Ghana economy, land, identification system go digital by 2020
London, Oct. 21, 2019 (AltAfrica)-Ghana is seeking to join Kenya as Africa’s most digitalised economy as the government pursues an ambitious drive to eliminate paper from most services and transactions by next year.
Ghana is also in the process of introducing national ID cards as part of an integrated database with passports, tax identification numbers, and drivers’ licences
The government also said it will, by early 2020, have “electronically tagged” every home in the west African country of 30m people, including informal housing in slums, by using GPS to give homes an electronic address.
It has also pledged to make payments for all government services, such as permits and driving licence applications, cashless by next year.
Speaking at the FT’s Africa Summit in London, Mahamudu Bawumia, Ghana’s vice-president, said digital technology would squeeze out middlemen and space for corruption, and would draw more people into the formal economy, making it easier to both tax them and provide services.
“By leveraging technology to improve transparency and accountability in administrative systems, we are completing in short order what many years of administrative reforms had not been able to accomplish,” he said.
Ghana economy, with Kenya and Ivory Coast, are among the most advanced of Africa’s 54 countries in digitalising government and payment services.
By the end of last year, there were 456m unique mobile phone subscribers in Africa, a penetration rate of 44 per cent, according to GSMA, an industry body. That is expected to rise to 623m by 2025.
Mr Bawumia said that, in mobile payments, Ghana had already surpassed Kenya by enforcing full interoperability of mobile wallets across telecoms companies and banks, in effect turning every mobile phone into a mini-bank account.
Kenya is considered a pioneer of mobile money after, a decade ago, introducing M-pesa, a phone-based cash transfer service that handles nearly 2bn transactions annually.
Ghana is also digitalising its land registry using blockchain technology, the vice-president said, reducing land disputes. Within two years, he added, it would have digitalised all hospital records and was in the process of digitalising court records.
“No one can hide.” Gyimah Boadi, co-founder of Afrobarometer, a polling group, and a former director of Ghana’s Center for Democratic Development, said he welcomed the digital push in principle. “From the standpoint of pushing the development agenda I am fully in support of National ID for everybody,” he said.
“For me it’s the beginning of citizenship.” But, said Mr Boadi, the implementation had been painfully slow. Mr Boadi also said that, while digitalisation might be effective against petty corruption, it did nothing to tackle larger-scale theft associated with government procurement. “Ghana’s problems with corruption are more at the grand level and you don’t sort these out with a technical fix,” he said.