We don’t want money, we need Skills!

The views expressed on this blog are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Oracle.

“We don’t want money, we need skills” was a comment of some of the attendees during the Ghana Competitiveness Forum that was held in Accra in August 2009.

Following the visit of President Barack Obama to Ghana the Business Council on International Understanding organized the forum. A delegation of Members of the House of Representatives of the United States and participants from the public and private sector met over a round table discussion to seek solutions to make Ghana more competitive and attractive to foreign investors.

Not only has Ghana transitioned peacefully to a new government after its recent elections but today you will find that the private sector is taking a leading position as well to drive the economy forward. A new generation of business men and women are now limited by available skills more than by venture capital or other financial impediments.

With the discovery of oil in Ghana an entire new set of skills are required and some international companies operating in Ghana have already started to train people to get ready to embark on deep sea oil exploration.

If you drive around Accra you will also see a lot of activity in the construction sector. New hotels and office buildings are under construction and houses in the residential areas are being built to accommodate the increased demand.

Tema, one of the ports of Ghana receives cargo that finds its final destination in some of its neighboring and land locked countries such as Burkina Faso for instance.

Most of this economic activity also requires information. Here lies in itself another great opportunity for improvements on productivity and efficiencies to become more competitive using today’s information technology.
Border formalities for the most part rely on paper based systems and delay a swift passage. Trucks lose a lot of time during this process. This is just an example of course to illustrate the vast amount of opportunity that exists and at the same time the challenge we face to get enough skilled labor to fulfill the demand.

Golden times for training institutes, vocational education centers, universities and business schools.
Golden times for the Diaspora as well who would like to return to their country and exploit the opportunities benefiting from the acquired international experience.

Training however is only part of what a country like Ghana needs. Some of those who are driving business in Ghana are either locally trained staff or staff trained overseas but in both cases these business leaders have enjoyed international exposure that has provided them experience to deal with complex business situations. These leaders can run businesses up to international standards. They have the capacity to compete internationally. If companies are certified to international standards they will find it easier to export their products and services. Skills and standards are key to achieving sustainable growth in today’s global business.

One of the requests to the members of the House of Representatives was to support an exchange program that will allow for talented Ghanaians to work for a period of time on overseas projects and to receive skilled labor from the US in this case, to work and transfer skills in Ghana so that both business leaders and companies become more competitive.

Of course there are areas where foreign direct investment and loans are still required to assist the development efforts that Ghana is undertaking and where the public interest is better served by a public sector owned solution rather than a private sector one.

When the business community starts asking for skills rather than for money as a first priority it means that its leaders clearly see the opportunity. The opportunity has probably been there for a long time, but today the country is enjoying the fact that democracy and private initiative have both evolved and met each other ready to execute.

Things are changing in Ghana and in Africa and for the better.

© Desi Lopez Fafié

7 Responses to “We don’t want money, we need Skills!”

  1. September 11, 2009 at 10:08 am

    Yes of course Desi, things are changing in Ghana for the better – as I’ve lived and grown there all my life. Ghana is not far from being a highly skilled-intensive economy.

    To add to your piece, majority of the Ghanaian population who are the youth are either out of work or out of school. Many of those who find employment land into low productive jobs with a few lucky ones fortunate to get the right job that drives the economy forward.

    Some of the challenges on the Ghanaian economy as it transition to a highly productive economy have been skilled mismatch, high unemployment and informality. The inability to find productive skills has important economic implications as skilled labour is the main asset of today’s economy. Even the few available skills are not utilised to its fullest.

    In today’s complex and changing environment, the challenge is to build the 21st Century skills that allow the youth to think critically and creatively, to process information, to make right decision, to manage conflict and work in teams!

    But the supply of these skills has not responded to these changes in demand, resulting in mismatch between the skilled needed for the economy and what students obtain after school.

    The education preparation is not good enough as demand for skills and knowledge is constantly rising. Besides developing a functional curriculum for educational institutions that provide the 21st Century skills that are high in demand to drive the Ghanaian economy, there should also be learning opportunities for those who have already left school but do not have the skills needed to be productively employed in the new economy.



  2. September 18, 2009 at 7:46 am

    This blog rocks! I gotta say, that I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks,

    A definite great read…:)


  3. 3 David Acquah Dean
    January 19, 2010 at 10:46 pm

    Hi Desi,

    I fully concur with you.

    Things are diffinately changing in Ghana and Africa.

    Personally, I was born in Accra but left Ghana for the UK at the age of 12. Since then, I’ve optained education UK and now live and work in US. I’ve worked for a number of blue chip orgs, including Dell, NCR and even Oracle Corp (as a contractor), and lately Cisco System. Through work employment, I now have a US Green Card. Funny enough, my background is in Oracle Apps – Developing and Implementing eBusiness Apps (Finance, eAM, Distributions and Manufacturing).

    For the past 10 years however, I’ve been working within the resourcing arena; business partnering to blue chip clients in supporting their resource needs, whether be in Oracle eBusiness or in the Finance industry, Metals Mining, Oil, Aluminum, Consulting or Technology sector. I have responded to RFP’s and direct hire request, placing people on contract and permanent assignments in the MEA to CEE and all over Europe and US.

    Friends of mine (Nigerian and Ghanians – all in the US & UK) are thinking of setting up an Oracle Consulting & Training firm in either Ghana or Nigeria. Base on your professional experience in this region, would you encourage us to do so or not? Some of us are Oracle certified professionals having two or more languages. Are there enough demand by clients in these region? We are also willing to participate in the Oracle Partner Network program.

    Some of us will permanently relocate to (Ghana or Nigeria) the region, and others are happy to work on temp basis (depending on demand).

    I’d dearly love to get your feedback. What advise would you give us?


    • January 20, 2010 at 5:21 am

      Hi David,

      Despite the fact that many people from the diaspora have made a successful career overseas like yourself across the board, more and more people from this same group start to come back home and decide to put their acquired experience to good use in the countries of their origin. The fact that you know both sides will definitely give you a competitive advantage over those who only know one of the two, regardless which one. Africa in this case will benefit from people like yourself because of the driving roles you can play, putting in place world wide best practice standards on top of applying skills while doing this understanding the local context.

      So I welcome the initiative for sure and wish you good luck and I am happy to answer any questions to get you started.

      Best Desi

  4. 5 David Acquah Dean
    January 20, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    Hi Desi,

    Thank you for your kind words and encouragement. You are such a valuable resource to everyone looking to explore the possibilities that Africa offers to her sons and daughters. And I’m sure I’ll be contacting you again very shortly.

    What is the best communication method to reach you? My email address is gerpsus@yahoo.com

    Thanks again Desi

    David A. Dean

  5. January 20, 2010 at 11:14 pm

    Hi David,

    You can contact me at desi.lopez.fafie@oracle.com

    Kind regards,


  6. August 2, 2013 at 8:18 pm

    Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wished to say that I’ve really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I will be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

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