It was with great pleasure that I received the the news that work on a technology park, a joint venture between KNUST and IBIS TEK, had commenced at Adako-Jachie in the Ejisu-Juaben municipality.
According to the Ghana News Agency report;
On completion, it would bring together experts from across the scientific, technological and industrial disciplines for collaboration and nurturing of ideas for the growth of companies and firms that would reside at the Park. Additionally, it would enhance technology-based industries with development capabilities and training while partnering with industry leaders. Facilities provided for include incubation, research and development centres.
I must admit I was truly surprised by the news because nothing appeared on the tech radar (at least mine) during the initial planning of such a ground breaking project especially since it involves Ghana’s premier technology university. I assume the initial stages were either very confidential or not deemed news worthy (I deem it totally news worthy).
After I got over my initial amazement, a puzzled thought came to my mind. What happened to all the technology park projects promised years before this one. So I did a little digging and contacted the the ‘entities’ involved. This is what I have discovered.
1. Ghana Cyber City (formerly Ghana Technology Park)
The Ghana Technology Park was an initiative propsed in 2005 by the Ghana Cyber Group, a Business Process Outsourcing company founded by Yaw Owusu.
On November 18, 2005, Yaw Owusu, GCG Founder & Chief Executive, presented the Ghana Technology Park proposal at Columbia Business School’s 24th Annual BBSA Conference. Here’s a quote from 2005 about the the Ghana Technology Park project which was to be situated at the Accra-Tema Export Processing Zone.
The Ghana Technology Park Limited will be incorporated in Accra in December 2005. The Company will develop and manage the Ghana Technology Park (GTP), an upscale business and innovation center to;
(1) identify and develop early stage technology incubation opportunities
(2) assist client companies to commercialize their products, and
(3) broker contracts between buyers of outsourcing services (based primarily in Europe and North America) and IT and BPO providers stationed at the Park.
Equity partners of the Ghana Technology Park will comprise:
• Africa: Private companies led by Ghana Cyber Group, Inc. (30%)
• Europe: Commonwealth Business Council Technologies and partners (30%)
• USA: Venture capitalists and tech firms with global interest e.g. IBM, Microsoft (40%)
The free zone was ideal for such a project because it had all the elements to make success a little bit more attainable for such an ambitious projects.
Generous tax and other commercial incentives. The free zone is equipped with reliable utilities, including an on-site power sub-station to ensure uninterrupted energy supply, a large water reservoir and reliable but affordable telecommunication services.
I have reached out to Yaw Owusu of the Ghana Cyber Group about the status of the project and received the following response.
The $40 million Ghana Cyber City (formerly Ghana Technology Park) is designed to facilitate incubation of innovative firms, manage offshore IT and business process outsourcing ventures, and seek to create 5,000 jobs in 5 years. GCC will also provide high tech office space and a Tier IV data center. We were planning to start on a small-scale basis but it our prospective partners encouraged us to scaled it up right from the conceptual stage.
It has been quite challenging putting together a consortium of financial partners for the “bigger” project (slated for a prime location within the campus of the University of Ghana), after securing the seed capital from the Washington-based Xalles Limited. Expanding the project meant delaying the groundbreaking schedule, which is now set for Fall 2010.
Gateway Innovations (Ghana) was established for the primary purpose of planning, developing and managingthe first technology park in West Africa. The list of equity and development partners for the 40 acre project (situated within the 3,000-acre University of Ghana campus) is impressive; Xalles Limited (Washington), Ernst & Young (New York) and Technolopolis (Finland).
The team profile for the project is also impressive, they are all Ghanaians (it includes Nii Simmonds who helped organise BarcampGhana and MakerFaireAfrica09), albeit US university alumni, with lots of work experience in the US, which I believed helped the project in a lot of good ways but I would have loved one KNUST, University of Ghana or GIMPA alumni on the board, at least.
The Ghana Cyber City will still be designated a Free Zone company which means it will get benefits from the tax incentives associated with that status. I initially wondered how they would fulfil the 70% export requirements associated with being a Free Zone company. Business Process Outsourcing, for which Ghana is the 15th most competitive destination, (even with its potential intellectual property dilemma) is export oriented and will be one of the main services engaged in by companies in the enclave. This I believe will satisfy the export requirements.
Read the full document on the Ghana Cyber City Project, which really looks set to fulfil its slogan of ‘Innovation made easy’. What do you think of the project? Share with the rest of Ghana through the comments.