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Poverty in GhanaPoverty in Ghana has been reduced, thanks to the tremendous growth of the Ghanaian economy over the past years, but at a hidden cost: the natural resources that undergird this success are being increasingly and perhaps unsustainably, depleted. The increase in the price and production of raw materials such as cocoa, gold and oil have quadrupled the real GDP growth, and cut extreme poverty in Ghana to a Lower Middle-Income Country status, from its previous status as a Low Income Country. Nonetheless, such impressive growth must be balanced with environmental protection in order to prove enduring.

Ghana’s Precarious Dependency on Natural Resources

Residents of the Bia Biosphere Reserve in Ghana are extremely dependent on the forest for their livelihoods. As cocoa farmers, harvesters of wild honey, mushrooms and other non-timber forest products, the people living in the region cannot economically sustain themselves without such natural resources. And yet, environmental depletion has become a serious concern, seeing as local populations rely almost exclusively on the forest’s resources for income. Large corporations also contribute to this degradation: unmanaged solid waste and gold mines result in air, plastic and water pollution, contaminated sites diffuse hazardous chemicals, and general deforestation and overfishing severely strain the biosphere.

Beyond the sheer environmental toll, the economic costs of such overexploitation are immense. The World Bank Ghana Country Environmental Analysis (CEA) estimates that environmental degradation incurs an annual cost of $6.3 billion, equivalent to nearly 11% of Ghana’s 2017 GDP. Air pollution costs nearly $2 billion and causes approximately 16,000 deaths each year. The damage caused by water pollution equates to 3% of the GDP. Land degradation costs over $500 million while deforestation costs $400 million per year. In addition to the immediate economic tolls, the depletion of natural resources inhibits the potential for future growth.

Green Economy Initiatives

In response to the increasingly salient threat of the Ghanian economy’s overdependence on natural resources, local communities have begun working with UNESCO and the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) to put in place green economy initiatives. The project builds on the Green Economy Scoping Study, performed by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI) between 2012 and 2013. The goal of such initiatives is to uncover income alternatives, as to reduce local populations’ reliance on natural resources for economic survival.

The project, launched in 2013, has thus far identified multiple viable alternatives to depleting natural resources, a few of which include mushroom farming, bee-keeping, snail rearing and palm oil production. According to UNESCO, there have been 235 direct beneficiaries, of which 91 are women, who received training and support as part of the green initiatives to transition to alternative livelihood options. In addition to the direct crafts, the residents also received education in marketing and investing, as to ensure the sustainability of their new businesses.

The green economy initiatives have had tremendous positive impacts on the socio-economic status of local communities, who have since been able to vary their sources of income and avoid environmental depletion. The project attests to the importance and viability of reconciling nature and economy for sustainable growth.

– Emily Xin
Photo: Unsplash

Ghana, a small country located in West Africa, has dealt with tremendous economic struggles since the 1990s. The good news is that the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) recently shared new data that confirms that positive strides have been made to improve multiple dimensions of poverty in health, education and living standards.  The report confirms that between 2011 and 2017, poverty in Ghana decreased by nine percent.  In addition, its GDP almost doubled from 2011 to 2019.

Ghana made significant changes to facilitate this progress. First, the nation diversified its economy to create more products and services in different sectors. This led to increased greater consumerism and higher employment, which allowed Ghana’s economy to flourish.  However, with increased consumerism also came disparity.  Because that disparity increased, poverty in Ghana continues to be a challenge.

Ghana’s Disparities in Consumption, Health and Regions

Wealth disparity in Ghana is extreme.  The top 10% of Ghanaians consume more than the bottom 60%, and the lowest 10% only consume only 2%.  Health disparities include the fact that only 2% of those in poverty are covered by the National Health Insurance Scheme and that wealthy children are three times more likely to live past age five than poor children.  Further, there is a disparity in poverty rates between regions and also between urban and rural Ghanaians.  The Northern Region has the highest multidimensional poverty with eight out of 10 people being multidimensionally poor.  The Upper East Region is close behind with seven out of 10 people multidimensionally poor. People in rural Ghana are twice as likely to be poor than people in urban areas.

Change to Eliminate Disparity and Continue to Improve the Economy

The UNDP is championing specific tactics to eliminate disparity and to continue to improve the Ghanaian economy.  First, it suggests investment in better healthcare in all regions and an emphasis on getting all Ghanaians national health insurance.  Second, it advocates for a focus on enhanced school enrollment and completion in some regions and better nutrition for children in others.  Third, it calls for a poverty reduction strategy for those regions where poverty is extremely high.

Other organizations are joining the UNDP to improve conditions in Ghana.  These include The Hunger Project, in working toward alleviating poverty in Ghana. Since 1995, The Hunger Project has aided over 300,000 people by focusing on improving infrastructure, education reform and sanitation. The project focuses on building community centers, or “epicenters”, in order to collectively unify communities within Ghana and provide resources, such as electricity and clean water. As of now, over 40 epicenters receive clean water and sanitation, and almost all of them have health committees and clinics.

Finally, many families in both the Upper West and Upper East Regions have found creative means of accumulating extra income, such as the production of Shea butter. Some businesses, like Star Shea, provide loans for women as a means of starting production and accommodating transportation costs.

Many women believe these loans were advantageous in pursuing more educational opportunities. For example, Mrs. Atorneygene, a local resident in Ghana, utilized the proceeds from her Shea butter production to provide educational tools for her granddaughter. Changes being made on a local level, such as the production of Shea butter,  have proved to be beneficial in providing opportunities to marginalized regions.

Outlook for Ghana

Even with the problems that Ghana has faced in the past, the nation has reached tremendous milestones and has made effective improvements within the last decade. With the help of the government, the UNDP, The Hunger Project and people in the community, Ghana has been able to make positive changes relating to its economy and wealth disparities. Now, Ghana has set a precedent regarding the instrumental changes needed to alleviate poverty.

– Aishwarya Thiyagarajan
Photo: Flickr

Strategies for Economic Growth and Sustainability in Ghana
In a monumental accomplishment, Ghana has triumphed in its Millenium Development Goal of cutting poverty within the nation in half. In the 1990s, half the population was subject to living standards below the poverty line, but by 2013 this figure was down to less than a quarter.

The country now gears up for the U.N.’s first Sustainable Development Goal of completely ending poverty in Ghana. With this new goal in mind, Ghana is challenged to address the lagging segment of the population and stimulate growth and greater equality.

Agriculture in Ghana

From 2007 to 2016, Ghana managed to stimulate economic growth at a rate above 7 percent. However, the agricultural industry only grew by 3.5 percent, lagging much behind the economy. In fact, the African Development Bank reported that Ghana’s agricultural sector would need to achieve a 7 percent growth in order to initiate poverty reduction.

The reason agriculture is a crucial area of improvement to end poverty in Ghana is that more than half of its population works in this industry. Over 90 percent of employment in rural areas is based in agriculture, and these areas also comprise the poorest of the poor in the entire country.

Opportunities For Development

Fortunately, the means for development stems from the agricultural sector and would significantly contribute to Ghana’s growth and overall poverty reduction. The following is a condensed list with strategies and areas of improvement that would help achieve economic growth in the agricultural sector and ultimately push ahead ending poverty in Ghana:

  1. Incorporate mechanization and other technology
  2. Advance beyond rainfed agriculture
  3. Promote security in the land tenure system
  4. Stimulate interest and investment in agriculture
  5. Improve storage and management of post-harvest yields
  6. Make policy that focuses on progressing agriculture beyond subsistence farming

Sustainable Growth and Energy

Ghana faces other challenges in infrastructure that hinder economic growth and poverty alleviation; however, the U.N. Development Program supported Ghana in its transition to greater infrastructure in a sustainable way. Energy, for instance, appears to be one of the key focus areas for infrastructure improvement.

The U.N. provided adaptation and mitigation strategies in Ghana’s development policies and programs. Moreover, this cooperation between the U.N. and Ghana also contributed to Ghana’s mission to diversify energy sources, greatly incorporate renewable energy and develop more efficient energy.

Secretary General’s Sustainable Energy for All Initiative

One such collaborative effort between Ghana and an international organization to secure poverty reduction and economic growth is the Secretary General’s Sustainable Energy for All Initiative (SEforALL). SEforALL works to advance energy systems, end energy poverty and promote prosperity. In fact, the three main objectives are as follows:

  1. Provide universal access to up-to-date energy services
  2. Double the global rate of energy efficiency
  3. Double the renewable energy inclusion in the global energy mix

Efforts to End Poverty in Ghana

Ghana has advanced and grown significantly over the past two decades; poverty is cut by more than a half of what it was before the turn of the century. Ghana stands as one of the few countries that achieved the Millennium Development Goal.

Fortunately, there are numerous strategies, focus areas and initiatives occurring today to end poverty in Ghana once and for all.

Roberto Carlos Ventura
Photo: Flickr

how the media misrepresents Ghana
The media today is prone to reporting stereotypes about developing countries. This kind of coverage far outnumbers fact-based coverage, making it difficult to filter out false information. Yet the public must rely on the media to provide non-domestic news. Therefore, should the media be tainted with misinformation, the public outlook will also be tainted, and one of the most misrepresented places in the world is Africa’s west coast.

News Reports Do Not Match Personal Experiences

Adrian Heath, a rising senior at Colgate University, recently studied abroad in Ghana during his junior year. In his descriptions of Ghana, it was clear how his perceptions had changed over time. He spoke to The Borgen Project about his mindset before departure: “I had all of the typical stereotypes in my head like poverty and AIDS. I expected to see a lot of beggars.” Heath’s head had been filled with images and stories from how the media misrepresents Ghana and other African nations.

His perception changed upon his arrival country-side. Almost immediately, he realized how skewed his perception had been. “We went out in the city and some parts were so beautiful it really surprised me… It could have been any American city.” His preconceived notions were whisked away with the beauty of Ghanaian life.

He said that there are a lot of “great spots for tourism” in Ghana, a landscape littered with beautiful beaches and resort locations. Accra is a coastal city, perfectly situated to host tourists who are interested in experiencing Ghanaian culture. The irony is that people avoid visiting due to the negative portrayal of Africa, missing out on a chance to have a positive experience in Ghana.

Ghanaians React to How the Media Misrepresents Ghana

Ghanaians are aggrieved by how the media misrepresents Ghana. Ismail Akwei, a journalist for Africa News, analyzed Ghanaian reactions to an article published by CNN. In the article, Ghanaians are portrayed as “struggl[ing] to obtain food and day-to-day services. Rolling blackouts are common and citizens often stand in long line [sic] to obtain products.”

The people of Ghana quickly turned to Twitter to express their disgust at the negligent reporting, utilizing the hashtag #CNNGetItRight. One user, Kafui Dey, tweeted: “Ghanaians are not struggling to obtain food. We are not standing in long lines to obtain products. I know. I live here.” Another Ghanaian, Nana Ama Agyemang, tweeted: “Such lazy coverage of a fantastic story by @CNN. No nuance, just the usual template ‘Africans are suffering’.”

Ghanaians have also been expressing their disdain for their elected officials, who do nothing to reverse how the media misrepresents Ghana. President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo was elected on a platform of change. In an open letter to the president that was published by Ghana News, Dr. Elvis Asiedu Afram pleaded for the president to enact some of the change he had promised, writing, “Mr. President, nine months after your historic assumption of office, it has become increasingly tedious to defend the change we proudly supported and campaigned for…. What was the change message about if things were to remain the same?”

Change Comes from Within Ghana

The peoples’ cries were heard when the president publicly endorsed a plan to increase Ghana’s domestic commerce, a move that would help gain independence from foreign aid and empower Ghana as a nation. An article on Ghana’s official presidency website quoted the president as saying, “Government is empowering the private sector to create jobs and wealth by working closely with industry and academia to equip young professionals with the skills required to operate competitively in the sector.”

While speaking with The Borgen Project, Heath mirrored the views of President Akufo-Addo, that Ghana needs to establish a means of domestically manufactured income in order to take care of its own and step out from beneath the shadow of colonialism. Heath was enthusiastic in his hope that this would eventually become a reality. His many interactions with emphatic Ghanaians whose love for their way of life give him hope for the future. “[As a foreigner] everyone you meet asks if you liked their country. They want you to appreciate their culture. They want you to see the beauty as they do.” There is much to appreciate about Ghana if the media chooses to shine a light on it.

– Zach Farrin
Photo: Flickr

disease in Ghana
The continent of Africa has many countries that have struggled for decades with deadly diseases. High poverty rates and little access to clean water have made it difficult for people to stop the spread of these diseases or access vaccinations.

In sub-Saharan Africa, one in 11 children dies before the age of five because of diseases like pneumonia and malaria. Ghana is one country that is fighting for access to vaccinations. The hope is to someday eradicate disease in Ghana, and with the help of many organizations, Ghana is proving that this can be possible.

Although Africa is considered the poorest continent on Earth, Ghana’s poverty rate was cut in half from 1991 to 2012. This growth has paved the way for better access to extremely important healthcare and vaccinations for men, women and children.

Introduction of New Vaccines Lessens Threat of Disease in Ghana

In 2012, Ghana became the first African country to make the pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines available. This is a giant step, as these vaccines will protect against two of the biggest killers in Ghana, pneumonia and diarrhea. UNICEF, along with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, have worked alongside and supported the Ghana Health Service in this launch, which made these vaccinations available in every health clinic in the country.

Although it is unusual to make two vaccines available simultaneously, the country has recognized the dire need for these treatments. Pneumonia is the deadliest disease in Africa and the leading cause of death of children on the continent. The sickness claims nearly 800,000 lives each year.

Ghana One of Three Countries to Test Malaria Vaccine

Along with being the first country in Africa to launch the aforementioned vaccines, Ghana will once again be making history later in 2018. The World Health Organization has selected Ghana, along with Kenya and Malawi, to be the testing sites for the world’s first malaria vaccine pilot. With about half of the world’s population at risk for this disease, this vaccine, along with the means of prevention that are already used, could save hundreds of thousands of lives.

In 2015 alone, there were nearly 215 million cases of malaria around the world. The malaria pilot program is being funded by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, the World Health Organization and many others. The first stage will cost nearly $50 million, but with the thousands of lives this vaccine could save, money is no object.

The fight to eradicate disease in Ghana is seeing incredible progress. Ghana is becoming a country that everyone, not just in Africa but all over the world, can look to when it comes to providing the healthcare and medications that so many are in need of.

Long known as a country that has struggled with poverty and a lack of resources, Ghana has shown that it is possible for any country to treat and prevent diseases on a national level. Ghana has and will continue to make these huge changes for its people.

– Allisa Rumreich
Photo: Flickr

Ghana Social Opportunities ProjectDuring the past two decades, sustained and inclusive economic growth has enabled Ghana to reduce the number of its citizens living in poverty by half, from 52.6 percent to 21.4 percent, and this number is continuing to drop. Although there is much to celebrate about the recent reduction of those living in poverty, there are still a number of people, primarily in rural areas, that are living in poverty. The Ghana Social Opportunities Project is an initiative headed by the World Bank with the goal of alleviating poverty in these rural areas.

The project is focused on supporting the creation of social protection policy and increasing participation in the Labor Intensive Public Works and the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty programs, among other social protection initiatives.

Labor Intensive Public Works Programs

Labor Intensive Public Works programs, a major component of the Ghana Social Opportunities Project, is a social protection tool often used by governments in developing countries to reduce unemployment and alleviate overall poverty.

The programs seek to employ people for physical infrastructure projects using local labor and raw materials. By using local labor instead of machinery for infrastructure projects, more jobs are created and thus more people are employed and earning money to provide for their family.

The successes in Ghanaian communities where Labor Intensive Public Works Programs are at work are evident, as the percentage of people living in poverty has decreased significantly.

Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty Programs

Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty programs, better known as LEAP programs, are another major component of the Ghana Social Opportunities Project.

First launched in 2008, LEAP programs were adopted by Ghana’s government with the help of the World Bank. The programs aim to alleviate short-term poverty while encouraging long-term human capital development. LEAP programs provide cash and health insurance to poor households across the country. Currently, there are 90,785 households that are being paid through LEAP programs.

Additionally, LEAP is set to launch a new initiative this month called LEAP 1000. This initiative targets extremely poor households and is concentrated in Ghana’s northern and upper east regions.

LEAP programs are one way the government is working with international aid organizations to solve issues of poverty on a localized, household level. Because of the cash benefits LEAP communities receive, many communities are experiencing a turnaround and poverty reduction in rural areas is catching up to the rest of the country.

Continued Growth

The distribution of wealth, particularly between rural and urban areas, is the main focus for many developing countries. Much of Ghana’s economic growth has come from the migration of people to Ghana’s cities. Opportunities exist in urban areas that usually do not exist in rural areas; this is one reason for the unequal distribution of wealth among Ghana’s population.

Because Ghana has recently benefited from prolonged growth for a long period of time, the country’s challenge is distributing this growth among its entire population. This can be achieved through infrastructure transformation, the emergence of a more specialized and skilled labor force and an increase in Ghana’s geographically mobility. By continuing to focus on these areas, Ghana can ensure that this development will keep expanding and benefit all of its citizens.

– Sonja Flancher

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Shelter For Education Program Building Schools in Ghana

Nearly a quarter of Ghana’s population is still living below the poverty line. However, education and socioeconomic mobility are vital to the country’s young people. Fortunately, school enrollment is on the rise and, thanks to the telecom group Tigo Ghana, willing students will have more classroom resources.

Tigo recently built a six-classroom addition to Obeng Yaw Basic School, the first of six anticipated construction and restoration projects the company will conduct for schools in impoverished regions of the country. These efforts come as part of Tigo’s new corporate social responsibility initiative, Shelter For Education.

Under the initiative, Tigo has committed to constructing four and refurbishing two six-unit classroom buildings for six different selected communities. Each of these schools in Ghana will also be equipped with a headmaster’s office, a pantry and a staff common room. Shelter For Education will also provide pupils from the selected schools with books and school uniforms.

The program focuses on rural areas particularly, working to provide classrooms to students otherwise forced to sit under trees through harsh weather conditions in order to attend school.

The old environment, understandably non-conducive to learning, will hopefully be remedied by Tigo’s Shelter For Education efforts.

Tigo certainly believes it will, stating, “This project will go a long way to better the lives of these vulnerable children. These kids will be motivated to go to school, stay in the classroom when there are rains and lastly improve their educational background.”

Shelter For Education has drawn a strong backing. This includes Nana Obeng Yaw II, Chief of Adeiso, where the first construction project took place. The chief promised to maintain the new building, hoping to ensure a lasting benefit to the village’s children. He will have Tigo’s support once again, according to Gifty Bingley, head of Corporate Communications for Tigo Ghana.

The schools in Ghana selected for Shelter For Education improvements are St. Joseph Primary School in Obuasi, Dimabi Nursery and Primary School in Tolon Kumbumgu of the Northern Region, Ejura Sekyere-Dumase MA School, Tupaa Basic School in Ga South of the Greater Accra Region and Banda Ahenkro MA School in Banda Ahenkro of the Brong Ahafo Region.

The World Bank calls education “one of the most powerful instruments for reducing poverty and inequality and lays a foundation for sustained economic growth.”

Tigo Ghana’s CEO, Roshi Motman agrees: “Education is key in building a great nation and for Tigo, we want to contribute in shaping the lives of these children who in future will help build Ghana.”

Emma-Claire LaSaine

Sources: Biztech Africa, Tigo, allAfrica, World Bank
Photo: Biztech Africa

poverty in ghana
Overall poverty in Ghana has declined and Ghana has positioned itself as one of the more developed nations in Sub-Saharan Africa. The proportion of Ghanaians described as poor in 2005/06 was 28.5%, falling from 39.5% in 1998/99. Those described as extremely poor declined from 26.8% to 18.2%.Ghana is on track to meeting the Millennium Development Goals for income poverty, hunger, primary school completion, gender parity at school and access to water.

However challenges still exist. Rural, subsistence agricultural farmers are among the poorest socio-economic groups in Ghana. Most of these farmers reside in the northern region of Ghana and do not have access to the same infrastructure and services as do their urban southerners. At present, agriculture constitutes the dominant sector of the economy, although the developing oil industry shows promise in the near future.

Ghana’s Human Development Index stood at 0.558 in 2012. On a scale between 0 and 1, with 1 being the best possible HDI and 0 the worst. The HDI is a composite measure of health, education, and income which helps assess the standard of living. The 2012 average HDI in Sub-Saharan Africa stood at 0.475. Ghana may have the best HDI in the region, but on a global scale, it falls far behind most countries. Out of 186 countries surveyed in the 2012 HDI, Ghana placed 135th.

Ghana still aspires to reach a middle-income country status. It has one of the most stable governments in the region and one of the fastest growing economies thanks to the recent discovery of offshore oil in 2007. Per capita income is projected to reach at least US$1,035 by the end of 2013 with a projected average real GDP growth rate of 7-9%, annually.

 

Rate of Poverty in Ghana

At this rate, Ghanaians could achieve and sustain per capita income levels of at least $3,000 USD by the year 2020. Oil, gold, and cocoa are Ghana’s main industries. Ghana is Africa’s biggest gold miner after South Africa and is the world’s second largest cocoa producer after Côte d’Ivoire. The challenge is to make sure the wealth generated from these industries trickle-down to every Ghanaian.

One important factor to eradicating poverty in Ghana is to control population growth. As of the 2000 census, 44% of the population consists of children below 15 years of age with those above 65 accounting for only 5%. This presents a very large dependent population requiring huge investments in education and health care. Underemployment and unemployment is a concern among many young adults as well.

While the oil industry develops, agriculture still remains a major part of the economy.  Ghana’s agriculture is dominated by subsistence small holder production units with weak linkages, low-level technology and productivity, and un-competitiveness. The small-scale farmer who practices rain-fed agriculture, applies little or no fertilizer, and uses little technology is vulnerable to the unpredictable changes in the weather. Lack of land ownership rights also undermines the small farmer’s ability to invest in land improvements and farm expansion. Unless these issues are remedied, smallholder farmers will remain in a poverty trap.

In general, a broad-based human development strategy is recommended in order to keep Ghana on track for reducing its poverty. This includes improving the quality and access of education and healthcare for the young and the old. It requires providing micro-credits and financing to farmers and small businesses.

The development of the oil industry should translate to better infrastructure and more jobs for the average Ghanaian – and not be exclusively held in an enclave of the rich. Further, more women should be empowered to become leaders and entrepreneurs. And considering that Ghana’s current pattern of development puts a lot of stress on the environment – resulting in an economic cost of over 10% of Ghana’s GDP – Ghana needs to fix their environmental and sanitation management. More importantly, the disparities between those that live in the poorer north of the country and those that live in the privileged south should be bridged in order to eradicate extreme poverty out of Ghana once and for all.

– Maria Caluag

Sources: IMF, UNDP, BBC News