Friday, March 8, 2013

Ghana’s Technology City - Africa’s Hope for the 21st Century

By Mawutodzi K. Abissath

Architectural Prototype of the HOPE City 

A philosophical African proverb postulates: “Out of the black pot emerges the white porridge.”
In the history of ideas, the dream of the “HOPE City” in Ghana can be compared to the construction of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. And in terms of human imagination, Roland Agambire of modern Ghana can be said to be at par with Pharaoh Amehotep IV or Akhenaton of the ancient Egypt.
On Monday, 4th March 2013, a technological history was made in Ghana when a button was clicked by President John Mahama, instead of hitting the ground with a pick axe to officially cut a sod for the construction of one of the wonders of modern world. It is the construction of a $10billion Information and Communications Technology (ICT) City for Rlg Communication Ltd at Dunkunaa off the Mallam,Kasoa Road near Accra.
The brainchild of this mind-boggling Technology Park, christened HOPE City, is a young Ghanaian entrepreneur par excellent Mr. Roland Agambire who will be only 39 this April. He is the Chairman of Agams Group and CEO of Rlg Ltd. He is a man of humble beginning who hails from a village called Sirigu in the Upper East Region of Ghana, some 800km north of the capital Accra. By African standards, Mr. Agambire is an exceptional continental role model for the youth of Africa.
In a pullout document that was inserted in  the Daily Graphic and the  Ghanaian Times on the day the project was launched in Accra, (04/03/2013) it was clearly stated that the HOPE City was envisioned to become “the sub region’s premier business location for high-performance computing, advanced communications and large-scale data handing.”
According to Mr. Agambire, the concept of HOPE City which is an acronym for Home, Office, People Environment, is to build a vertical city where over 50.000 workers especially in the field of ICT will be engaged in the production of equipment and facilities for the design, fabrication and assembling of ICT software, hardware and many other innovative products for the entire African Continent and beyond.
Besides the 50.000 workers, over 25,000 inhabitants will be expected to live happily in this technological paradise. This wonder city which will be built on a plot of land covering over 100,000 sqm shall have a total “Gross Floor Area of approximately 1,200,000, for a total built area of about 1,500,000sqm.
Traditional architecture
Creatively, the architectural design of the HOPE City is based on the beautiful traditional round house units which embrace families in northern Ghana. But the HOPE City structures will be composed of six (6) towers where the tallest will be 75 storeys, that is over 270m height from the ground. It is expected to be the highest building on the African continent. (Can you imagine that?)
Two of the buildings will be 60 storeys and the remaining three lowest will be 42 stories each. All the six towers will be linked together by a system of bridges at different heights with common amenities.  This technological City will have a University that can accommodate over 5,000 students, 100 professors and over 50 staff as well as all academic facilities such as libraries and what have you?  While Mr. Agambire is the originator of the HOPE City idea, Mr. Paolo Brescia of Open Building Research (OBR),  Italy is the Architect for the project.
Further, the globally acclaimed ICT invention guru, Microsoft, together with the Government of Ghana is collaborating with Agams Group and RLG Ltd for the actual realization of this awesome dream.  This explains why the Senior Vice-President for Microsoft Africa, Mr. Ali Famamwy, joined hand with the Ghanaian President, together with Mr. Agambire to press the magic button that signaled the formal launch of the $10-billion historical project.
 But what makes the Hope City a continental project was the physical presence of two most powerful Governors of the Oson and Akwabon States of Nigeria. They were beyond themselves for what RLG is doing in Ghana and look forward to the Ghanaian company establishing branches not only in their respective states but across the length and breadth of Nigeria for the benefit of over 150 million souls over there.
Infrastructure Development
Records show that the HOPE City project falls within the broad framework of Ghana Government’s Policy of giving priority to infrastructure development with particular reference to ICT and energy sectors.  HOPE City project is poised to become a multipurpose infrastructure for business destination of technological, socio-cultural, touristic and investment opportunities not only for domestic but external investors as well.
 As expected to be the tallest building in Africa, HOPE City will be like the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Largest in Egypt where for thousands of years to come, people will be trooping in from all corners of the globe to Ghana to behold.
Since Ghana, by nature,  is  strategically and geographically located in the centre of the world in terms of its position vis a vis the equator, it will  be  easier for investors, tourists and globetrotters from any part of the world  to fly to Ghana to see this wonder HOPE City all year round. What makes the HOPE City even more relevant in the 21st century is the fact that its raison d’ĂȘtre or purpose of being is the ICT connection and connectivity.  One can be in Ghana and do business in any part of the world.
Principal objectives of the HOPE City among other things include:
  • Reducing initial investment capital requirements in high-end communications and computer networking,
  • “Hardware by providing shared assets at nominal cost to potential investors,
  • Providing synergies between related sectors by appropriate segmentation and location of industries with similar requirements in proximity to each other,
  • Fostering entrepreneurship,
  • Providing impetus for employment, assisting provision of training and re-training as part of human-capacity development , and above all
  • Providing superior infrastructure to engender confidence, ability and willingness to compete with the rest of the world.”
  If the above stated objectives are not in consonance with Government vision of job creation and employment opportunity for the teaming unemployed youth in Ghana then this writer is at a loss as to what the value of the HOPE City is all about.
It was against this backdrop that President John Dramani Mahama, in pressing the magic button to launch the project on that memorable day gave an assurance that Government would give “tax relief to the HOPE City Project.”
Mr.  Agambire himself stressed the need for the public and private sectors to combine their expertise, knowledge and resources within the framework of government’s Public Private Partnership (PPP) to bring development to the doorsteps the people.
This author cannot conclude this piece without acknowledging the contribution of various stakeholders, especially the international collaborators such the Microsoft Corporation and the Guma Group of South Africa and others for the realization of this mind-boggling project.
But some doubting Thomases are having some funny feelings and will want to adopt “wait and see” attitude. Some observers are even asking whether there will be no “dumsor-dumsor” in the HOPE City.
Africa’s Hope
The truth is that all great things on this planet of technology started with a tiny idea from someone’s mind. The Supreme Creator of the universe Himself started creation with a simple idea –“Let there be light and there was light!”
 So, therefore, all things being equal, in three years’ time, Ghana’s HOPE City will not only depict the emblem of the hope of Africa but symbolise the technological emancipation of the black race in the 21st Century!
  • The writer is Deputy Director/Head of IT at the Information Services Department of  the Ministry of Information and Media Relations