IBM plan to boost Accra city income


Image: Accra Mayor Alfred Vanderpujie. By BiztechAfrica
Accra Mayor Alfred Vanderpujie

A team of IBM  specialists has made a comprehensive set of recommendations to help the city of Accra boost its income from city services.

Earlier this year, Accra applied for, and won, a Smarter Cities Challenge grant from IBM, which sent some of its top employees to work and live in Accra for three weeks. At the end of their engagement, the team delivered a workable blueprint to city authorities that will enable more efficient revenue management.

The IBM team's recommendations aim to supplement the city's existing revenue collection initiatives through the innovative use of technology, which will streamline processes and harmonize operations across city departments.

Accra's influence has grown exponentially in recent years as it moves to cement its position as a leading urban hub on the west coast of Africa. The city's population growth is among the highest in Africa, and is expected to double within the next 20 years.

"Accra's rapid growth presents a unique set of challenges. In particular, as a city authority we struggle to capture and retain all income from the services we provide. IBM's work will allow us to deploy an integrated revenue collection system will allow us to deliver services to our growing population more effectively," said Alfred Vanderpujie, Mayor of Accra.

The IBM team highlighted a number of actions that the Accra Metropolitan Assembly, which manages Accra's city services, can introduce in the next three years to accommodate the city's continued growth.

The IBM team advised that Accra implement a multi-channel, automated direct payment system that would leverage new relationships with mobile service providers and banks to allow citizens a wider variety of payment touch-points that would guarantee direct payments to city authorities.

Through their mobile phones, Accra residents could pay for services from the city ranging from garbage collection to parking fees. The payment system would also create opportunities to use analytics to identify underpayment and fraud, which currently see the city lose up to 50% of its potential income.

The IBM team also recommended that the city leverage Geographical Information System (GIS) technologies to effectively map and monitor Accra's rapid urban growth in real time.

A GIS system would enable authorities to register the growing number of properties and businesses in the city, and provide the basis for an integrated finance management and analysis system that would enhance revenue generation and service delivery.

"Accra is in a unique position to create a new standard for cities in Africa through the innovative use of technology," said Joe Mensah, Country General Manager, IBM Ghana. "Through initiatives such as our Smarter Cities Challenge, IBM is starting conversations with governments across Africa and internationally, to create efficient city systems," he said.

Over the past last ten years, Accra has invested in systems that will allow it to enjoy sustainable growth. The city was recently declared a Millennium City by the Earth Institute of Columbia University, New York.

The Millennium Cities initiative is a project aimed at helping selected cities in sub-Saharan Africa to design effective and viable strategies towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). 

Accra was one of 32 cities worldwide who each received grants worth an estimated $400,000 in the second round of IBM's annual Smarter Cities Challenge initiative, joining just three other African cities – Nairobi, Kenya; Rabat, Morocco and Tshwane, South Africa selected for the program in 2012.    

Launched in 2011, the Smarter Cities Challenge is a three-year,100-city, US $50 million program, IBM's single-largest philanthropic initiative, funds in-person engagements staffed by teams of top IBM experts, who study and then make detailed recommendations addressing locally important urban issues.

Over the last four years, IBM has sent seven teams to Ghana to work with various public and private sector bodies as part of its citizenship program the Corporate Service Corps (CSC). Through interactive leadership consultancy programs, IBM has delivered high quality problem solving for communities and organizations in Ghana in a number of sectors including health and education.

Later this year, IBM will release a first of its kind white paper report on Accra that will highlight the opportunities and challenges the city faces as it moves to become one of Africa's leading urban success stories.

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