What Nana Addo’s Win Means For The Science, Technology and Innovation Sector In Ghana.
Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) is the president elect of the Republic of Ghana. He defeated President John Dramani of the NDC in the December 7, 2016 elections to become the 5th president of the 4th republic.
At the launch of his parties manifesto captioned “ change, an agenda for jobs” the NPP promised to transform the technological base of the country. As the dust settles on the 2016 election, this paper seeks to explore what the Science, Technology and Innovation sector should expect from Nana Addo’s government.
Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) have become a significant element in the growth and development equation for every country. All sectors of the economy: energy, transport, environment, education heath and others are being disrupted and managed efficiently by improvement in science and technology. It is therefore imperative for all developing economies to harness the potential of STI for national development.
The contribution of STI to Ghana’s Gross Domestic Product GDP is less than one percent 1%, below the 2.5% average in Africa. Low investment in Research and Development, which is the lifeblood of STIs explains this worrying trend. Ghana currently invests only between 0.2 and 0.5 per cent of GDP in Science and Technology is as compared to other African countries such as Mauritius, Uganda, Togo that invest more of their GDP on STI. This by extension explains the poor performance of other sectors of the economy especially agriculture, education and manufacturing industry.
The New Patriotic Party has promised largely in its 2016 manifesto to leverage and promote science and technology to transform the economy, projecting a 1.5% contribution to Ghana’s GDP. Here is what Nana Addo’s presidency would mean to the STI sector in the next four years:
An increase in STEM talents
One of the biggest challenge facing the Science and Technology based industries is attracting and retaining qualified STEM professionals.
In the United States for instance, according to the National Science Foundation, the number of Scientific and Engineering jobs in the United States has grown at an average annual rate of 5.9%, since the early 1990s compared with 1.2% for the general workforce.
This situation is not any different in Ghana. The few locals with professional expertise in the oil and gas industry in Ghana paint a clear picture of this challenge. The root cause of this challenge is the low interest and poor achievement of students in STEM courses in both junior and senior high schools. Performance in integrated Science and mathematics in Senior High Schools in Ghana has been on a decline for the past four years. Since 2012 where the performance students in integrated science and Mathematics peaked slightly above 50% in the West Africa Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) performance has been on a steady decline. In 2015, scores in mathematic and integrated science was only about 24%.
According to the National Accreditation Board, there are currently 182 tertiary institutions in Ghana. Though an increase in enrollment into tertiary education is a welcome development, the number of humanities courses surpasses the Science/Tech subjects. This means fewer students are being trained in STEM related professions in tertiary schools.
The National policy target is a 60:40 ratio of enrolment in Science / Technical subjects as compared to Humanities / Arts. Some progress has been made in the past years towards this target. In 2014/15, 41% of students were enrolled in Science/Technical disciplines as compared to 40% in 2013/14. This overall increase is driven by increases in the proportion of enrolees in Science/Technical disciplines in Polytechnics from 39% in 2013/14 to 43% in 2014/15.
To support the 60:40 national policy, the NPP promises to expand STEM scholarship schemes, and provide incentives and support for accredited private tertiary institutions to establish schools and faculties of science and technology
The NPP also intends to establish a presidential Advisory Council for Science and Technology (PACST). The Council according to the NPP will be an advisory group of the nation’s leading scientists and engineers, who directly advise the President on all matters and policies regarding science, technology and innovation, and who will also provide leadership in the propagation of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in our education system.
Other plans of the NPP intended to stimulate the demand for science and technology through the private sector such as the 1-district-1-factory will likely increase STI related jobs and hence demand for STEM graduates, an incentive for more students especially girls to consider STEM.
High investment in STI infrastructure
It is conventional wisdom that investment in infrastructure development is a pre-requisite in a country’s economic growth. Developing infrastructure enhances a country’s productivity, consequently making firms more competitive and boosting a region’s economy.
Similarly, to improve the growth and adoption of STEM in Ghana, it is important to invest in the building blocks such as research centers, laboratories in schools, innovation spaces, a robust telecommunication network, STEM teaching and learning materials.
The NPP’s promise to improve the infrastructure required to boost STEM education and STI industry in Ghana include:
Regional Technology Parks
Nana Addo is promising to build a technology park in all the 10 regions of Ghana. This according to the NPP’s manifesto will expand the research and development capabilities of the country. No further details has been given about the tech parks hence the nature, locations and timeline for execution for this project is unclear
Technology parks, a model for promoting clustering of high technology industries has been successful policy in industrialization drive of some countries. Technology parks are mostly located close to a university or a research centre, with infrastructure built to house companies and targeted financial support such as subsidies or tax breaks. The parks are expected to attract entrepreneurs and innovators who build commercial products/services with a spill over effect on the economy. Beijing’s Zhongguancun Science Park established in 1988 is attributed to the success of China in the semiconductor, computer and telecommunication industry during the 1990s. World-renowned IT firms that emerged from the Beijing’s park include Lenovo and founder group. Currently, many global technology companies such as Google, Intel, AMD, Oracle Corporation, Motorola, Sony, Micorsoft and Ericsson have their Chinese headquarters and research centers in Zhongguancun Technology Park.