There is a deep anxiety over the rapid increase in graduate unemployment in the country given that the number of unemployed graduates in the country has increased exponentially over the last few years. It does not appear as if there are any sound policy intervention to generate jobs for the youth. ABUBAKARI SEIDU AJARFOR recently interacted with the Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) Mr. Yofi Grant. The discussion was centered on a policy that has become the government’s panacea to the creation in the country- How the sector intends to create one million jobs in four years.
Ghana’s unemployment rate
Ghana’s unemployment rate stood at 11.9 percent in 2015 representing 1.2million people from 15years and above, according to the latest Ghana Labour Force Survey from the Ghana Statistical Services. Of this proportion, females accounts for slightly higher than half (50.7%) while close to half (49.3%) are males. A Ghana Living Standards Survey 2012/2013 also indicated that 250,000 young men and women enter the Ghanaian labour market every year with only two percent being absorbed in the formal sector while 98percent remains unemployed or in the informal sector. Furthermore, about 90 percent of people between the ages of 25 to 64 are also unemployed.
Meanwhile, the previous National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration claimed that it had created over 600,000 jobs between the period of 2012 and 2016 but the Campaign Coordinator of the Third World Network, Dr. Yao Graham has dismissed that claim indicating that businesses were recording the challenges they faced and that government’s policies were biased in favour of those who were producing for export.
In a bid to address this unemployment canker, the government of President Akufo-Addo has created the impression that it is the only true “Job Messiah” destined to redeem the youth from the jobless york that is hanging around their necks like an albatross. They came very strong with the promise of creating One District One Factory, One Dam One Village, and Planting for Food and Jobs as major ways of creating desirable jobs for the teeming unemployed youth.
The President of the Republic of Ghana, Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo has officially launched his government flagship One District One Factory policy at Ekumfi in the Central Region in fulfillment of his pledge towards an industrialized economy.
What does government aim to achieve in the One District One Factory policy?
One District One Factor
The One District One Factor initiative has two main aims. The primary one is to create jobs all over the country and also to democratize the economy and that means that making sure that you have some productive value addition facility in each of the 216 Districts in the country. Studies have shown that almost every district has some resource that can be processed or value can be added for either local consumption or export. And therefore government view was that with these resources there and government clear message of moving the economy from one of export of raw materials and resources to value addition and processing.
The One District One Factory policy then came into being. The objective of this policy is to create jobs in every district of this country. Now, it’s just not putting the factories there because ones you put some productive facility there then you are actually creating a little economy because there will be transportation, marketing and many other things to create a value chain of businesses. It also to ensure that the yearly rural urban migration that takes place can be minimized because when you create jobs and people in all sections of the country they are unlikely to come to the urban areas looking for jobs because the jobs they want would be created in where they are.
The second bit is also to make sure that we make good use of the resources that we have all over the country in converting them into some product. Cocoa alone presents a very interesting raw material because apart from the beans itself one can do stuff for the cosmetic and confectionary industry apart from the chocolate and the cocoa drinks. The husk can be used for soap and animal feed so there are a lot that can be done from one cocoa pod. So that just tells you that it is a thoroughly thought-out policy which creates the opportunity for even indigenous businesses and investors to do stuffs.
What kind of jobs that Government seeks to create?
Government wants to create better paying and higher value jobs than one that you get from only exporting your raw materials because once you start doing processing facilities you are going to create higher value and higher paying jobs because people needs to be trained on how to use the equipment and therefore it’s important to upgrade our technical institutions because they will produce the people to work with the machines, trained in marketing and many more and that is why am saying you will have a better chance of creating higher value and higher paying jobs than people just working, digging and selling.
Which specific sector is government targeting and is it the formal or informal sector?
Well, it’s both by formalizing businesses that you draw people from the informal sector into the formal sector.
But if you look at the broader plan, government’s plan is that ideally you will pull as many people in the informal sector into the formal sector using either the national database or the national ID or National Addressing project. Everybody will be formalized such that they can engage government in a more formal way and therefore that is the structural development that we need to do such that everybody is biometrically registered in the national database and be known to government. So, all these are important in formalizing the economy.
How does government intend to address the labour gap with skills required to match the jobs?
It is through training. We don’t have them in place now but we will have to develop them. And it just doesn’t immediately start that once you roll out then you need all those people. Even training factory hands means that you need a factory in place to train them. If there is no factory why are you training factory hand? So you get all these things as a progression.
So far, what steps has government taken to achieve this target?
There are many things. It’s just not about the idea that government says in the medium term they should create 1million jobs. Planting for Food and Jobs which is a major agricultural initiative nationwide. Northern Ghana alone has over 8million hectors of arable land lying fallow which could be farmed that will create jobs. Then offcourse there is an integrated aluminum industry along its own value chain which will create jobs, there is an industry in the north which on refinery will create jobs, there is a national railway and national transportation project which is aiming to integrate transportation along railway, air, road and sea and that means we can use Akosombo to go up north as a transit mechanism to hauling goods and services, and people. All these will create jobs but even beyond that government’s view point that we should move the economy from one that is based on export of raw material and resources into one of value addition and processing means that we are going to create jobs. Now, we are going to have factories and processing machines all over the place which before we didn’t have. If you go back into the history of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and there from Kwame Nkrumah it’s been echoed time and again that you cannot change the economic fortunes of our people unless we engage in some form of industrialization. So, this is the ideology behind it and by that industrialization program alone we are going to create jobs and that’s why we say that we should move the economy to a point where we can have a million jobs created within the medium term.
How many jobs has government created so far within the last few months in office?
You can’t say because even data collection itself is difficult. So, first, having to start from the ground and start in place better data collection mechanisms and that’s why the digitization program is very important. When you have that you can know where to find people and how to track them because you can’t manage what you can’t measure and right now it’s difficult to measure but as the processes go through and the factories are established you can clearly outline how many jobs you’ve created. To ask me now, six months, seven months in power how many jobs government has created is premature, I believe. What’s important is the plan that will execute the job creation that I believe is a good plan.
What is your impression about the alleged political victimization of some public sector workers?
Well, am not sure that victimization thing and am not sure anybody has said it is victimization problem there is no victimization anywhere. The thing is, a new party comes into power and it has an agenda to prosecute. It uses the people and processes it believes will enable it prosecute the agenda.
Are you by your suggestion inclining that the old workers are not capable or competent?
Nobody said that. That’s your own impression. Nobody mentioned that the old ones are incapable. Has anybody mentioned so? So why are you saying the old ones are incapable. That’s your view point but it is not the view point of NPP. I don’t think that NPP came into power they looked at everybody and when you are NDC get out, no! Millions of people voted for NDC and a good number of the people are employed, have they been thrown out of the street, no! But every government comes and it has a particular agenda its wants to prosecute in developing the country it has the plan and it uses its people to execute the plan. Our politics is competitive so you expect that to happen and am not sure you are also intimating that if an NPP government comes into power then it should take NDC people into its cabinet or make them ministers, are you intimating that?
But once you have people already running the sectors and are doing well do you still need to change them?
Then there is no need for a change in government by your logic because you said once there is a government there then leave it to run. Its competitive politics, you compete in ideas in what you want to prosecute and when you bring those ideas there it’s like a game, you lose I win. So you give me the chance to also roll out my development program. Why would I pick you again that I competed with to come and help me run my program. It doesn’t make sense because you don’t have my plan, I have my plan and I know how am going to execute my plan. So the likelihood of knowing people that knows the plan into office will happen but it doesn’t mean that I will kick out everybody who was on your side which is not possible. I totally reject your question because I do not think there was any political victimization. Any party that come will have the first choice of its people to run its government and that doesn’t mean it is victimizing people.
Will your government have the database of all 1million Ghanaians being employed by 2020?
Well, that’s a target. And there will be evidence to show because factories are going to be set up. That’s why there is a policy plan but I personally sometimes worry about people who think certain things cannot be done. It means you cannot conceptualize it being done and that is why you appoint leaders to create the path for people to see the vision that they want and then they execute it. Every government comes and their aspirations and wishes is to create jobs and this government comes and has identified jobs as the major shortcoming and shortfall of the country. So the whole economic policy is to open up the economy and create jobs