The Political Economy of Housing and Urban Development in Africa: Ghana's Experience from Colonial Times to 1998

The Political Economy of Housing and Urban Development in Africa: Ghana's Experience from Colonial Times to 1998

The Political Economy of Housing and Urban Development in Africa: Ghana's Experience from Colonial Times to 1998

The Political Economy of Housing and Urban Development in Africa: Ghana's Experience from Colonial Times to 1998

Synopsis

Providing adequate, accessible, and affordable housing is a major problem affecting many African countries. Focusing on the West African country of Ghana, Konadu-Agyemang explores the urban housing question in light of current development theories. He concludes that it would be naive to see Ghana's housing crisis primarily as a result of political instability or economic mismanagement. Instead, the author argues that economic and social problems in Africa are products of the structural distortions created by colonialism and the draining of African resources to European countries. The postcolonial continuation of relations of dependency has led to underdevelopment, which is manifested in malformed urban areas characterized by housing shortages, slum environments, and atrophied infrastructures.

Excerpt

Housing is truly one of the most important basic needs of mankind, and the elevated position which it occupies in the social policy of many countries cannot be overemphasized. This is partly due to the fact that housing has profound impact on health, social attitudes and the productivity of individuals, and the quality of one's housing may be one of the best indicators of a one's standard of living and place in society (Seager, 1995; Harphan and Tanner, 1995; Tulchin, 1986; Hardoy et al., 1990). Furthermore, expenditure on housing constitutes the largest single expense that most people make in their lifetime. As noted by one prominent housing scholar, housing not only provides shelter for a family, but also serves as the center of its total residential environment, and social acceptance (Grimes, 1976). Again, as an element of income growth and income distribution, housing fulfills a social need that satisfies criteria for urban social investment. The home and its physical environment form a compact block in which the largest range of human needs are met, and the largest part of human life is lived. Indeed, housing comprises such a fundamental and major dimension of social society that the study of residence can and perhaps should be central to our understanding of society (Kemeny, 1992:xviii).

People's inherent right to shelter is thus a basic need which should not be denied anyone. It may even be argued that the provision of decent housing and related infrastructure in a suitable environment, and at affordable prices to all people requiring it should be the hallmark of every civilized society, and one of the criteria for measuring development. But so far as housing, especially in the urban areas, is concerned, the whole world could be classified as 'underdeveloped.' From Argentina to Zimbabwe, and from the United States of America to Indonesia, evi-

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