved by the government last year, the country’s second major oil field, Tweneboa-Enyenra-Ntomme, could start producing oil in 2016.

Still, oil isn’t a cure-all for Ghana—especially given the country’s relatively small proven oil reserves. With the government needing to spend US$1.5 billion annually for a decade to fill current infrastructure gaps, revenues from the rapidly growing oil industry won’t be enough to finance most projects. To fill the gap, the government announced plans in late 2013 for a new Ghana Infrastructure Fund, which would fast-track infrastructure development by facilitating private-public partnerships.

“The private sector will continue to boom because the government is trying to shift more of its activities to private industries,” says Emmanuel Ebo Freeman, PMP, who heads information technology and operations at Dun & Bradstreet Credit Bureau Ltd. in Accra. “There’s going to be a major increase in all of the industries where the competition has started.”

The government has also released plans for an initiative that could turn Ghana into West Africa’s maritime hub. Congested ports at Tema and Takoradi will undergo major expansion projects through 2018; bidding is underway for a fivephase project at Tema. The rail and highway sectors will also see an uptick in project activity, including a new domestic rail line through the center of the country and a proposed US$59 billion West Coast High Speed Rail Project, now in its initial planning stages, which would link Ghana to Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Togo and Benin. These five West African countries also plan to expand the highway running from Nigeria to Cote d’Ivoire to six lanes, beginning this year.

Tomorrow’s Techies

Ghana will need an improved infrastructure if it wants to achieve its ambition of becoming a tech-friendly hub. President John Mahama has launched the marquee project announcing Ghana’s tech intentions: Hope City.

Construction began in 2013 on the US$10 billion “technopolis,” which will boast Africa’s tallest building along with a computer-hardware assembly plant, a hospital and an IT university. When Hope City is completed in 2016 outside the capital city of Accra, it will house 25,000 people, create more than 50,000 jobs and position Ghana as a center for information and communications technology, according to Ghanaian tech firm Rlg Communications Co., the project’s main funder.

“In the next few years, the IT field in the country will be particularly dynamic,” says Jonathan Addo, PMP, a server, storage and backup manager at Ecobank in Accra. “We have gotten so many of the big players quickly coming into play in Africa: Dell, HP and IBM. In the telecom space, you can now talk of Ericsson, Alcatel-Lucent, Huawei. Competition is keen.”

"In the next few years, the IT field in the country will be particularly dynamic."

— Jonathan Addo, PMP, Ecobank, Accra, Ghana

To support this sector, the government last year launched a five-year project to bring affordable broadband access to remote areas. Chinese firm Huawei has been contracted for the multiphase project, which aims to bridge the country’s technology gap and includes building an e-government infrastructure to facilitate the delivery of government services.

However, tech projects can get only so far without reliable power—which poses a major constraint to the country’s economic growth, according to PwC. To more than double the country’s power generation capacity by 2017, the Ghanaian government has launched an aggressive slate of initiatives, such as a US$400 million solar farm in Nzema. Built by British renewables developer Blue Energy, Nzema will be Africa’s largest photovoltaic power plant when it’s fully operational in 2015.

Getting People in Place

Ghana’s whirlwind of project activity will require an infusion of project management expertise. “There are project managers doing very good work, but they need to enhance their knowledge with PMI’s A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide),” says Emmanuel Ebo Freeman, PMP, who heads information technology and operations at Dun & Bradstreet Credit Bureau Ltd. in Accra. We asked project practitioners: What skills are especially important for project managers in Ghana?

“Team-building and development skills. Project managers in Ghana usually work with teams who do not understand the project management framework. The project manager should have the skill of defining a project framework and helping his team to speak a common language to drive the project.” 
— Jacob Odame, PMP, commercial coordination manager, Millicom Ghana Ltd. (Tigo), Accra

“Ghana is changing quite rapidly: economically, socially and technically. As a project manager in such a market of growth and volatility, your most valued skill is your ability to plan, because then you are able to draw mind maps to accommodate these changes to get back on track.” 
— Joseph Kwame Tanson, PMP, regional procurement manager— packaging, Nestlé Central and West Africa Ltd., Accra

“Budget management. Projects executed in the public domain are frequently plagued by budget constraints. Even agreed funds are not made available at the expected time. Effective management of what you have got helps you to maximize your earned value even if you may have funding delays.” 
— Ekow Asamoah, PMP, project manager, Vodafone Ghana, Accra

“Stakeholder management. Traditionally, government has been the sponsor of the majority of projects. These projects do not engage the end users of these facilities from project inception. This has led to some instances where completed projects, or components of them, have become white elephants because the real needs of the beneficiaries were not taken into consideration.” 
— Nutifafa Klu, PMP, construction superintendent, MTN Ghana, Accra

“Incorporating risk management throughout the project cycle. It serves as an insurance policy to protect and enhance the project objective from the unknown.” 
— John Dennis Brown, PMP, projects analyst, Volta River Authority, Accra

by Jeremy Gantz -