Ghana has, over the past few years, made significant strides towards an inclusive digital economy. The country has recorded promising growth in digital infrastructure, access to digital platforms and digital financial services, digital entrepreneurship and digital skills development. These developments have created opportunities for both global and local platforms to thrive.
The Ghana Digital Economy Diagnostic Report provides an overview of the country’s progress and prospects in terms of digital transformation. One of the key prospects, as identified by The iWorker Project, is the growth of jobs in the digital economy. It is estimated that by 2030, digital commerce platforms may enable livelihoods for 1.9 to 4.5 million people in Ghana (i.e. between one tenth to a quarter of the total labour force of the country).. In a jobless growth economy like Ghana, the digital economy could play an extremely important role in lifting people out of poverty and enhancing livelihoods.
In 2016, Uber, one of the world’s largest gig work companies, launched its operations in Ghana. Bolt followed shortly after in 2018. These platforms have been growing rapidly in the last couple of years, offering opportunities for the jobless youth in Ghana. Beyond transportation, digital labour platforms also operate in Ghana’s logistics, delivery and other sectors of the economy. These gig work companies operate in a digital system where they match “service providers with customers, setting the price and the commission in the process. The workers on these platforms are typically hired as “independent contractors” rather than employees, and are therefore deprived of employment benefits such as sick pay, minimum wage and financial support in case they are unable to work. Such deprivations highlightan important issue of fairness in the platform economy. There have been many instances of gig workers mobilising over the past years where they have highlighted a number of challenges in their line of work. These have also resulted in strikes by some ride-hailing platform workers.
The novelty of digital transformation and the platforms’ work management systems make it difficult for existing labour laws of Ghana to deal with unfairness in the gig economy. The laws are unclear about gig workers and the conditions under which they are to work and be compensated, leaving platforms to set the rules of engagement and be the judges of their own case when there is a dispute with workers.
In light of this, the Fairwork Ghana project seeks to evaluate the working conditions of platform workers and engage in meaningful conversations to improve their standards of living. The Fairwork Ghana team believes that the Fairwork Framework provides a great tool to assess the labour practices of platforms in the country by rating platforms against the five Fairwork Principles of decent work. The project aims to evaluate workers’ conditions in Ghana’s major cities of Accra, Kumasi and Takoradi.
The project team includes Prof Richard Boateng, a Professor in Information Systems at the University of Ghana Business School (UGBS); Dr Joseph Budu, an Information Systems and digital platforms scholar at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA); and Dr Thomas Anning Dorson, a marketing and digitalization scholar at Wits Business School and the University of Ghana.