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Graphic Business – Stanbic Breakfast Meeting: Key takeaways to improve lives

BY: Charles Benoni Okine
Ato Afful (right), MD of Graphic Communications Group Limited, interacting with some participants after the meeting.  Picture: ESTHER ADJORKOR ADJEI
Ato Afful (right), MD of Graphic Communications Group Limited, interacting with some participants after the meeting. Picture: ESTHER ADJORKOR ADJEI

Electronic services (E-services) are services which make use of information and communication technologies (ICTs).

Over the years, and particularly during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, E-services have become the order of the day, with almost every service provider leveraging its reach and convenience to attract new clients or serve existing ones even better.

In gauging the minds of the people on this service, private sector players and the public have embraced its contribution to their daily activities.

To them, while E-services helped them reduce the cost of doing business, they also enjoyed its convenience and the ability to track their daily income and expenditure while reaching a wider number of customers and potential clients.

They also said services online had helped do away with the cumbersome processes they had to go through to access services offered by government agencies and ministries.

To ensure that electronic services become more acceptable, they stressed the need for more reliable data access at an affordable price while internet connection was also upgraded to meet the demand load.

Potential

Per available data, in the last 10 years, there has been a phenomenal growth in e-commerce worldwide, with e-commerce sales expected to rise to $30 trillion across the globe by 2024.

In Ghana, e-commerce generated $638 million in 2021 and it is estimated to generate $1.3 billion by 2025. Meanwhile, this year, e-commerce is expected to grow by 19 per cent to $759 million.

Broader conversation

The sentiments of the business community and the public have exposed the need for broader discussions on the phenomenon to see how best the country can leverage this service, hence the Graphic Business – Stanbic Bank Breakfast Meeting held on March 22, 2022 at the La Beach Hotel in Accra.

On the theme “Integration of E-Service into our economy - Implications for economic growth and quality of life”, the event, which is the first of four for the year, attracted captains of industry, business leaders and groups, the academia and communications experts, among others.

The meeting, which has become one of the most sought-after thought-leadership events in the country, was meant, among other things, to set the stage for discussions on how E-services within the public and private sectors are impacting the economy.

The theme for the event was divided into three parts: Creative Revenue Generation Opportunities of E-Service Solutions to Economic Growth; Unpacking E-Service Solutions and Contribution to Quality of Service and Impact of E-Service on Economic Growth and Business to help offer an opportunity to the panellists and the participants to properly digest the topic.

The Graphic Business, the financial newspaper that sets the business agenda, assembled some of the best brains to digest the issues.

The event was chaired by the Country Manager, VISA Ghana, Adoma Owusu, who was supported by three industry experts: Technology Planner in the Digital Financial Services industry, Fred Frimpong; Financial Services and Technology Professional, Francis Appiah, and a Lecturer at the School of Law, University of Ghana, William Kofi Owusu Demitia.

Views

Ms Adoma Owusu noted that e-commerce in the region was being driven by cross border transactions and as such to make the best out of it, those transactions must be enabled from a point of issuance to the point of acquisition.

“While global cross border merchants play a key role, local sub-Saharan Africa merchants are rising and so there is an opportunity to support these players by not only providing digital payment support but broader merchant value added services,” she explained

For his part, Mr Frimpong, among others things, stressed the need to put in place the right processes and structures to reap the maximum benefits from e-services in the country.

To him, as the country seeks to leverage digital platforms to improve services, it is important to look at the issues holistically in order to reap the full benefits.

He further indicated the need for the government to focus on what could be done with e-services and how the benefits could be reaped in a relatively short term, adding that “this has to be deliberate.”

Mr Demitia on the other hand called for an amendment of the law on withholding tax to allow data controllers to act as tax withholding agents for the state.

He said that was one way that the government could take advantage of the booming the E-Service business to grow the country’s revenue base.

He said he was of the view that whenever there was a payment made on these E-Commerce platforms, the aggregators were the ones who held the money and paid it to the vendors and that was why the country’s laws on withholding tax needed to be reconsidered.

In sharing his thoughts, Mr Appiah called for clear regulations on digital innovations and technology to guide its usage in the country.

He said although some provisions on digital innovation and technology could be found in some regulations, it was necessary to come up with a specific Act that would solely focus on the sector, with particular emphasis on start-ups in the sector.

Way forward

Overall, it is clear that E-services is the way to go because of the impact it has on the lives of people, businesses and the government alike.

However, it is clear that there is the need for measures, as outlined by the various speakers, to be put in place to ensure that many more people are encouraged to use them.

It is clearly the best way to widen the tax net to move the country’s tax to gross domestic product (GDP) higher than the present figure of between 13 and 14 per cent.

There is a lot of data on the people with the introduction of the Ghana Card and, therefore, with the right measures, roping in all those outside the tax bracket into the loop will be easier.