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Opinions of Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Columnist: Ayisi, Gabriel

Massive Job Creation Needed To Save Ghana

Republished article:
50% Of Graduates Not Likely To Get Jobs – Vice Chancellor of University of Ghana – Professor Ernest Aryeetey - Ghanaweb – September 13, 2011

• Urban unemployment threatens Ghana’s progress.

• Lack of jobs is the biggest problem Ghana faces today, the country Director of World bank has warned.

• Youth unemployment is 25.6%.

All the quotations above appeared on Ghanaweb in the recent past.

There have been several that have touched on poverty alleviation and brain drain which I have followed with keen interest. Here, I offer my own suggestions as to what Ghana must do to solve both problems and put Ghana back to work. I have also followed with keen interest the recent past debate on our educational reform and the need to expand the tertiary sub-sector of education to absorb the many Senior Secondary School students graduating out of the reformed secondary education in the country. It appears that while reforming the education system and accelerating it to graduate more students, nobody is looking at the employment of these students upon graduation. A situation, which perpetuates youth unemployment and feeds directly into brain drain or what I term flight of intellectual capital.

What are we doing as a nation about these systemic problems?

Have we simply become suppliers of raw materials and labor to the West to feed their industries and provide employment to their youth except our own?
I have heard some ridiculous suggestions where a couple of Ghanaians have called for the training of nurses solely for export. I always feel saddened and disappointed whenever Ghana’s progress is compared to Malaysia. A comparison which was repeated recently, about two months ago on American television. Shots of Malaysian economy were shown and compared with shots from Ghana - agonizing opposites.
In expanding the tertiary sub-sector of education, the government needs to bear in mind the impact such an expansion will have on the government’s growth projections, in its quest for developing Ghana into a middle income economy by 2020. Many private universities have sprung up to make up the shortfall in university student admissions, however, are we thinking of how to absorb these students into the economy, for the sake of developing Ghana’s economy. Ironically, a weak economy, coupled with the lack of employment avenues outside the civil service, encourages the country’s intellectuals to seek employment opportunities in the core capitalist economies of the west and, most recently, the Gulf States - remember the engineers who left the Tema Oil refinery for the Gulf States?

This is the time to think of a massive job creation throughout the country to absorb the many number of graduates the country is experiencing. A study commissioned by UNESCO-BREDA on the flight of intellectual capital (Brain Drain) found that the most highly trained and the most experienced in areas of dire need in Africa (medicine, engineering, the natural sciences, computer science) are the ones who tend to leave the universities and the individual countries. The burden of these losses is all heavier for the universities and related institutions since migrant doctors, engineers, and scientists tend to leave their countries during the most productive years of their lives. Although a number of African countries have achieved tremendous success at training nationals under their human capital development schemes to meet their staffing needs, they have not met with tremendous success at retaining those they have trained (Ajayi, Goma, & Johnson) (Ayisi 2001)
What is even worse, hundreds of thousands of Africans are disengaging too. Exact figures are hard to come by but it is clear that Africa’s brightest and the best have been escaping to the West for years now. In many countries, whoever can is getting out, seeking lush, verdant pastures elsewhere. This constitutes a weakening of the continent, perhaps more serious than all the other factors put together. For if Africans are to save themselves, those brains, those skills, those proficiencies escaping the continent will be desperately needed. It is however estimated that 300,000 qualified Africans born and bred on the continent are currently working abroad. (Ayisi 2001)
Highly trained manpower constitutes the very foundation for national development and sustained economic growth: by training such people and losing them through brain drain, African countries suffer a double loss. Yet such loss is inevitable in view of the severe and unabating competition for able, well-educated and highly-trained men and women. Bold steps are, therefore, necessary to break this vicious cycle (Ajayi, Goma, & Johnson) (Ayisi 2001)
The above quotation is indicative that merely increasing educational opportunities without corresponding job creation to match the graduation rate (concurrent economic development) will result in brain drain. In the same vein, merely spurring economic growth without corresponding increases in the required manpower development is equally disastrous to the economy. What the country needs to do is stop paying lip service to the problems of unemployment and brain drain and really take concrete steps to stem it in order to retain the human capital we develop – we must retain what we train.
The government of Ghana needs to deliberately embark on a massive job creation across the country. It can do this by encouraging Ghanaians to set up businesses aiming at both the local and export markets. This should be vigorously pursued in addition to wooing Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs). If manpower planning is effectively undertaken concurrently with economic planning, jobs would be created for the graduates and encourage them to stay in the country and assist in the development processes, instead of traveling abroad to seek employment. The resulting economic expansion and growth may lead to higher incomes, increased consumption, an improved standard of living, improved quality of life, and social equity in the distribution of the national wealth. The ripple effect of investments on economic development created along the way will lead to further increases in employment, which will result in further increases in income and may induce increases in consumption and savings. This will become a cycle in its own regard - obviously not a vicious one. The induced consumption (consumerism) and savings will lead to more investments though economic and manpower development. There is nothing wrong with consumerism so long as Ghanaians earn decent incomes and contribute to the country’s productivity. The consumerist habit will feed directly and positively into the local production and sustained employment. Consumerism will sustain the businesses established to boost the job creation.
The purpose of the massive job creation should be:
To reduce unemployment, to increase the country’s productivity by adding value to our raw material resources (producing for both the local and export markets), to utilize Ghana’s technical, human, and intellectual capital, to encourage creativity and entrepreneurship, to reduce brain drain, and to sustain the country’s economic growth. As part of government policy, and in line with job creation and poverty reduction, extractive industries –oil and other mining companies - must be required to agree to refine a percentage of their mineral and oil extractions into finished products in the country before being granted concessions, instead of the unequivocal wholesale EXPORT of their extractions in their raw forms to create jobs in other countries. This idea came to me when I watched a forum on BBC World Service held in Zambia with the title: “Does mining benefit Africa?” The country also needs to stop the “Shopping Mall” development where over ninety-nine point nine percent of all the products selling in our shopping malls are imported. We need to produce most of these things in the country to put our youth and the country to work. For example, industrial sand paper is made from alumina and bauxite, which are mined in abundance in Ghana, but Ghana does not produce a single sand paper. We have the capacity to supply the whole world with industrial sand paper.
To support job creation by the private sector, the Ghana government must: reduce import duty drastically on imported machinery and equipment, provide corporate tax incentives/breaks for new businesses, provide excellent road and waterways network throughout the country, extend railway system to the North, provide uninterrupted flow of electricity and water, develop efficient and effective Judiciary system, devoid of corruption and government interference, develop effective nationwide security system devoid of corruption spearheaded by the police and the intelligence body, provide efficient and reliable communication system suited for the 21st century, provide excellent hospitals within an effective and efficient health care system, and put in place sound regulatory procedures for the growth of business to ensure reliable corporate tax revenue collection across the board. Thus, the government’s revenue will be greatly boosted by the huge corporate tax revenue that will accrue to the government in the long term when many businesses establish in the country.
Furthermore, to achieve greater economic growth, there must be linkages between government, private industry, and higher education. To make the development of our human capital effective, the government of Ghana should compile data on existing manpower shortages and future needs of government and business industry and coordinate this information with higher education so that higher education can respond through effective planning and continual adaptation of its curricula to economic development policies and projections. Research has revealed that through dialogue between government and the business industry, manpower needs in the national economy can fairly be projected by comparing national employment changes to enrollments by field to identify areas of shortage.
Higher education must become willing participant observers in the economic struggle instead of the traditional stance of observational reserve and detached analysts. Universities, colleges, and polytechnics, in consultation with private business and the ministry of labor and industries, can make significant contributions to the economy by taking government and private business manpower projections and refining them for national needs through the creation of developmentally appropriate curricula. Business industry, in turn, must support higher education by diverting some of their resources through the offering financial aid, as well as offering technological research support, to higher education in an attempt to fill the employment gap. Industry should play an active role in providing equipment to universities and colleges aimed visibly at updating curricular capacity in response to rapidly changing technology. For Ghana’s economy to take off there needs to be greater collaboration among government, private industry, and higher education for complex research and development projects in the fields of technology, agriculture, health, the sciences and engineering. This collaboration must lead to a shared vision among the three stakeholders in the development of the economy. I, therefore, call on the government to take advantage of such collaboration and put together a permanent tripartite committee/commission made up of representative think tanks from government, private industry, and higher education to formulate economic development policies and advise the government on their implementation. (Ayisi 2001)
The rationale for the tripartite commission’s collaborative approach to economic development will ensure continuity of economic development policies regardless of changes in the country’s political leadership, since the permanent tripartite committee comprising government, private industry, and higher education would form the backbone of all economic development policies. This approach to formulation of economic development policies may also lead to multilateral acceptance of economic policies and hence the commitment by successive governments. This is important, because, in the past, economic development policies have been seen as partisan, since governments in power often claimed sole ownership to them.
Successive governments, in trying to be different, with or without rationale, blatantly refuse to follow or implement economic policies and projects of prior governments even if they are constructive, feasible and developmentally appropriate for the nation, thus throwing to waste the huge resources that were committed in researching these policies and actions. This happened at the end of Nkrumah’s era and it has happened with NDC’s Vision 2020. The NPP government just came out unashamedly saying that Vision 2020 is discarded because the NPP saw it as an NDC plan (Senior Minister Joseph Henry Mensah, Ghanaweb, December 6, 2005). The NPP government does not solely share the blame; the NDC must also be faulted because it did not go about Vision 2020 in a bipartisan manner. Why should Ghana’s political parties in this modern day and era continue to practice politics of envy and utter contempt and continue to waste our economic resources? Our development must be continuous and sustained irrespective of changes in our political leadership. This is why economic policies formulated under our ruling governments must be universally accepted, hence the call for the institution of a tripartite commission to replace the NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT PLANNING COMMISSION (NDPC). Such a committee will also lead to proper research and analysis of economic development proposals.
Under such arrangement, if a government is voted out of power, the commission loses only the government representatives who are subsequently replaced by members of the incoming government.
The members representing Private Industry and Higher Education remain to assure continuity of policies. In this regard economic policies will not be seen as partisan. This will save the country millions of cedis, because when economic policies are discarded or discontinued, the country’s resources which were used to develop such policies and projects become wasted as happened at the end of the Nkrumah regime, as well as subsequent regimes and most recently the discontinuation of VISION 2020 with or without merit by the NPP government, because the NPP government viewed it as a pet project of the NDC government
In the end industry and higher education must collaborate more systematically in sharing technology so that both sectors understand changes in applied research and their basic impact, and requirements of application in both educational and business terms.
African universities must, henceforth, be much more than an institution for teaching, research and dissemination of higher learning. It must be accountable to, and serve, the vast majority of the people who live in rural areas. The African university must be committed to active participation in social transformation, economic modernization, and the training and upgrading of the total human resources of the nation. (Ayisi 2001)
To concretize Ghana’s development into a middle income economy, colleges and universities must devote resources to identify current and future economic development problems and propose timely alternative solutions. In addition, universities and colleges should involve the participation of industry on the boards responsible for updating curricula and for selecting professors to assist in making curricula more current and developmentally appropriate. In the west, there have been several of such linkages between universities and Industry in the creation of science parks for their mutual benefit and for the benefit of their respective countries. Examples are the Research Triangle Park in the USA, Basic Technologies for New Industries (Japan), the Heriot Watt Park in the UK. A recent phenomenon is also University/Industry cooperatives. In 1981, a German company Hoechst announced a ten-year $50 million grant to the Massachusetts General Hospital to establish a department of genetic engineering at Harvard Medical School department. Another one is the Stanford Center for Integrated Systems at Stanford University initiated by Hewlett-Packard. In 1999 Microsoft Corporation and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) entered into $25 million partnership known as I-Campus over five years to develop educational technologies. Also there is another university/Industry cooperative where General Electric (GE) is investing $11 million in a partnership with University of Connecticut which will allow engineering and business students and faculty of University of Connecticut to work with GE to develop advanced computer and internet-based products. (Ayisi 2001)
The government should encourage the full participation and integration of colleges, universities and polytechnics in local, regional and national economic planning processes because unilateral solutions to problems are not as sound as those arrived at through the coming together of all who are affected by the problem.
Lastly, government needs to be reinvented in Ghana. We need developmental and entrepreneurial governments who can show, at the end of their respective terms in office, how much they have added to the economy. According to Bill Weld, governor of Massachusetts: “an entrepreneurial government is one that would offer competition and focus on results, not rules. Most entrepreneurial governments promote competition between service providers. They empower citizens by pushing control out of the bureaucracy, into the community. They measure the performance of their agencies, focusing not on inputs, but on outcomes. They are driven by their goals and their missions and not by their rules and regulations. They define their customers and offer them choices: between schools, between training programs, between housing options. They prevent problems before they emerge, rather than simply offering services afterward. They put their energies into earning money, not simply spending it. They decentralize authority, embracing participatory management. They prefer market mechanisms to bureaucratic mechanisms. And they focus not simply on providing services, but catalyzing all sectors public, private, and voluntary into action to solve their community’s problems.”

Dr. Gabriel A. Ayisi,

drayisi@hotmail.com