In the dynamic landscape of global economies, innovation remains a key driver of growth. The proposal of a “24 Hour Economy” by His Excellency John Dramani Mahama, the presidential candidate of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) for the 2024 elections in Ghana, presents a transformative and an exciting opportunity for the country. This brilliant concept, aimed at maximizing the use of resources round-the-clock, can propel Ghana into a new era of economic prosperity.
The Essence of a 24 Hour Economy
At its core, a 24 Hour Economy involves extending business operations, services, and public utilities to function efficiently throughout the day and night. This approach is not just about keeping shops open longer; it’s about creating an ecosystem that supports continuous productivity, thereby enhancing economic output. This ecosystem not only encompasses businesses operating round-the-clock but also includes the development of supporting infrastructure, regulatory frameworks, and cultural shifts. Let’s delve deeper into these elements:
1. Business Operations and Market Expansion:
– Businesses extending their operational hours can cater to a wider range of customers, including those who may work unconventional hours.
– Industries such as manufacturing can increase output by running factories 24/7, thereby meeting higher demand and increasing exports.
– Service sectors like IT and customer support can benefit by aligning with global time zones, offering real-time services to international clients.
2. Infrastructure Development:
– Essential to a 24 Hour Economy is robust infrastructure. This includes reliable public transportation systems functioning at all hours, ensuring safe and accessible commutes for the workforce.
– Energy supply must be consistent and sustainable to support extended operations, calling for investments in power generation and distribution networks.
– Digital infrastructure, crucial for modern economies, must be strengthened to support continuous connectivity and e-commerce activities.
3. Regulatory and Policy Support:
– Government policies need to facilitate night-time operations. This might include labor laws that regulate night shifts and ensure fair compensation for workers.
– Urban planning and zoning laws can be adapted to support businesses operating at night, ensuring residential areas are not adversely affected.
– Safety regulations must be stringent to ensure the well-being of workers and customers during night hours.
4. Safety and Security:
– Enhanced security measures are vital. This includes increased policing during night hours and well-lit public spaces to ensure the safety of citizens.
– Businesses will also need to invest in security infrastructure, such as surveillance systems and private security services.
5. Cultural Adaptation:
– Shifting to a 24 Hour Economy requires a cultural change, where nocturnal business activities become normalized.
– Public perception needs to evolve to see night-time work not just as a necessity but as an opportunity for flexible and lucrative employment.
6. Economic Diversification:
– This model opens doors for new sectors to flourish, like night-time entertainment, 24-hour childcare services, and food services catering to different schedules.
– It encourages innovation in business models, for instance, shared workspaces that operate 24/7, adapting to different work patterns.
7. Workforce Management:
– Companies will need to manage their human resources effectively, ensuring worker health and well-being with flexible, rotational shifts.
– Training and upskilling of employees to adapt to a more dynamic work environment will be essential.
In essence, a 24 Hour Economy in Ghana would not just be about keeping businesses open longer; it’s about creating a holistic environment where continuous productivity is sustainable, secure, and beneficial for all stakeholders involved. This involves a coordinated effort between the government, private sector, and the community to build an economy that operates efficiently and effectively, leveraging the full potential of the country’s resources and workforce.
Benefits for Ghana
1. Boosting Employment Opportunities:
Expanding operational hours naturally necessitates a larger workforce. This will significantly reduce unemployment, offering varied work schedules and creating jobs in sectors like retail, security, transportation, and hospitality.
2. Enhanced Productivity and Economic Growth:
By operating round-the-clock, businesses can optimize their output. This increased productivity directly contributes to economic growth, providing a competitive edge in the global market.
3. Revitalization of Urban Centers:
A vibrant night economy can lead to the revitalization of urban areas. Safe and lively city centers at night can boost local tourism and create a cosmopolitan image for cities like Accra and Kumasi.
4. Improved Work-Life Balance:
Flexible work hours can lead to a better work-life balance for employees, catering to different lifestyles and personal commitments.
5. Optimization of Infrastructure:
Utilizing infrastructure such as public transport and utilities 24/7 ensures that investments are maximized, reducing idle time and increasing efficiency.
The Global Perspective
Globally, cities like New York and Tokyo have thrived under a 24 Hour Economy, showcasing improved economic resilience and diversity. Ghana, by adopting this model, can position itself as a forward-thinking, economically robust nation in Africa.
Let’s explore some examples from various developing nations where elements of a 24/7 economy have been implemented:
1. India – IT and Outsourcing Hub
India’s rise as a global IT and outsourcing hub is a prime example of the 24/7 economy. The country’s IT sector services clients worldwide, necessitating round-the-clock operations to align with different time zones. This sector’s growth has not only boosted India’s economic output but also created millions of jobs, contributing to the development of urban infrastructure and service industries.
2. Vietnam – Manufacturing and Export
Vietnam has become a significant player in global manufacturing, particularly in textiles and electronics. By operating factories 24/7, Vietnam meets high international demand, contributing significantly to its GDP growth. This continuous manufacturing cycle has attracted foreign investment, technology transfer, and skills development, aiding Vietnam’s economic transformation.
3. Nigeria – Entertainment and Nightlife
Nigeria, particularly Lagos, has developed a thriving entertainment and nightlife sector. This includes music, cinema, and hospitality, operating round-the-clock. This has not only boosted local economies but also positioned cities like Lagos as cultural hotspots, attracting tourism and global attention to the Nigerian entertainment industry.
4. Mexico – Tourism and Retail
In tourist hotspots like Cancun and Playa del Carmen, Mexico operates a 24/7 economy catering to international tourists. This includes hotels, restaurants, and retail outlets. The continuous operation in these areas contributes to employment and local economic growth, demonstrating how tourism can benefit from a 24/7 economic model.
5. Philippines – Call Centers and BPO
The Philippines has a robust Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry, providing services such as customer support, telemarketing, and back-office tasks to global clients. The 24/7 nature of these services has led to economic growth, urban development, and significant employment opportunities, even in less urbanized areas.
6. Egypt – Suez Canal Operations
The Suez Canal, an essential global shipping route in Egypt, operates 24/7. This continuous operation is crucial for global trade and significantly contributes to Egypt’s economy. The canal’s operational efficiency impacts global shipping and trade, highlighting the strategic importance of round-the-clock operations in certain sectors.
These examples demonstrate that the 24/7 economy in developing countries can be sector-specific, driven by global demand, and tailored to the unique strengths and needs of each country. In each case, the 24/7 economy model has led to job creation, economic growth, and in some instances, global integration. For Ghana, adopting a similar model would mean identifying sectors that can effectively operate round-the-clock, considering the local context and global trends, and harnessing these for economic expansion and development.
The 24 Hour Economy presents an exciting opportunity for Ghana to expand its economic horizons. By embracing this model, Ghana can create a more inclusive, productive, and vibrant economy, setting a standard for African nations. It’s a call to innovation and resilience, one that every Ghanaian should support for a brighter, more prosperous future.
By Hon Yussif Jajah
Member of Parliament, Ayawaso North Constituency