For the nation to emerge successfully from the throes of the current economic downturn and build back better toward a stronger future, it is imperative that any development strategy be comprehensive and inclusive.
This was the consensus of two speakers during the commencement of Ghana Economic Forum’s (GEF) 12th edition, organised by B&FT under the theme ‘Build Back Better: IMF Support, Strategies to Build a Sustainable Economy and Dynamic Business Environment’.
Leading the charge, Dr. Godwin Acquaye, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of B&FT, emphasised the importance of existing structures designed to implement multifaceted strategies.
These strategies, he said, include economic diversification through investments in both emerging and traditional industries; promotion of innovation and entrepreneurship; and the development of crucial infrastructure encompassing physical structures, community-connecting bridges, energy systems and digital innovation highways.
Furthermore, he pointed out the significance of prioritising transparency, accountability and good governance as non-negotiable pillars for the nation’s economic future, as well as creating a fair and predictable business environment that attracts investments and fosters sustained prosperity.
He was however of the opinion that such lofty aspirations will fall flat if they fail to adopt an all-inclusive approach.
“We must never lose sight of the fact that true progress is inclusive. It depends on empowering every citizen and ensuring access to quality education, healthcare and the means to participate meaningfully in our economy. Inclusivity is not merely a goal; it is a moral imperative,” Dr. Acquaye stated in his welcome address.
Data from the International Labour Organisation suggest that if gender inclusivity in the workplace is bridged – with women’s employment and earnings being on par with men’s – countries could potentially experience a 20 percent boost in gross domestic product per capita and an average increase of 14 percent in overall wealth.
Dr. Acquaye also noted that this approach is essential to prevent a mass exodus of the nation’s brightest minds, as concerns over a long-lasting brain-drain remain elevated.
“It is the only way to retain our young, talented and skilled labour force within the country. The alarming trend of our youth seeking opportunities abroad – often referred to as greener pastures – is a reality. Even within our own companies, young professionals are resigning in pursuit of these opportunities. Without careful attention to improving our economic condition, we risk losing our human capital entirely – exacerbating our current challenges,” he stressed.
This comes as the economic migration of young professionals – especially in healthcare delivery and information and communication technology (ICT) – has witnessed an uptick post-pandemic, as they lament working conditions and an erosion of their purchasing power on account of elevated inflation and a weakened local currency.
Already, repercussions from the migration of highly skilled labour from Africa extend far beyond depletion of the continent’s talent pool. Africa also faces substantial financial losses due to the investments made in training these individuals who ultimately seek better opportunities abroad.
A 2018 estimate revealed that Africa had incurred a staggering loss of US$4.6billion since 2010 in training costs for domestically educated doctors, who emigrated to countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.
Taking his turn, Partner and Head Advisory at KPMG, Andrew Akoto, continued the clarion call by stating: “We must build back, and we must do it better,” adding that the GEF’s impact over the past decade has made it the ideal platform for deliberations on the subject.
“What the Ghana Economic Forum has achieved over the last ten years directly speaks to the KPMG purpose of inspiring confidence and empowering change,” he further stated.
Offering suggestions as to how the nation can attain robust and inclusive growth, he referenced the four key themes that emerged from KPMG’s interactions with 1,325 CEOs from eleven markets and eleven key industries across the globe, as captured in its 2023 Global CEOs Outlook Report.
The Report showed that CEOs across the globe remain cautiously optimistic about the economic outlook, with 73 percent expressing confidence in the global economy over the next three years – a slight increase from 71 percent in the previous year. However, the same CEOs showed a dip in confidence regarding their own company’s growth prospects with only 77 percent expressing optimis IA m, down from 85 percent in the previous year.
The primary concern among CEOs was geopolitics and political uncertainty – identified as the greatest risk to business growth, with the latest round of Israeli-Palestinian tension threatening to exacerbate this concern.
Additionally, 77 percent of global CEOs are worried that rising interest rates and tightening monetary policies could prolong economic decline – adding to the uncertainty surrounding future growth prospects.
The report highlighted the transformative role of artificial intelligence (AI) in various industries as CEOs are increasingly investing in generative AI tools like ChatGPT, recognising their limitless potential in driving technological growth. A significant 70 percent of CEOs are funneling resources into generative AI, as they view it as a key competitive edge for the future.
However, the rapid adoption of AI also raises concerns. A lack of ethical standards and regulatory frameworks is the top concern for 57 percent of CEOs. Furthermore, 82 percent of CEOs acknowledge the potential dangers posed by AI, including new attack strategies. The Report emphasises the importance of responsible AI frameworks, governance and safeguarding measures to mitigate these risks.
Business leaders, the Report showed, are grappling with the global workforce landscape; aiming for a full office return within three years while emphasising long-term employee-needs.
Environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) principles are now integral to over two-thirds of CEOs’ strategies, with 35 percent adjusting communication to include ESG language. However, 68 percent worry about their ESG progress standing up to scrutiny; underlining the need for ongoing improvement and transparency.