5th Ghana CEO Summit: Opening Speech By Ernest De-Graft Egyir

Your excellency the president, chiefs and captains of industry, distinguished guests, this summit comes at a pivotal time in our lives and in the life of corporate Ghana. This era has become defining in the annals of world commerce and has shaken the foundations of the established order. This summit is therefore coming at a time like no other. The fact that we have had to suspend the summit for one year due to the pandemic speaks to the peculiarity of the moment. I am delighted however that this event comes to show that progress, even if slowly, is being made against the virus, and corporate Ghana is rising again. For indeed it is a truism that many stories of success and glory are borne of the ashes of tragedies. This pandemic and the daunting prospects it held for business and industry challenges all of us to look at things anew, with the right spirit and attitude to a changing world. Changing times fast tracked by necessity and the difficulties of our time.

Your excellency, the experience of the last year and half show that subjects that had been on the slow burner, which had been discussed with the luxury of patience can no longer be treated as such. If the theme of this summit has been focused on digital transformation, then it is because the pandemic has taught as the painful lesson of a new reality. A reality in which the gradual migration of the world from conventional orthodoxies in the way business is done has now become instant and complete. For the truth is that physical office meetings have now become obsolete, presence in business meetings and transaction has been redefined, hiring and location of work has become utterly malleable, and borders have all but vanished. We have suddenly woken up to the reality of a world in which the internet, once a luxury for the big dreamer, has now become the oxygen of business. We have become subject to the certainty of a new world marked and defined by safety in which the physical work space has become the very essence of risk. Ensuring the digital transformation of the corporate Ghana and the overall infrastructural and regulatory space of doing business would determine the extent of progress in the corporate and economic space of Ghana moving on in the post pandemic phase of our world.

Yet are we ready? Are we aligned with the needs of this world and the factors of change introduced by this new reality? Are we prepared to make the needed investments for the transformative agenda which is upon us? In this new reality, the truth is there will be losers and gainers. Old player may or must give way to new ones. Values must and should change and heedless profiteering cannot be the main or sole clarion call of companies leading the charge. In this new world, government may have to make some hard choices and strong leadership may be called for in order to ensure that the social goods of the internet age are delivered. The hard issues have to be dealt with and approached with the zeal of a people confronted by the real risk of disaster if nothing is done. This summit is a call for that kind of conversation, and a charge for concrete policy interventions in order for corporate Ghana to be saved from the seemingly permanent scourges imposed by this pandemic.

The choice of theme, your excellency, is informed by the reality of the moment. But it also reflects ongoing government’s agenda at digital transformation-a tribute to the visionary foresight if your government. But as mentioned, the subject has now grown in form and complexity and can no longer be pursued in piecemeal and placed on the pedestal of incrementalism. The subject of digital transformation now demands stakeholder input and a comprehensive policy blueprint that incorporates the various facets of business, human rights, economy and planning in general. The theme was chosen to reemphasize the need to build the future of corporate Ghana around the foundations of digital transformation in the order of things. For the simple truth is that the world is moving into that phase and with the advent of internet of things and AI technology, Ghanaian businesses must inevitably adapt or die! And given that the latter option cannot be contemplated, the need for all players to come to the table with a sense of knowledge and purpose cannot be overemphasized. Hence the theme. Therefore, at the end of this summit, a communique reflecting the broad consensus arrived at will be issued and it is our hope, your excellency, that this will feed into policy as you lead and drive the agenda on digital transformation in Ghana.

The panels have been structured to reflect the complex diversity of the issues raised. Given that this is the 5th in the series of the summit, a panel will review the contribution and impact of the CEO summit to shaping the narrative and development of corporate Ghana since its inception. This panel will provide the requisite background context for the summit and help forge appropriate conversations in the common action plan of CEOs and companies in Ghana especially during the pandemic.

Another panel will look at the vexed question of doing business in Ghana and how the environment can be improved. This panel will review in the minimum the structural and systemic obstacles impinging on or impacting doing business in Ghana and will evaluate the issues from the perspective of standard metrics and international instruments including the World Bank’s ease of doing business country assessments. Finally, the panel on forging public/private dialogues will review the need for sustained dialogues between the public and private sectors. Building these synergies remain crucial given that the distinction between the two are in many instances artificial in light of the many interfaces that exist between them. This panel will look at the need for synergy and the adoption and implementation of common standards of work, work ethics and values.

I welcome everyone to this summit and I look forward to the most productive deliberations among us in the next two days.