afrol News, 11 June - The offshore information services market is valued at US$ 30 to 40 billion. Up until recently the countries that were in the running for a piece of that business were not on the African continent. Awo A. Quaison-Sackey was an early starter in the outsourcing market and has built a business with offices in Connecticut and Accra based on it. He explains how Ghana is well placed to respond to this market.
Countries such as India, Russia, Ireland, Israel, Barbados, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, and the Far East have made a name for themselves with US companies for the high quality and low cost of their services. The services range from basic data entry to software engineering and the writing of software solutions. Ghana is set to enter this market.
It was only a matter of time before the wave would reach the African continent and it has. Ghana is now well positioned to join the list of countries that participates fully in the global information technology explosion, and the offshore outsourcing market in particular. Ghana, with its population of 18 million, has in excess of 100 computer-related companies that specialize in computer hardware supply and maintenance, software sales and support, software development, Internet services, and computer training.
AQSolutions began operations in Ghana in 2000, bringing with it an offshore development model. Founded in 1999 by Awo Quaison-Sackey, a native of Ghana, AQSolutions provides an answer to US companies that are faced with managing IT budgets and increasing IT asset productivity. AQ's solution is to combine onsite project management in the US with an outstanding software development team in Ghana to deliver cost-effective, high quality solutions to client companies. This client-centric partnership model that AQSolutions offers is attractive to companies since it addresses many of the concerns companies have about "offshore" outsourcing of software development work.
Each AQSolutions client is assigned a strategic account manager (SAM) who is situated at the client company site and interfaces with the client's project manager and project team. The SAM is responsible for the entire client relationship and project life cycle, bringing in other key AQSolutions resources as needed. The SAM is the liaison between the client and the developers in Ghana.
AQSolutions employees in Ghana are skilled in and have worked on projects in Visual Basic, Sybase, Oracle, C++, Lotus Notes, and Microsoft Access. As a resource centre for US clients, AQSolutions is positioned to develop additional skill sets that it currently does not possess.
Why would a company in the US choose AQSolutions in Ghana rather than the tried and tested companies of India or Russia? Communications is at the top of the list of concerns for companies that do not have extensive offshore experience: "will I be able to understand the people over there and will they understand us?" is the unspoken question.
There is an audible sigh of relief when we introduce the principals of AQSolutions as Ghanaians born and educated in Ghana. The availability of the developers on conference calls further alleviates any concern about communication. Ghana is English-speaking, with a high literacy rate, and universities that graduate people with computer science degrees.
The time difference between Ghana and the US also provides a great advantage since the workday in Ghana overlaps the workday of AQSolutions current customer base on the east coast of the US. AQSolutions has incorporated international project management and software development standards into a framework that ensures quality through every step of a client engagement.
People are surprised to hear the following: Ghana has 12 licensed, and three operational ISPs. Africa's only 10mbs wireless data and voice technology exists in Ghana, and the national energy company has a fibre network looping the lower half of the country. Three major wireless technology companies are competing to provide corporate intranets to commercial customers such as the ministries and banks, as well as private individuals.
A landing station for the undersea Africa-One fibre cable from South Africa to Portugal is scheduled for 2002, positioning Ghana to dramatically reduce bandwidth costs, and become a regional access provider for West Africa.
Ghana has enjoyed nearly 20 years of political stability and is a constitutional democracy with an elected president and parliament. Despite the fall of the local currency in 1999/2000 due to the collapse of coffee and cocoa prices and the doubling of oil prices, Ghana has proved itself an innovator in African economies. With twice the per capita output of the poorer West African countries, Ghana has a GDP growth rate of approximately 6%, has privatised key industries and has a strong entrepreneurial infrastructure, including a stock exchange.
In spite of all of that, Ghana is not an easy sell. The perception of Africa as the Dark Continent and the stereotype of "the African" have to be overcome. People are surprised and ultimately pleased to learn that there is an untapped well-educated, professional IT labour source available in Ghana.
The decision to go offshore and who to go with is always a critical business decision. The opportunity to provide social benefit to a population that was inaccessible in the past while meeting one's business objectives is fulfilling and satisfying. The link created between the small state of Connecticut in the US, and the small country of Ghana in West Africa may not bridge the digital divide or solve the economic woes of a developing nation. However, AQSolutions has begun a business that provides some very interesting by-products in all those areas.
By Awo A. Quaison-Sackey, for Balancing Act.
Source: This article is reproduced with special permission from Balancing Act