Thursday, April 12, 2007
Economic potentials of Northern Ghana @ 50
By: Paul Achonga Kabah Kwode
AS Ghana celebrates 50 years of nationhood, it is worth highlighting various parts of the country and their potentials for moving the country towards greater development. The northern part of Ghana, for example, can boast of so much human and other natural resources, that if properly harnessed, could effectively help relieve the whole country from poverty and want, to the extent of making Ghana the envy of the subregion and the world at large.
Indeed a 2005 study commissioned by the UK Department for International Development, (DFID), and undertaken by the Centre for Policy Analysis and the Overseas Development Institute noted that if northern Ghana had grown at the country’s average rate during the 1990s, it would have added substantially to Ghana’s average income and foreign exchange earnings.
With regard to its human resources, northern Ghana can boast of very hardworking citizens whose skills and potential remain underutilized. In view of the harsh weather conditions which they have had to endure, the inhabitants have devised various ingenious ways of eking out a living.
For instance, during the dry season when the land is virtually dried, no proper farming could be done without irrigation so majority of the people, who do not have this facility, travel to the forest and coastal vegetations to spend their time of laborious farming till the rains return to their homelands, where they return to engage in farming that goes a long way to increase agricultural production in the country.
About three quarters of Ghana’s agricultural production is dependent on the northern Ghana and it is worth acknowledging this so that the necessary attention is paid to the sector. The vast arable land in northern Ghana could feed the whole of the country over a decade if well utilized. The land is suitable for the cultivation of all sorts of foodstuff including groundnuts, beans, millet, maize, yam, corn, Bambara beans, mango, watermelons, tomatoes, onions, shea butter, cotton, rice,sunflower, as well as theproduction of various types of livestock including cattle, goats, sheep, pigs, fowls, guinea fowls, and ostrich. There is the need to invest in the production of these in large quantities for export in order to earn the county millions of dollars that we are in dire need of.
Investment opportunities in the northern sector are enormous and the people of northern Ghana are very accommodating. There is an airport in the area, abundant labors and vast land for any type of project.
There is also a ready market for the goods produced to be exported to any part of the country and raw materials like cotton, shea butter, meat, tomatoes, yam and leather among other things that could be processed into finished products.
A recent discovery in the area, which could boost the country’s investment potentials, is sugar cane. It has been discovered that the sector could undertake mass production of sugar cane for export and local use.
With tourism being touted as Ghana’s potential major foreign exchange earner, the northern regions can earn the country a significant income in that sector, in addition to helping to create employment for the youth. Tourism sites in the area include, the Nalerigu Defence Wall, Larabanga Mosque, Larabanga Mystery Stone, the Salaga Slave Market and the Mole National Park, all in the Northern Region. In the Upper East Region, the Crocodile Pond at Paga and the Sirigu Cultural Village and the Tenzug Shrine near Bolgatanga are interesting tourism sites while the Upper West can boast of the Wichau Hippopotamus sanctuary, the Wa Naa’s palace and ancient mosques among other sites.
In spite of its huge economic potential, majority of the people in northern Ghana are relatively living in misery and suffering from poverty and preventable diseases. For instance, the industrial census of 2005, conducted by the Ghana Statistical Service, indicated that the three northern regions performed poorly in industrial activities accounting for only 8.3% of persons engaged in industrial activities in the country. Additionally, only 9.5% of the industries in the country are located there.
The 2005 DFID commissioned study by CEPA, paints the picture more clearly, by pointing out that “if Northern Ghana had grown at the country’s average rate during the 1990s, it would have added substantially to Ghana’s average income and foreign exchange earnings. Northern Ghana has not produced the key export commodities, has received much lower inflows of remittances, and participating much less in trading activities compared to the south. These are the major factors explaining the poor growth performance of Northern Ghana. A significant proportion (around half or more) of its population is extremely vulnerable and food insecure. A substantial majority remains poor.”
Employment opportunities are virtually non-existent and the result is that the youth are forced to migrate, mostly to the cities of Accra, Kumasi and Takoradi, among others, in search of non-existent jobs. Invariably, most of them end up jobless and fall into bad company and subsequently engage in anti social behaviour.
With regard to health, Ghana is said to be second in the world, in terms of guinea worm infestation, with thirteen out of fifteen districts being among the most endemic in the country and these come from the northern part. The educational facilities in Northern Ghana are nothing at all to write home about, making some basic and in some cases secondary schools students attend classes under trees. Majority of them drop out of school while the few who struggle to the secondary level face major difficulties.
The Ghanaian Times - Thursday, April 12, 2007 Page: 28