Norway invests in Ghana’s digital future. Why?

In November 2020, Norway decided to help 14,000 Ghanaians to acquire job-ready digital skills in the next 3 years. The $3 million investment is a small but telling example of the close business relation between both countries since 2007 and an oil development program.

Ghana, Norway and the ITU signing a digital parnership on training 14,000 Ghanaians
Ghana, Norway and the ITU signing a digital parnership in November 2020 | Credits : ITU

Ghana’s ambition to become a leader in the African digital economy

In November 2020, the International Telecommunication Union and Norway signed a three-year partnership to improve digital skills for undeserved minorities in Ghana, in collaboration with the American tech company Cisco and the Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communications (GIFEC). The ITU is an United Nations specialized agency aiming at connecting the world together through information and communication technologies.

The program will provide 14,000 people with digital skills over 200 training facilities throughout Ghana.

Over the past years, Ghana’s government tried to digitize the country and provided more digital services to its citizens.

Earlier in 2020, 3 initiatives were designed to deepen financial inclusion of the Ghanaian population, whose median age is only 21.5 years. The authorities launched new policies to facilitate digital payments and e-commerce. It was the first African country to deploy a QR Code payment system.

In 2019, the program Ghana Beyond Aid planned to make the country a leader in the digital economy in Africa by 2028.

According to a 2019 report from the World Bank, the Information and Communications Technology industry contributed about 3.6% of the country’s GDP, which is one of the country’s robust and fastest growing sectors.

Ghana asked Norway to help manage its oil resources

Ghana and Norway are both co-chairs of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Advocates and have multiple occasions to work together on top of their bilateral collaborations.

In February 2020,  President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo went to Norway and visited the Prime Minister Erna Solberg. “Ghana is one of our closest partners in Africa“, the Norwegian PM said.

The year before, Ms. Erna Solberg came to Ghana to sign the Scandinavian initiative “Fish for development” that supports the establishment of secure and sustainable fisheries and ecosystems.

If Norway’s fishing industry is one of its most active sectors, the bilateral relations started a decade earlier with another of Norway’s crucial industrial resources: oil.

An offshore platform in Norway
An offshore platform in Norway. The Nordic country shares its experience in the oil and gas industry with Ghana | Credits: Jan-Rune Smenes Reite

Norway only opened an embassy in Ghana in 2011 but the political and business connections date back from 2007 when the African country found offshore oil resources in its territorial waters.

This massive revenue and self-sufficiency opportunity may also turn out to be a curse if not managed properly.

Ghana therefore decided to seek help for Norway’s experience and cautious management of the resource. Then the “Oil for development program” started.

This program is a large business opportunity for the Kingdom of Norway.

Ghana is a business opportunity for Norway

In fact, during his northern visit last year, Ghana’s President also assured that his government would “continue to maintain a conducive investment atmosphere” for the more than 50 Norwegian companies operating on his territory.

One of the most prominent corporations is Aker Energy, an organization extracting oil and gas and managing operations in Ghana. With offices in Acra and Oslo, the company is owned at 50% by the Aker holding, a Norwegian conglomerate in the oil, shipping, engineering or also fishing industries.

Similarly to the digital skills program, the Aker-GNPC scholarship has been financially assisting some students living in the region of Takoradi, the “Oil City“, and providing support such as career counselling.

And Norway’s investment in Ghana’s digital future is also tied with Norway’s willingness to diversify its economy.

Although the oil and gas industry still made 18% of Norway’s GDP in 2018, it also realized the vulnerability of the energy’s price volatility and the need to diversify.

It has therefore been trying to grow its digital economy, especially in fintech or medtech.

In 1995, Norway was home to the creators of the software company Opera that developed the eponym web browser. If it is only the 6th most used browser in the world with 2% of the market, it is yet quite popular in Africa.

Opera is ranked in the 3rd position with 7% of the market on this continent. It is the 2nd most popular web browser in Ghana behind Chrome, gathering 15% of the traffic in 2020.

Nigeria is also another popular market for Opera with a 29% market share. The country is also the domestic market to the mainstream OPay app – for Opera pay. The Norwegian subsidiary offers a digital wallet, mobile payment services and a consumer platform for users to send and receive money, pay bills or order food.

Founded in 2018, Opay raised $120 million in 2019 in order to expand in South Africa, Kenya, and…Ghana.

Thankfully, Ghanaian authorities accelerated the pace for a digitized payment system in 2020, and Norway will obviously be here to provide support.

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