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Vision 2020: Science and technology advancements
According to the Vision 2020 document written in 1995, science and technology “has an important role to play in the development process, but its status in Ghanaian culture is low. This has retarded the country’s economic and social development, especially in agriculture and industry.” The document places a great deal of importance on investing in science and technology to improve Ghana’s economy and the lives of its people, through education and increased production in the industrial, agricultural and energy sectors. How well has the country performed in these areas over the past 25 years?
Vision 2020 saw science and technology as the key to unlocking economic growth. The goal was to achieve a long-term average rate of economic growth of over 8% per annum. The GDP growth per annum from 1995 to 2018 averaged 5.3%. Looking at the average for the past 10 years alone, the number is slightly higher at 6.86%, but still 1.14% short of the 8% target.
A key sector which research has shown is an indicator of a strong economy is construction, as it has a multiplier effect through its links with other sectors of the economy. Vision 2020 sought to “establish an efficient and internationally competitive domestic construction industry.” The construction industry has shown stable growth over the last two decades, increasing its contribution to GDP, however its annual growth rate has decreased since 2008 from 39% to 2.9% in 2016. Stunted growth is indicative of an inability to produce materials locally, meaning a high cost due to imported materials, and to the lack of policy and regulation in place to provide structure and support to the industry.
An article published in the Journal of African Studies and Development compared the science and technology rankings of African countries from 2001 with those from 2011. The rankings were done using the RAND Corporation’s Index of Science and Technology Capacity, which measures the infrastructure backdrop against which science and technology activities could take place; the human and financial resources available to carry out those activities; and the measurable or observable science and technology outputs. The picture showed very little improvement for Ghana in the time period. In 2001, Ghana ranked 26th in Africa, out of 45 countries and 119th in the world, out of 150 countries. In 2011, they moved up 2 places to 24th out of 53 in Africa, but fell to 134th in the world, out of 213 countries. The paper also looked at adjusted figures for Africa, taking population size into account in order to provide a more fair comparison. However, this only made the picture worse for Ghana, placing them 27th in 2001 and 34th in 2011. Looking at Ghana’s ranking in comparison to the rest of the world, it appears that Ghana’s science and technology development rate is lagging behind. The sentiment that “countries with a larger S&T capacity generally tend to be the most prosperous and most industrialized,” seems to be reflected in the slowed growth in GDP over the past 25 years.
The development and growth of the agricultural industry is another area where science and technology has a major impact. Vision 2020 notes that “without significant improvement in agriculture’s performance, the long-term goal of the country cannot be achieved.” This can be achieved by the introduction of new technology, application of research and increased focus on efficiencies.
One of the measures of efficiency noted is increasing crop production (through the use of research and technology) to increase the yield without expanding the cultivated area. However, according to statistics from the World Bank in 2015, there was a 43-66% gap for most staple commodities (maize, rice, cassava, yams, sorghum, cowpea) between the potential yield per hectare and the actual yield. In 2016, cereal yields were estimated at 1.7t/ha, while the regional average was 2.0 t/ha and potential yield was 5.0t/ha. Even Ghana’s biggest export and crop contributor to GDP, cocoa, is considered one of the lowest yields in the world (400-450 kg/ha).
Vision 2020 planned to double the rate of growth in agricultural production and increase agricultural output to an average growth rate of 4% per annum. However, since 2010, the average growth rate has been 3.3% per annum.
According to 2014 data from the Agricultural Science and Technology Indicators (ASTI) and International Food Policy Research Institute (IFRI), spending on agricultural research and development in Ghana was 0.7 percent of agricultural output (excluding cocoa). This is below the 1% target set by the African Union and half that of Kenya and almost two thirds lower than South Africa. Increasing funding for research and development for the agricultural sector is essential to compete with the top producers in the world. In addition to this, Ghana has not conducted an agricultural census in more than 30 years. A comprehensive census is necessary in order to get an accurate picture of what investment and education is needed to improve agricultural practices.
Another major science and technology focus from Vision 2020 was to “establish an efficient, dependable and integrated system for the supply and distribution of all types of energy,” maximising the use of renewable energy. Ghana’s main sources of power are hydroelectric, thermal (crude oil and diesel) and solar power. Ghana has steadily increased access to power over the last 25 years. In 1995, only 35% of the population had access to power but by 2017, this had increased to 79%. Compared to the rate of coverage for Sub-Saharan Africa, Ghana has performed well. Over the same time period, the rate of coverage across Sub-Saharan Africa increased by just 17%, and in Ghana by almost 44%.
There is still a long way to go to reach the ambitious goal of having a dependable, efficient and integrated system, as Ghana has experienced significant challenges with fuel supply and also suffers financially, making it difficult to invest in advancements and improvements. As for renewable energy sources, only 0.03% of Ghana’s energy is renewable.
Science and technology education
In order to drive scientific and technological advances, the relevant skills and knowledge must exist. This is why Vision 2020 sought to “improve the quality of education and give greater emphasis to science and technology at all levels.”
Tertiary education in particular is seen as a marker for improved science and technology capabilities. According to an article published in the Journal of African Studies and Development, the gross tertiary enrolment rate offers the most complete and comparable data to predict science and technology capability in the future. According to the World Bank’s statistics, Ghana’s tertiary enrolment rate in 2018 was 15.69%, higher than the 9.39% average for Sub-Saharan Africa. While this is still significantly lower than rates achieved in countries like Tunisia and Libya, this is encouraging for Ghana’s future development, especially since the rate quoted in Vision 2020 in 1995 was less than 2% of the population.
A focus to improve the quality of education in Ghana and especially emphasising STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills in primary and secondary schools will go a long way to helping Ghana achieve their goal of becoming a middle-income country.
In terms of achieving the long-term goals set out in Vision 2020 for science and technology, the results are mixed. The country has shown positive growth, but still needs to build and invest in its science and technology capabilities in order to rely less on imports and outdated agricultural, manufacturing and energy practices. The increased enrolment rates in tertiary institutions is encouraging. If the government continues to focus its efforts on quality education at all levels, fostering a love of science and technology, the Vision 2020 goal of a “science and technology culture at all levels of society and in all types of production to accelerate economic growth and improve the quality of life of the population” can be achieved.