Former President and flagbearer of the National Democratic Congress, John Dramani Mahama, has declared his 24-hour economy (24-HE) if voted into power in 2025. His 24-hour economy has shaken up the recently elected flagbearer of the ruling New Patriotic Party, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia. Dr Bawumia is emotionally unstable as the Trade Union Congress leader and various economists welcome the 24-hour economy initiative.
Mr. Mahama’s 24-hour economy is a strategy that envisages plans to extend the productivity of the economy from day to night to allow businesses and consumers to keep the lights on beyond the traditional working day. The 24-hour economy refers to the extension of historical daytime activities to the 24-hour cycle. A 24-hour economy could mean working in shifts (3 shifts of eight hours each) or working outside of working hours, e.g. weekends, early mornings and late evenings. The shift in working hours leads to an increase in productivity as it drives economic growth. This means that a 24-hour economy is able to increase its productivity by doing more with labour, technology and space in 24 hours. It is the vision that can lead a country to industrialisation, which the Ghanaian economy lacks. Sometime in September 2016, the CEO of Reroy Cables, Ms. Kate Quartey-Papafio, called on more businesses, especially in the manufacturing sector, to run a 24-hour cycle to boost productivity. This, according to her, will help increase the volume of goods and services produced in the country so that businesses can compete with imported products and services while creating more jobs for the many unemployed. She said: “Industry must work on a 24-hour basis. If businesses are fully utilised, more jobs will be created and the much-needed growth we want will be achieved”
Economic Report on Africa 2016: Greening Africa’s Industrialisation, published by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), concludes that the only viable option for Africa is industrialisation. At no time in recent history have the calls for Africa's industrialisation been as loud as in recent times. All economists and studies point to the fact that industrialisation is probably the only option the continent has. In its Vision 2030 development plan, Kenya has committed itself to becoming a 24-hour economy. Vision 2030 recognises the establishment of a 24-hour economy as a development goal, with the aim of positioning the capital Nairobi as a competitive 24-hour tourism and business city. Dr Kwame Nkrumah of blessed memory launched an industrialisation campaign that increased the manufacturing sector's share of GDP from 10 per cent in 1960 to 14 per cent in 1970. After his fall, the manufacturing sector never fully recovered and performance remains weak to this day. It is well known that industrialisation can bring prosperity, new jobs and better incomes for all. Ghana is less industrialised today than it was four decades ago. Therefore, Mr Mahama’s vision of a 24-hour economy is the best and only way Ghana can develop and compete with other countries.
Some countries have succeeded in establishing a 24-hour economy. These include the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Australia and the USA. In 2013, the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer was quoted as saying that millions of people in the UK work late into the night in various industries such as manufacturing, construction and the public sector. He noted that the number of people working nights had increased by 500,000 between 2002 and 2012. This, he said, contributed £66bn to the economy and supported the installation of technologies on roads, managed motorways and economic development. In October 2017, the Mayor of London appointed the Night Time Commission to enable London to open from 6pm to 6am. The aim was to realise the Mayor of London’s vision of a 24-hour city. The London Night Time Commission believes that London has so much more to offer at night: in neighbourhoods, workplaces, on the streets and in public spaces. Two thirds of Londoners regularly go about their daily activities at night, such as running errands, shopping or meeting up with friends. Australia also has a vibrant 24-hour economy. The City of Melbourne has noted that its night-time economy has been a major contributor to its status as a City of Culture. It claims that Melbourne has been recognised globally as a 24-hour cultural destination.
Between 1966 and 1999, the 24-hour economy was introduced in Belgium when normal working hours were reduced from 45 hours per week to 38 hours per week from 1956. In other European countries, the issue of flexible working hours became a major political need in the last two decades of the 20th century. The flexibilisation and individualisation of the work schedule was increasingly seen as a means of improving financial competitiveness. Since the early 1980s, working time controls have been changed in most European countries alongside welfare state approaches. The development of modern social measures aims to make financial and labour markets more adaptable. In Belgium for instance, a collective declaration and a law were adopted in 1987, allowing companies to submit modern work schedules that remove restrictions on night and Sunday work. This change has been used as often as possible as a starting point for the 24-hour society and economy, in which the production and utilisation of energy around the clock is increasingly seen as a turning point.
It is generally assumed that the 24-hour society is driven by exogenous or macroeconomic variables. Flexibilisation and destandardisation have regularly been used as a means of forcing change in invention and global disclosure. ICT and the globalisation of the economy have meant that transnational companies have to work around the clock to respond and deliver on time to compete with different time zones (i.e. when Ghanaians are sleeping, people in the US and Asia are working). International competition in a poorly protected market like Ghana's requires companies to switch to flexible working arrangements in order to compete. To maximise profits from capital investment, employers will seek to extend operating hours. For employers, the labour cost of shift work is lower than overtime pay for day labourers as there are strict rules on overtime pay. Currently, people finish work around 5pm or 6pm, but there are fewer opportunities to go out and buy goods and services during normal working hours. This in turn increases the demand for extending the business hours of services and shops.
Consequently, there is a growing interest in extended shopping and service hours. The remarkable expansion of the leisure and entertainment industry has also accelerated the need for paid evening, night and weekend work, as the system of social time implies that the leisure time of some becomes the working time of others. This macroeconomic factor, which favours a 24-hour society, is dependent on changes on the supply side of the labour market. President John Mahama's promise to lead a 24-hour economy therefore makes him a visionary leader of the modern century.
EXPECTED BENEFITS OF THE 24-HOUR ECONOMY
Some benefits of introducing a 24-hour economy are:
- Creating incentives for potential foreign direct investment, provided that adequate support systems such as transport and worker safety are well established;
- Avoiding traffic congestion on our roads, especially in Kumasi, Accra and Tema areas;
- Improve worker punctuality and attendance and increase productivity;
- Increase the number of customer-friendly shops through longer/flexible opening hours for customers;
- Increased efficiency and improved competitiveness in the management of some businesses.
Let us vote for Mr. John Dramani Mahama, the only hope for Ghana.
Lewis Kwame Addo