GHANA’S capital city of Accra, like the country’s other major urban centres, has not been spared the negative effects of rapid urbanisation in the absence of planning.
The acute housing needs have forced many urban dwellers into squatter camps without many amenities, unable to afford high rent costs. The absence of proper roads and alternative transportation systems means there are no rapid, reliable and efficient ways of commuting, in addition to major traffic congestion.
There may be a reprieve: Ghana is set to hold an international conference seeking financing for its proposed multi-billion dollar 30-year national infrastructure development agenda.
The conference is driven by among other things the country’s high urbanisation rate (over 55%) which urgently calls for more development. According to Ghana’s census projections, the country’s current population of about 26 million will likely double by its 100th birthday in 2057. Coupled with the high urbanisation rate, the country is in real need of a clear plan.
Currently, the lack of planning means that every heavy rainfall becomes a recipe for disaster – floods, loss of property, and loss of life. The environment is at risk. Social services such as water, sanitation, electricity, security are inadequate. And, as a result, social vices rise.
In an October 19 keynote address at the “Development in Africa – Ghana Thought Leadership and Investment Summit” held in Accra, Nii Moi Thompson, the Director General of the National Development Planning Commission said the funding meeting would focus on three main components: energy, railways and civic infrastructure.
Nii Moi Thompson at the Thought Leadership Summit. (Photo/MGA)
“Priority number one is energy: reliable energy is a major precondition for development. [Secondly], we are looking at the transportation infrastructure especially in rail and high ways: we plan to develop 4,000 kilometres of rail lines covering the entire country to enable commute between towns. Good transportation links are necessary so we can all benefit from value chain development. Civic infrastructure is a third feature.”
Thompson, a former acting deputy resident representative of the United Nations Development Programme in Pretoria, South Africa, said that making the plans a reality goes far beyond the material and physical requirements.
“We need to plan and develop very detailed strategies for the capacity that will actually see the plan through. Tertiary institutions are preventing students from developing their capabilities instead of encouraging more to be better. We have to change our mindset; the human resource requirement is essential,” the Director General said.
In 2011, the country’s Parliament passed a law establishing a 40-year Long-term National Development Plan (NDP) as part of the overall strategy for efficient utilisation of its petroleum resources and also as the basis for social, economic and institutional transformation.
The National Infrastructural Plan, which has significant investment potential, is one aspect of the NDP described as “the spine” of the broader development framework.
“This is a demographic imperative. We cannot fly blind hoping that things will happen; this is not the kind of legacy we want to leave to our children. We need to plan. The high cost of not planning is more floods, inefficiencies, and sub-optimisation,” said Thompson.
Maurice De Vries, Head of Africa Distell (left), and Ecobank executive director Morgan Fianko Asiedu follow proceedings. (Photo/MGA).
He bemoaned the lack of standardised mechanisms for Ghanaian products and said there are ways some of these problems can be solved between intra-African initiatives.
“We may have to actually turn to South Africa for assistance in key areas such as the logistics sector. It needs to be developed and raised to international levels in terms of transportation, distribution, storage, and packaging. Ghana has a lot to learn from South Africa in that respect.”
The Ghana Thought Leadership and Investment Summit is a follow-up to a trade and investment forum on Ghana organised by the Ghana High Commission in South Africa last June in Johannesburg in partnership with Mail and Guardian Africa and the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre.
Addressing the 70-odd guests gathered at Accra’s Novotel for the breakfast meeting, Kwesi Ahwoi, the Ghana High Commissioner to South Africa, said the summit “is to create a platform for stakeholders to discuss the critical areas including education, environment, technology and demography that affect and will affect development in Ghana and Africa.”
Ahwoi, also the nation’s 41st minister of interior, noted that Ghana is South Africa’s second largest market in West Africa after Nigeria, and that currently there are over 80 registered South African companies doing business in the West African country including Anglogold Ashanti, Goldfields, SABMiller, Multichoice, Stanbic Bank, Shoprite Checkers and South African Airways.
Morgan Fianko Asiedu, Executive Director of Ecobank Ghana Ltd, speaking on the role of the private sector in economic development, said that it is envisaged that greater private sector participation in infrastructural development and services will help trigger the necessary prerequisite for growth.
“Government must provide the enabling framework and policy for businesses to operate whilst the private sector, duly guided, can participate in key projects and lead efforts in business creation and development, providing a wider base for tax revenues amongst others and freeing up governments to govern and seek the welfare of the vulnerable.”