Saturday, March 24, 2007

Ghana at 50 - What are we celebrating??


Well sadly I missed Ghana's 50th Anniversary. While I was flying around the world to trade shows and Caribbean Islands, Ghana was Celebrating 50 years of Freedom and autonomy from it's former colonizer - the British Empire. March 7th marked the day that the Gold Coast became Ghana and the people were handed over the country that had been manipulated and built up by British colonial powers - the first African country to gain independence in 1957.

50 years on and what has become of this promising Star of Africa??

According to World Bank statistics, a country like Botswana, that acheived it's Independence in 1966, has a per capita income per head of over $11,000 (2005), compared to just $ 2,600 for Ghana. The adult literacy rate in Botswana is 79% compared to 74% for Ghana. Gross enrolment for primary, secondary and tertiary schools is 70% for Botswana and only 46% for Ghana. A country like Singapore, that gained its independence from Britain in 1965, has an income per capita of over $ 28,000, adult literacy of 93% and primary, secondary and tertiary enrolment of 87%.

Ghana is lagging behind. The hospitals are absolutely appalling. There is no public transport system. Ghettos and slums are growing. Corruption is rampant. There is no manufacturing, all natural resources leave the country in their raw form. The Gold is disappearing along with all it's revenues, to foreign companies.

A quick look at current poverty statistics is not promising:

GHANA
Total population, 2003:
20.7 million
Rural population density (people per km2), 2003:
307.1
Number of rural poor:
6.5 million
Poor as % of total rural population, 2000-01:
49.9%
GNI per capita (US$), 2003:
$320.0
Population living below US$1 a day:
44.8%
Population living below US$2 a day:
78.5%
Population living below the national poverty line:
39.5%
Share of poorest 20% in national income or consumption:
5.6%

Source: World Bank

So .... what are we celebrating?
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1 comment:

Sijui said...

Ghana’s Growth, Falling Poverty Rates, Could Raise Income Status in a Decade:
March 2, 2007—Ghana fetes 50 years of independence on March 6, but the next decade may give one of the best-performing countries in Sub-Saharan Africa more reason to celebrate.

The last five years brought higher economic growth (6.2 percent in 2006), after a steady two decades of moderate 4 percent growth. Inflation is lower (10 percent, down from 40), and so are interest rates (15 percent, down from 30), and poverty (33.4 percent in 2005, down from 39.5 percent in 2000, and 51.7 percent in 1990).

Those statistics, combined with strong improvements in business climate and the democratic process, civil liberties and freedom of the press, indicate Ghana may be able to halve poverty before 2015.

“This is striking progress, both on growth and poverty,” says World Bank Ghana Country Director Mats Karlsson.

As Ghana prepares for its golden anniversary party, with 25 heads of state and delegates from over 60 countries in attendance, its prospects of becoming a middle-income country in the next decade are “high,” he says.

“Even though we who live and work in Ghana want to celebrate now, we of course also recognize the challenges. But objectively, Ghana scores very well compared with its peers on any grounds: governance, growth, structural reform, and poverty reduction.

“But it doesn’t score well compared to what people perceive is Ghana’s potential,” he adds.

“Looking at the past five years, we see acceleration of progress. And that acceleration is what we’re building on now.”

Resource rich but energy poor Ghana’s biggest challenge is remedying power shortages that force frequent brownouts. The Akosambo Dam, completed in 1964, can no longer meet the country’s needs, including skyrocketing demand from mineral and aluminum producing companies.

The Bank is providing guarantees for a regional effort—the West Africa Gas Pipeline—to bring in cheaper, environmentally friendly power from Nigeria in the form of gas that would otherwise have been released into the atmosphere.

It’s also supporting the West-African Power Pool, which allows West African countries to access power “where it is cheapest,” and working with the Ghanian government on a major new project, the Ghana Energy Development and Access Project, financed with zero-interest International Development Association (IDA) funds, to distribute power more widely in the country, says Karlsson.

Despite shortages, “already today Ghanaians have higher energy access than almost any country in Africa, but we think we can reinforce that so and make power reliable not only for light but also to run machinery and create jobs,” he says.

In a major new state-of-the-art move on March 1, practically all donors (covering 95% of flows to Ghana) signed an innovative commitment, the Ghana Joint Assistance Strategy – G-JAS. Covering a four-year program, with as much as US$5.3 billion, the G-JAS partners commit to back Ghana’s national development strategy at the highest best-practice levels, harmonizing work and backing results with efficient resource utilization.

The country is intent to achieve shared growth, entailing both strong investment in competitiveness, particularly infrastructure, but also relying on decentralization, better quality education at all levels, and greater impact in child survival, nutrition, water and sanitation. An emerging challenge is new urban poverty, even as poverty is falling country wide.

“If you sustain growth, you will also sustain poverty reduction, because it’s basically a one-to-one relationship,” says Karlsson.

The Bank alone has committed US$1.3 billion to 19 zero-interest IDA-financed projects or grants. Two thirds support agriculture, rural productivity and sustainable resource use, energy infrastructure, the business environment, and transport. Another third goes to human development, including water and sanitation, HIV/AIDS, and education program.

Over the past four years, 2003-2006, the Bank has committed and disbursed $1.2 billion. On top of that the Bank and other partners have agreed to debt relief which has reduced Ghana’s external debt stock from $6.4 billion to $1.5 billion. For 2007 the Bank is committing to more than $400 million in new finance. The World Bank Group is also seeking to combine the tools of the whole World Bank Group, including IFC and MIGA, for innovative financing solutions to expensive infrastructure investment.

“Ghana is still an economy that is commodity-dependant,” says Karlsson. “But has Ghana changed? You bet it has, and therefore we are celebrating Ghana’s 50th full of promise. Empowerment is making all the difference.

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