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The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has ranked Ghana as the country with the highest mobile-broadband penetration in Africa, making internet access and use available to a lot of people.

According to the ITU, the country’s mobile-broadband penetration rate increased more than three-fold within 12 months to push the country to the top of Africa’s broadband league.

The ITU, in its “Measuring the Information Society 2012” report, said it is encouraged by the phenomenal efforts by both government and private sector operators in the telecom sector to increase access to, and use of, broadband services.

“Fixed (wired)-broadband penetration remains marginal, but mobile broadband took off, with a remarkable surge in penetration from seven percent in 2010 to 23 percent in 2011, which is comparable to that of many developed countries. This makes Ghana the country with the highest mobile-broadband penetration in Africa,” it said.

The ITU, which is a specialised UN agency on ICT, explained that the leap in mobile-broadband penetration and increase in the number of internet users have triggered the use of ICT services and infrastructure, which could impact positively on national income levels.

According to the ITU, mobile broadband penetration has been driven by the aggressive roll-out of technology infrastructure by network operators and the drop in broadband prices, spurred by competition in the mobile market and the provision of 3G services.

The 2011 ITU price data-collection exercise undertaken by the UN body indicates that the country’s mobile broadband prices are relatively low (14 per cent of GNI per capita) in comparison with the African average (64 per cent of GNI per capita for prepaid handset-based usage and 54 per cent of GNI per capita for postpaid computer-based usage).

“Low prices attract customers, as do the variety of tailored mobile-broadband offers available from the mobile market leader MTN. Prepaid customers can choose from various packages with different data allowances (from 25 MB to 10 GB) and validity periods (one day to 30 days).

“Furthermore, Ghana’s telecommunication sector had the highest investment-to-revenue ratio in 2009 and 2010, which shows that operators invested relatively heavily in fixed assets in order to maintain and enhance networks,” the report added.

The ITU reports that the internet user population of the country is now 14 percent, which suggests that one out of seven Ghanaians now has access to the Internet, an improvement over what used to pertain in the country two years ago, when only one out of 10 Ghanaians had access to the Internet.  

This means that Ghana, with 24.6 million inhabitants, increased its Internet population two years ago by a little over 1.1 million to about 3.5 million last year.

Furthermore, the number of fixed (wired) broadband subscriptions increased from 50,000 to about 63,000, which indicates that for every 400 people only one person has access to fixed broadband subscription.  

The Internet penetration rate in the country, however, is far off the nearly 100 percent penetration rate recorded in the voice telephony sector.

Some analysts argue that the penetration rate of the country could be higher than the 14 percent reported by the ITU as more people now access the Internet on their mobile phones in areas where fixed or wired Internet subscription is non-existent.

Ghana, which was the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to pioneer Internet usage in homes and offices in 1993, now falls behind countries like Seychelles, Mauritius, South-Africa, Cape Verde, Botswana, Namibia, Gabon, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Swaziland.

Industry players have thus called for regulatory and policy interventions to propel growth in internet usage as the entry of international bandwidth providers have helped to bring down,  by about half, the cost of accessing Internet services in the country – resulting in enhanced Internet-user experience.

The General Manager, Corporate Affairs, of the West Africa Gas Pipeline Company (WAPCo), Mrs. Harriet Wereko-Brobby, has said that the Company has in mind an end-February deadline given by Energy Ministers of West Africa for the resumption of gas supply to beneficiary countries.

“They have given us a deadline and we are very conscious of it, and of course in the discussions we are holding [with contractors] we will have the deadline in mind,” she told B&FT.

She could,however not tell exactly when work would resume on getting the pipeline ready to receive gas from Nigeria.

“I know that once we give you a date that is the day that you are going to hold on to. But I can assure you that we know it is in everybody’s interest for us to work hard and ensure the work is done. Not giving you a date now does not mean we are not working on it,” she said.

 WAPCo completed the repair of the pipeline on October 15, but in the process of cleaning the pipeline an accident occurred at a Takoradi station, leading to the death of two employees and stalling the process.

“At the end of October we had an incident and we were obliged to suspend activities. So we stopped the action [and] we reviewed our strategy. We are now engaging with contractors so that we can resume,” Mrs. Wereko-Brobby said.

At a meeting in Accra in December 2012, Energy Ministers from the sub-region expressed displeasure at WAPCo for not indicating exactly when it intended to finish work on the rehabilitation of the gas pipeline.
They said the situation has led to worrisome economic and social costs for the recipient countries – Benin, Togo and Ghana – of the gas.

They therefore asked the company to bring forward, to the end of February 2013, a tentative completion date of end of March 2013 which WAPCo had proposed.

Asked whether WAPCo could assure consumers of the reliability of gas supply, she said there were many sides to the issue and that, as transporter and not a supplier of gas, WAPCo could not guarantee supply.

She called on the shipping community to respect the gas pipelines’ right of way on the high seas to avoid a recurrence of the incident.

On August 28, 2012 part of the approximately 656-kilometre-long West African Gas Pipeline was damaged when a skirmish between Togolese Navy and a third-party vessel resulted in the vessel dragging its anchor into the pipeline and ripping it apart. The two ends of the pipeline were dragged about 10 and 15 metres off the original position.

The receipeient countries have since been without gas, leading to power rationing in Ghana, which receives about 123 million cubic feet of gas a day from WAPCo, making the country the largest recipient in the four-nation gas project. Benin and Togo receive five million cubic feet a day each of the gas that comes from Nigeria.

The West Africa Gas Pipeline Project -- a joint venture between public and private sector companies from Nigeria, Benin, Togo and Ghana with the mandate to transport natural gas from Nigeria to customers in the partner countries -- was proposed by ECOWAS as a key regional economic goal as far back as 1982.

The company has its headquarters in Accra and is owned by Chevron West African Gas Pipeline Ltd. (36.7%); Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (25%); Shell Overseas Holdings Limited (18%); Takoradi Power Company Limited (16.3%); Societe Togolaise de Gaz (2%); and Societe BenGaz S.A. (2%).

By Ekow Essabra-Mensah

Ghana is on course to achieve the 2015 cocoa production certification standards stipulated by the World Cocoa Foundation, Noah Amenyah, Public Relations Manager of Cocobod, has told B&FT.

“Certification issues will not be a problem for the country’s cocoa sector, by the stipulated year, all our cocoa will be certified,” he said.

Cocoa buyers and consumers of chocolate around the world are increasingly demanding traceable cocoa that is certified as grown in a sustainable manner. As a result, a lot of cocoa- producing countries are grabbing the opportunities therein.

Cocoa certification demands that a farmer’s social, environmental and economic activities fall in line with best labour practices, in exchange for receiving a premium price on the produce.
The standards will also push farmers to develop better drying and fermentation practices.

Mr. Amenyah disclosed that a number of organisations, including Fairtrade and the German Development Co-operation (GTZ) are working with Cocobod to effectively train farmers to meet the certification standards.  

“The Cocoa Livelihoods Programme, for example, is helping to bring about new technologies to help reduce the cost of farmer training and improve productivity and yields.”

The Kuapa Kokoo Farmers’ Union has been urging Cocobod to take a critical look at the cocoa certification directives as a key factor in modern cocoa production.

This year, Divine Chocolate Limited is contributing US$178,000 in Fairtrade premiums through Fairtrade cocoa purchased from Kuapa Kokoo, which owns a part of the UK-based chocolate maker.

Managing Director of Divine Chocolate, Sophi Tranchell, said: “The certification is very useful for consumers in places like England and America to know that the beans  have been checked.”

Cocoa certification consultant, Rita Owusu Amankwah, said the country stands to benefit from the cocoa certification process, as the global chocolate and cocoa industry rapidly moves towards certified and sustainable cocoa marketing.

She observed however that challenges, like increased labour cost and untimely supply of farm inputs, could be discouraging for farmers who want to join certification programmes.

Nevertheless, she said cocoa farmers would be better off in the long run, as findings from a research conducted in cocoa-growing communities in the Ashanti and Western regions have shown.

“The certified farmers that I talked to, within a period of one and a half years, most of them have increased their yield by 10-55% after adopting good agricultural practices, integrated pest and crop management, and adhering to other environmentally-friendly standards,” she revealed.

Bill Guyton, President of the World Cocoa Foundation, said his organisation is empowering communities by training farmers, enhancing education, investing in families, and improving community health and welfare.

 “We were formed in 2000 to help improve cocoa sustainability in all three cocoa regions of the world; but because of the importance of West Africa a lot of our programmes focus on that region. We’re currently working on three major regional programmes.

“The first one is called the Cocoa Livelihoods Programme, which is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and 16 of our company members as well as the German Development Agency.

“The programme aims to reach over 200,000 cocoa farmers over the next few years with the intent of doubling incomes. So it’s a very ambitious programme but it’s also making some very good progress,” he said.

Nigeria, Côte d’Ivorie, Ghana and Cameroon together produce 70 percent of the world’s cocoa, generating about $13 billion annually, while the end-product of cocoa, chocolate, has a turnover of US$105 billion.

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