Urbanisation in Ghana: Challenges and Strengths

African Business, May 2016 | Go to article overview

Urbanisation in Ghana: Challenges and Strengths


Over the last three decades, Ghana's urban population has more than tripled, rising from 4 million to nearly 14 million people, and outpacing rural population growth. The country is moving steadily and uniformly--all regions have experienced this growth--toward cities. In fact, Ghana's urban population growth has been faster in its smaller cities than its larger ones. Can this increasing pool of urban residents secure good jobs and access affordable housing, clean water, and public transport?

Ghana's urban transformation has been momentous, but it is not unique; a similar process has characterized other countries at similar levels of development. Ghana's key challenge now is to ensure that urbanisation continues to complement growth through improvements in productivity and inclusion, rather than detracting from these goals.

Many rising problems are related to efficiency and inclusion. These include slums, lack of basic services, underdeveloped manufacturing, and insufficient transport infrastructure. The Ghana urbanisation review report "Rising through Cities in Ghana" (World Bank, 2014) and its accompanying reports provide an analysis of Ghana's rising urbanisation challenges and a framework to successfully overcome these challenges. With Ghana's specific urban challenges and strengths in mind, the Ghana urbanisation review focuses on four priority areas that will enable the attainment of a successful urban system in Ghana.

To meet the challenges of urbanisation, Ghana requires stronger land use management and planning in municipal and metropolitan areas. Urban and land use planning are negatively affected by an inflexible land ownership system. Successful planning can be achieved by valuing land to create effective markets and facilitate the transferability and bankability of land assets, and by coordinating land development with infrastructure and affordable housing. In particular, Ghana should strengthen and clarify property rights through land market formalisation, make land use regulations and administrative procedures more market friendly and coordinate land market reforms with increased provision of affordable housing.

Transport improvements are required to connect markets, boost factor mobility, and help modernise Ghana's urban economies. Strong connectivity enhances the competitiveness of an economy and generates a business environment conducive to firm growth and development. Quality infrastructure efficiently connects firms to their customers and suppliers, and enables the use of modern production technologies. Yet the provision of transport infrastructure in Ghana has generally been undertaken as a result of development rather than in anticipation of it, resulting in piecemeal infrastructure provision that is inadequate to meet effective demand. …

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