Gulf Africa Review speaks with Yaw Owusu, founder of Gateway Innovations – now developing West Africa’s first technology park
Almost exactly 60 years ago this year, the world’s first research park was created near Stanford University in the United States, eventually giving birth to the technology nucleus known today as Silicon Valley.
Capitalising on the cross fertilization of bright ambitious minds with industry, Silicon Valley quickly became the centre for many companies, including Apple and Facebook, that would go on to revolutionise the technology sector, and the way we interact with one another. In addition to Accra, Ghana Cyber City will bring significant value not only to Ghana, but also to ECOWAS as a whole.
First proposed by French Senator Pierre Laffitte, his idea was that ‘creativity is born through the exchange between industrial, scientific, philosophical and artistic minds’, an idea that proved to be extremely successful both in the US and around the world.
Fast forward 60 years and while global economics may have changed, the principles and benefits behind technology parks remain much the same.
With increasing inflows of investment making its way into Africa, much of the international community’s focus remains on trade and infrastructure, leaving out the essential development of both technology and human capital — as clearly identified by Yaw Owusu. Related article Exclusive Interview: IDC’s Group VP Jyoti Lalchandani
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“We seek to position Ghana Cyber City as the primary hub for innovation in West Africa, enabling greater access for companies looking to enter the ECOWAS market. Given the ongoing development throughout the continent we aim to position Ghana as the centre for technology and innovation and we believe the Cyber City is a good way to start,” he explains.
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With phase one expected to take only 18 months, Cyber City will be home to an office building with a hectare of space that will ready for companies by Q4 of 2016, while plans are already being drawn for a residential and tech retail area for future tenants.
“At only five minutes from Kotoka airport, we are highly accessible to the international community while also being positioned between two universities: the University of Ghana and GIMPA.”
However, while the entrepreneurial spirit of the students of the University of Ghana is one aspect of Cyber City’s future success, the participation of both local and international companies will be of equal importance.
“In terms of corporate participation, we’ve been in dialogue with a highly diverse range of companies including NEC, IBM, Airtel and IPMC. So far our initiative has been well received and we’re looking forward to seeing which other companies we can attract in the next few months.”
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Ghana’s government has also supported the privately driven initiative by providing land for the project at a significant discount, while moving forward officials are expected to designate the enclave a free zone, enhancing its attractiveness for companies looking to establish themselves in the region.
“In addition to Accra’s status as the second largest city in West Africa, we believe Ghana Cyber City will bring significant value not only to Ghana, but also to ECOWAS as a whole,” Owusu sums.
With ground-breaking anticipated in May 2015, it is expected that this $200m tech-park could signal the beginning of a technical revolution for the ECOWAS region and potentially become the birthplace for pioneering technology that is conceived, developed and created in Africa.
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In addition to Accra, Ghana Cyber City will bring significant value not only to Ghana, but also to ECOWAS as a whole.