In the past 27 years, Ghana has witnessed three democratic changes of government. National electoral contests have been decided between two main parties, on either side of the political spectrum.
There are also a number of minor parties, some of which trace their ideological and philosophical foundations to the independence leader, Kwame Nkrumah. In the most recent election, the smaller, Nkrumahist parties got only 1% of the vote and are barely staying afloat.
So why haven’t they fallen away entirely?
My analysis suggests that the answer lies in patronage. I argue that party patronage plays a major role in the electoral strategies of the Nkrumahist minor parties. The parties tend to exploit or use ‘blackmail’ or ‘coalition’ potentials for leverage. Elections in Ghana have experienced keen competitiveness, and the winning margin between winners and losers fluctuates between 1% and about 4%.
Consequently, the votes of third parties are sought after by the two dominant parties.
Ghana’s de facto two-party system
Like the previous republics, Ghana’s Fourth Republican dispensation which started in 1993, nurtured and consolidated a de facto two-party system.
Since the return to civilian politics in the early 1990s, the electoral landscape has been controlled by two political parties – the National Democratic Congress and the New Patriotic Party. With the exception of the first parliament, subsequent parliaments and the presidency have been dominated by the two major parties. These parties have alternated power at the presidential level.
Yet, several other parties have been registered by the electoral commission. Among them are the People’s National Convention, Convention People’s Party and the Progressive People’s Party, which are Nkrumahist.
These parties, at various election cycles, have run for the presidency and parliament.
In the maiden 1992 elections, the combined votes of all parties representing the Nkrumahist platform in presidential elections was about 11%. The parties’ electoral strength in the most recent 2016 elections was about 1%. In parliament, the parties held 4% of seats in 1992 and by the 2016 election, the parties had no seat.
The declining fortunes of the Nkrumahist parties in national elections were evident by the time Ghana returned to the polls for the sixth time, yet they fielded candidates in the seventh national elections in 2016.
Kwame Nkrumah, the party that he founded and those parties that his vision, ideology or philosophy inspired dominated electoral politics in Ghana until the Fourth Republic. On the political spectrum, the main party to the left was the Convention People’s Party, a splinter group from the United Gold Coast Convention. From 1949, until it was toppled in a military coup in 1966, it was the only party with a large nationwide following.
The second tradition was to the right of the political spectrum. Its leaders included the lawyer and statesman J.B. Danquah, who led the United Gold Coast Convention in the 1951 election. Chief S.D. Dombo was the leader of the largest opposition party, the Northern Peoples’ Party, and K.A. Busia led the united opposition group, the United Party.
Since the inauguration of the Fourth Republic in 1993 however, the Nkrumahist parties have failed to capture the presidency or the parliament. Nonetheless, the parties have survived by using party patronage as an organisational resource.
The power to appoint citizens to serve in the public sector is vested in the president of the governing party. Power patronage has been used in all political administrations in Ghana. In 1992, then military ruler Jerry Rawlings and his newly formed National Democratic Congress party formed an alliance with the Nkrumahist National Convention Party.
This saw the nomination of the party’s leader, Kow Arkaah, as vice-president. His appointment was a strategic manoeuvre to consolidate minority party votes in order to defeat the New Patriotic Party. Several other leading members were roped into the government after the election was won.
Similarly, in 1996, the opposition New Patriotic Party formed an alliance with the People’s Convention Party. They lost the election however.
In the year 2000, the New Patriotic Party won their first national election. Then president John Kufuor appointed a leading member from the Convention People’s Party, Papa Kwesi Nduom, as a minister of state. The only member of parliament from the party, Freddie Blay, was named a deputy speaker of parliament and voted regularly with parliamentarians from the governing party. He later resigned from the Convention People’s Party and is currently the chairman of the governing New Patriotic Party.
Leading members of other Nkrumahist minor parties have also benefited from patronage that keeps their parties afloat. A former presidential candidate of the People’s National Convention, Edward Mahama, now serves as an ambassador at large for the current government. Another leading member, Abu Ramadan, was also openly courted and appointed as a deputy director-general of Ghana’s national disaster organisation.
Competitive elections and party patronage
Ghana’s democratic achievements are unique within the African context. Party patronage could be negative or positive to the political system. In the Ghanaian case, the non-material patronage system suggests that it has the potential to contribute to the stability of the political system.
The two main parties have at different times included the members of the minor parties in the governing of the state. The expertise that members of the Nkrumahist minor parties bring on board has contributed to the policy goals of the governing parties. On the other side, the individual members of the minor parties have benefited through their appointment to public sector offices.
Underlying the successes of pluralist politics are two major parties. Essentially, electoral contest is decided between the National Democratic Congress and the New Patriotic Party. Yet, the existence of minor parties cannot be discounted. The continuance of the Nkrumahist minor parties in Ghana can only be understood within the wider context of competitive elections and party patronage.
George M. Bob-Milliar, Senior Lecturer, History and Political Studies, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST)
Electricity is a hot political issue in Ghana. Ghanaians demand access to the electricity grid as a right of citizenship. And, when not connected, they have threatened in the past to boycott national elections with slogans such as: “No light, no vote!”
In 2016, then President Mahama became known as “Mr Power Cut” because of widespread power cuts that plagued his term in office. He was heavily defeated in elections by Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo-Addo. The next Ghanaian election in 2020 is a rematch between the two.
Politicians are therefore under a lot of pressure to distribute reliable electric power, but concerns about corruption in the power sector persist. The next Ghanaian election in 2020 is a rematch between the two.
Politicians are therefore under a lot of pressure to distribute reliable electric power, but concerns about corruption in the power sector persist.
In a new research paper we examine a programme to distribute solar panels to meet the needs of people without electricity in Ghana. We wanted to find out whether political patronage played a role in decisions about who got the solar panels and who didn’t.
Our broader question was whether civil servants in a developing democracy can resist political capture in the distribution of public goods.
Resisting the opportunity for corruption
A great deal of research has been done on how political patronage works from the perspective of what drives politicians. But service decisions are often made by bureaucrats. That is why we chose to conduct our research by tracking decisions taken by civil servants.
Interviews revealed that the goal of the solar panel programme was to provide electricity for educational, medical and community purposes in places where future grid extension was unlikely. The programme was funded by a European government donor and implemented by the Ghanaian Ministry of Energy.
The civil servants who carried out the programme knew that political corruption was common in Ghana. For example, studies had shown that vote buying was prevalent and that politicians sometimes used the provision of public goods – even the electricity grid – to gain votes.
We found that because of this, civil servants had taken extra precautions to avoid the programme being “captured” by politicians. For example, they relied on grid access data – rather than member of parliament recommendations – to identify communities that needed electricity. They also visited communities to confirm their need.
Our paper asked whether the programme was successful in getting solar panels to the neediest communities, rather than rewarding communities that usually voted for the political party in power.
We found that the considerable efforts to thwart corruption paid off for national-level civil servants. They were able to resist political capture. But only up to a point. Even their best efforts were thwarted when politics seeped into the process at a local level.
Who got the solar panels?
We analysed whether solar panels were more likely to go to isolated communities with limited road infrastructure or to places with political ties to the government. Since grid expansion usually follows road infrastructure, communities with few roads are unlikely to be connected to the grid in the medium term. These communities therefore have a greater need for alternative sources of electricity, like solar panels.
We tracked the distribution of solar panels using statistical analysis of data on solar panel locations. We also interviewed people who made decisions or were affected by the programme.
The programme partially worked: panels were indeed distributed to isolated communities and those in need of electricity, rather than to incumbent strongholds.
But we also found that panels went to areas where voter turnout had been inconsistent over time – in other words where it was likely that voter turnout could be swayed.
This pattern was evident across the country, but was particularly marked in the area around Lake Volta. Analysis of interview responses and historical documents showed that this variation reflected the logistics of space and the historical politics of place.
This could mean that distribution was also influenced by the desire to mobilise people who sometimes, but do not always, vote, by bringing them electricity access.
Politics at local level
Bureaucratic efforts to avoid political influence did succeed in some ways. The most obvious ways for political capture to influence distribution would be to steer more solar panels to communities with the highest support for the incumbent political party or highest voter turnout. This, however, did not happen.
We found, though, that politics seeped into the decision-making process at a local level.
Because it was hard for bureaucrats in the capital to obtain enough data about where to distribute the solar panels, they consulted local actors in communities to learn more about local need. This may have opened up the process to people who had more explicit political agendas than the national bureaucrats. Panels were subtly steered to places that were both needed and politically useful.
African governments have long dealt with the unfortunate stereotype that they distribute goods solely based on clientelism, nepotism, or corruption. Our study of Ghana’s work to distribute solar panels adds to the growing body of evidence that African governments do respond to need. They can resist political influence. They just may not be able to avoid it completely.
Justin Scott Schon, Post Doctoral Researcher, University of Florida; Elizabeth Baldwin, Arthur F. Bentley Chair and Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Arizona; Jennifer N. Brass, Associate professor, Indiana University, and Lauren M. MacLean, Arthur F. Bentley Chair and Professor of Political Science
What we eat is changing on a global scale. Changes in the types of food that are available and affordable, where we buy food and how we prepare it carry significant consequences for nutrition and health.
Until the 20th century, the key nutritional issue was that people could not afford sufficient food or the necessary nutrients. But nowadays, the single most important issue is the co-existence of undernutrition – lack of access to sufficient quantities of food – and overnutrition – excessive consumption of food.
Across the world, calorie intake is on the rise and so is consumption of vegetable oils, meats and ultra-processed foods. Overall, imbalanced diets and multiple, at times opposite, nutritional problems are at the core of today’s public health challenges. Middle-income countries like Ghana embody this ambivalence. They show the highest increased consumption of unhealthy foods, but also improvements in consumption of healthy foods.
The shifts in diet and lifestyle are undeniable. But a key question remains unanswered: how does the globalisation of food systems affect different groups? Given the multiple burdens of malnutrition, it is important to understand who is more likely to suffer from undernutrition or from obesity.
To address this question, we did research that combined a detailed investigation of diets with the analysis of food systems. The aim of our study of food consumption among school children in Accra was to understand diets and contextualise them in social and economic living conditions within the urban food landscapes.
We explored food consumption among school children from different socio-economic backgrounds in Accra. We carried out a student survey in five junior high schools in the Accra Metropolitan Area. We did qualitative interviews with schoolchildren, representatives of the food industry and public officials.
Our findings reveal that inequality and dietary change frame today’s urban food question in Accra. Socio-economic status is a critical dimension of diets, with poorer children more vulnerable to food insecurity and fewer food choices.
But the consumption of packaged and processed foods, often sugar-rich and nutrient-poor, cuts across wealth groups.
Ensuring that urban populations have access to affordable food, a long-standing goal of agricultural and food policy, is essential but no longer sufficient. Quality matters too. Understanding how unhealthy diets take root requires exploring the role of the food industry in making cheap, enticing and unhealthy food options available to urban residents.
Urban diets are changing, as agricultural and food systems have become globalised and created new forms of food production, distribution, and trade. The nutritional implications for the Global South are seen in rising obesity and non-communicable diseases alongside persisting food insecurity and old-fashioned food policies.
Understanding how patterns of globalisation affect the welfare of populations is a key development question. But we don’t know very much about the way that the globalisation of food and agriculture systems affects different individuals or groups.
Research suggests that dietary change will be experienced differently by rich and poor, and by urban and rural populations.
In Ghana, national statistics suggest that there is a story of dietary change with remarkable reduction, but not elimination, of hunger and under-nutrition. Alongside this there’s rising overweight and obesity, particularly in urban areas, among wealthier people and women.
Ghana is self-sufficient in the production of maize, cassava and yam but is reliant on imports of rice, wheat and meat. Diets are becoming less reliant on cereals and imports of dairy products, poultry and sugar have been on an upward trend since the mid-1990s.
This may indicate that diets are becoming more diverse. But estimates of imports don’t allow us to rule out concerns about the deterioration of diets. Ghana is one of the fastest-growing markets for packaged foods and snacks, in particular. Crucially, we need to consider these changes in food production and trade in the context of rising inequality in the country.
What we found
Official statistics tend to portray socio-economic and nutrition inequality as reflecting urban-rural divides. But our study sheds light on the significance of food inequality within an urban area.
Through the daily lives of schoolchildren, we found that that children have access to different types of food depending on where they live and which school they go to.
Some schools have a canteen and others do not; children whose schools don’t have a canteen rely on food street vendors to meet their food needs during the day.
As expected, our results show that children from poorer socio-economic backgrounds are more vulnerable to food insecurity, lower dietary diversity and poor food consumption. Food insecurity, far from being a rural problem, concerns the urban poor too. Low or irregular access to money, most likely linked to low and fluctuating household incomes, poses a major obstacle to the ability of children to buy the food they need during the school day.
A group of children in the sample have their first meal at the first or second break at school. These are children from poorer backgrounds, a finding that suggests that low or irregular incomes determine the number of meals children can have.
Though it is clear that urban food inequality is driven by wealth, the dynamics are complex. Take the consumption of packaged and processed foods. These foods don’t only feature in the diets of the wealthier groups but cut across wealth groups and peak for those in the middle. They are desirable, accessible and relatively affordable.
The food industry makes effective use of informal distribution channels, making packaged foods widely available in the markets, on the streets and, particularly, in the proximity of schools.
What needs to be done
Informal distribution is an important aspect of the urban food landscape. Knowing which foods are healthy or unhealthy does not stop children from consuming foods that are enticing and affordable.
It’s therefore essential to consider the food industry’s role when it comes to food environments that offer unhealthy, cheap and enticing options.
Ghana has a serious flood problem. Over about 50 years, 4 million people have been affected by floods, resulting in economic damage exceeding USD$780 million. At least one major flood disaster has occurred every year over the past 10 years.
Floods are not uncommon in West Africa. Rainfall variability and land use changes have made them increasingly common throughout the region.
In Ghana’s urban areas, like Accra and Kumasi, floods are mostly triggered by seasonal rainfall combined with poor drainage, the dumping of waste into waterways and the low elevation of settlements. In northern Ghana, some floods are caused by spillage from a dam in Burkina Faso.
The problem is Ghana’s government currently reacts to the floods using coping strategies. These don’t deal with the underlying risks, are expensive and don’t consider that floods will get worse. The government must take steps towards more proactive flood risk management.
After every flood, the country’s national disaster management organisation – along with the military, police, and other emergency personnel – is deployed for rescue and emergency relief.
The government then repairs damaged infrastructure, clears waterways and demolishes properties built close to drainage channels.
These coping strategies will get more costly because the flood risk is set to get worse. The amount of rainfall classified as “heavy” is projected to increase between 2010 and 2050, with the wet seasons projected to get wetter and the dry seasons drier.
This will be felt intensely in the urban areas as populations continue to grow. Already, about 40% of Accra is classified as “highly prone” to flooding. This will increase as, due to more building, less water will drain into the soil.
The case for flood risk adaptation
The government needs to make the country more resilient and able to withstand the challenges posed by intense and frequent floods.
The government has also taken on projects to protect against floods, but these are focused on the coastal areas. For example the Keta sea defence project.
The current greater Accra Metropolitan Area sanitation and water project is constructing drains and culverts in Accra. But this isn’t a major part of the project.
Much more needs to be done. Ghana must fully transition from coping strategies, to proactive, long-term measures. These include:
Structural flood protection measures – like storm drains or levees. These need to be constructed to protect all at risk areas, and not just the coastal areas
Improve early warning systems to ensure timely flood risk alerts. This should include; a 24 hour monitoring and warning service during peak rain seasons and an education program to help communities understand the risk, respect the warnings and know how to respond
Social protection – like affordable social housing – which will move more people out of informal settlements built in flood prone zones
Encourage households to adapt and advise on actions they can take, like using more water resistant building materials
Restore lagoons and rivers
Proper waste management. Ghana has a huge solid waste problem. Poor disposal of solid waste often leads to the blocking of drains and drainage systems, preventing flood waters from flowing through
Moving homes and businesses out of flood prone locations. They can choose to do this, or the government can facilitate it by buying out at-risk properties
Build new homes on elevated ground or foundations
Strict planning to avoid construction in flood-prone areas
Deal with spillage from dams by building canals that channel the water. These can be dammed and the water used for irrigation.
The initial cost of adaptation measures will be expensive, but it will pay off. Research shows that for every US$1 spent on flood risk reduction, it saves at least US$4 to US$9 otherwise spent in an emergency response when disaster occurs. The Netherlands is a classic example of a country that has taken flood risk adaptation seriously. A quarter of the country is below sea level and 60% of its people in flood-risk areas but the measures it has taken have reduced the likelihood of major flooding.
Ghana can take advantage of predictions and past experiences of floods to aggressively pursue flood risk adaptation. Failure to do this will increase flood disasters, and social and economic disruptions.
Jerry Chati Tasantab, PhD Candidate, School of Architecture and Built Environment, University of Newcastle; Jason von Meding, Senior Lecturer in Disaster Risk Reduction, University of Newcastle; Kim Maund, Head of Discipline-Construction Management, University of Newcastle, and Thayaparan Gajendran, Associate professor, University of Newcastle
Small-scale gold mining in what is modern day Ghana can be traced as far back as the 15th century. It continues to be an important means of livelihood for many relatively low-income Ghanaians and is highly significant for the economy as a whole. In fact, its economic importance has increased dramatically in recent years.
Under Ghanaian law mining is “reserved for Ghanaians”. Despite this, over the last decade there’s been a notable development – the arrival of large numbers of foreign miners, particularly from China.
In 2006 small numbers of Chinese and other foreign miners came to Ghana to engage in gold mining. Then a hike in gold prices from 2008 onwards led to a veritable gold rush and the arrival of significant numbers of foreign miners. Most were working on an illicit and illegal basis. Foreign miners came from countries in West Africa, as well as Armenia and Russia. But the largest concentration was from China.
By 2013, the scale of Chinese citizens’ involvement in informal gold mining in Ghana was inviting increasingly hostile media coverage as well as outbreaks of violence. The government was finally forced to act. Then President John Mahama established an inter-ministerial task force to combat illegal small scale mining. The President was careful to include both by Ghanaians and non-Ghanaians. But the subtext was clear – this measure was primarily aimed at foreign miners.
By mid 2013 significant numbers of foreign nationals, the majority of whom were Chinese, had been arrested or deported. Many more left voluntarily. As a result the visible presence of foreign miners in small scale gold mining declined. But, as research we’ve been involved in over the past 15 years shows, there have been enduring legacies of this short, intensive period of foreign involvement.
Our research ranged from looking at conflict, collusion and corruption in small-scale gold mining, specifically in relation to Chinese miners and the state in Ghana. We also looked at the impact of China’s informal gold rush in Ghana as well as the militarisation and criminalisation of artisanal and small-scale gold mining.
Our findings revealed that the sector is rife with corruption. We also conclude that closing off foreign involvement in small-scale mining in the face of extremely low local investment and high unemployment is unlikely to work. Our view is that the government may have to shift its focus. Instead of trying to ban the activity, it should allow it, and accompany this with better regulation.
The mining sector
For many years, small-scale mining suffered benign neglect from the state which focused on large-scale mining. Local financial institutions also remained uninterested, and very little was done to advance production technology.
Small-scale mining was illegal until 1989 when a new law was passed to legalise and regularise the sector by introducing a licensing process. This was then consolidated in the Minerals and Mining Act in 2006 which enabled artisanal miners to apply for a concession of 25 acres maximum in designated areas through the Minerals Commission.
But it’s estimated that less than 30% of small-scale miners are formally registered. Most remain informal and illicit, known as “galamsey”.
Big changes happened at the beginning of the new millennium. Ghana’s small-scale mining got caught in the vortex of globalisation which led to increased movement of people across continents, easier movement of finance, technological migration and intensification of mining. A sector that had been deprived of investment for so long suddenly discovered new suitors.
Among them were miners and business people from Shanglin County in Guangxi Province of China, who were already familiar with small-scale gold mining in their home country. They had developed more advanced technology to increase gold production, and were able to obtain loans from Chinese banks to invest in the activity.
Conflict, collusion and corruption
In our research on conflict, collusion and corruption, we looked at how Ghanaian artisanal miners quickly seized the opportunity and entered into informal partnerships with the Chinese investors. Most partnerships were illegal because Ghana’s laws reserve small-scale mining for Ghanaians.
But there was one exception: foreign companies were allowed to act as “support service providers” to small-scale concession holders.
After the spike in the gold price in 2008, an astonishing illicit, free-for-all ensued. Both Ghanaian and Chinese miners engaged in both conflict and collaboration over access to gold. The situation was described as “out of control” and characterised by “a culture of impunity” at its height in 2012 and 2013.
Chinese miners, in particular, numbering tens of thousands, introduced mechanisation and new technology.
Looking at the impact of this period, we found that irregular migration into an informal sector had long‐lasting effects. Irrevocable changes happened in a short space of time.
One consequence of the developments was that the economic rewards became greater. Another was that inequality among Ghanaians involved in small‐scale mining also increased substantially. This included a gendered dimension, as women, children, and many young people were left to extract the “scraps” left after mechanised alluvial gold mining.
Another consequence was incalculable environmental damage to land and water bodies. Streams and rivers being diverted for mining purposes, and surface and ground water was polluted with hazardous chemicals, notably cyanide and mercury for gold processing.
The Ghana water company reported that between 2008 and 2018 there was a 50% loss of water available for treatment. It warned that if illegal mining was left unchecked, Ghana could be importing water in the next 10 years.
Already in some villages in the western and central regions of Ghana, residents have to travel to urban areas to buy sachet water for drinking and basic staples such as cassava to feed themselves due to mercury and diesel pollution of land and water resources.
The government’s taskforce has done little to stop the activity. Recent evidence of worsening water quality shows this. Ghana’s media also continues to report recurring arrests of illegal miners, both foreign and locals.
In our view, small-scale mining with foreign involvement is unlikely to stop. The state would do better by creating legislation for this mid-level group, which has claimed space for itself, and to regulate it.
The Volta River project in Ghana was a symbolic embodiment of progress, modernisation, and development. It offered the opportunity for newly independent Ghana to develop a complex and integrated industrial base using local resources and materials.
While the initial concept was discussed as early as 1924, it was only in the 1950s that the feasibility report was written and work commenced.
The idea was to harness power generated from a hydroelectric dam to smelt bauxite into aluminium and to export it from the newly built port-town of Tema. For Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first post independence leader, it was a perfect blend of nationalist development and international trade. It was a means of throwing off the shame of an imperial past with an ambitious and prestigious infrastructure project.
The development was not only concerned with industry, Nkrumah was also adamant that housing provision was to be enhanced. The aluminium plant workers were to be housed in a purpose built new town at Kpong with an array of social amenities, parks, health and education facilities.
The problem, like with most idealistic visions, was funding the venture. Nkrumah had secured some, if limited, backing from the UK government, and was hoping for the UK-Canadian aluminium venture to provide the remainder.
Nkrumah’s commitment to high quality housing for the smelter workers was admirable – but the business consortium didn’t share this generous vision and was reluctant to fund even the most basic dwellings. The idea of providing extensive sports facilities and high quality infrastructure was an anathema. The negotiations eventually failed.
But the project was too important to Nkrumah and he persisted in seeking new partners, including Soviet support, which deeply concerned the UK and US. Eventually, US steel magnate and dam builder Henry J. Kaiser agreed to deliver the project. The deal involved moving the smelter closer to the new town of Tema, and using imported US bauxite. This destroyed Nkrumah’s aspirations to use local raw materials.
Nevertheless, a new town called Akosombo was built to house the hydro-power station workers at the dam site. To this day it has a carefully controlled town plan and highly accountable local government to ensure that the main town is properly managed, complete with maintained markets, roads and facilities.
The hydro-electric dam is still rightly a source of immense national pride, and the prestige of the project is reflected in the township. It is like no other town in Ghana, and its manicured landscapes, housing and commitment to being a well run town renders it a highly attractive place to live among the beautiful hills and within close proximity to Accra.
But not everything worked out this well. A town called New Ajena was also developed to house communities that were forced to move because of the dam. This was a much less successful project.
Useful lessons can be learnt from both. In our recently published paper we assessed the development of the high profile project from the perspective of providing housing. Housing was indeed provided, but not uniformly. In addition, extensive social provision was seen as a luxury item and quickly cut from budgets by the early 1960s. As a result housing for the most vulnerable was only deemed possible if it included a “self-build” contribution by the residents themselves.
The dam resulted in the formation of one of the world’s largest man-made lakes. 80,000 people living upstream were forced to flee their fertile farms and ancestral lands as the water level continued to rise and flooded their homes.
Nkrumah decreed that “no one would be made worse off” and a programme of replacement homes and villages commenced. But there was substantial delay.
The World Food Programme was forced to intervene. It didn’t simply hand out supplies, but instead distributed food in exchange for labour. Residents were forced to “clear” 450,000 acres (182,109 hectares) to make way for the first 18 resettlement sites. 739 villages were eventually consolidated into 52 townships to benefit from economies of scale for services, school provision, road maintenance and market stalls.
New Ajena was one of the first resettlement villages to replace the former Ajena now submerged by the lake. Sites were selected based on being easily accessible, close to good farming areas, and ideally at high altitude with a good water supply. This did not leave many options and most new settlements, like New Ajena, were simply placed at the lake edge. The housing stock loosely tracks the road and is arranged in informal clusters.
The use of standard components and basic construction resulted in rapid production rates with over 200 houses built a week, and 11,000 units completed by 1964. The housing type was called a “core house” – effectively a single room and raised veranda. The idea was for the residents to gradually extend the houses as required, according to a prescribed plan and building standard.
As part of my research I spoke to some residents who have lived in the settlement since the early 1960s. They can remember the developments that have taken place. They can recall some larger families being forced to move from substantial multi-room structures to one simple room which resulted in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions.
Extensions and modifications to the core houses have been limited, although most have added an extra room and extended the front porch. Water is still obtained via a stand-pipe which serves as the local gathering place. There are shared latrines (which are generally unpopular) although many residents have constructed their own bathhouses.
The promise of material modernisation has still not been delivered. A small primary school was built along with the core houses and more recently a secondary school has been constructed by the residents. A shop provides basic supplies and most residents keep goats and chickens and grow fruit and vegetables. The settlement has been criticised for its unauthorised structures and land use, but without this cultivation, such a remote town could not have survived.
While the development has not quite adhered to the plan and early proposals inflicted hardship on many, it is now very much a thriving settlement. Basic social amenities are slowly being added as the village sees fit.
Formal planning and the precise placing of buildings, overly prescriptive building regulations and rule-making have yielded to a schematic set of principles that devolve far greater control to residents and they should be commended for their efforts.
The Akosombo plan is a pristine example of top-down planning with a highly controlled environment. But it only managed to house a small and privileged portion of society. If this model can be funded and delivered to a large community it is certainly a valid and attractive option.
Where this is not possible, New Ajena offers another route, one that is more inclusive and reliant on the goodwill and hard work of the community, but one that shows how large populations can be rehoused quickly.
Of course, it need not be a case of one or the other, and the planned Akosombo model, with associated satellite self-built villages, could deliver a sustainable and affordable solution to housing in Ghana.
Ghana has a rich folkloric tradition that includes Adinkra symbols, Kente cloth, traditional festivals, music and storytelling. Perhaps one of Ghana’s best known folk characters is Ananse, the spider god and trickster, after whom the Ghanaian storytelling tradition Anansesem is named.
Ghana also has some of the world’s most restrictive laws on the use of its folklore. The country’s 2005 Copyright Act defines folklore as “the literary, artistic and scientific expressions belonging to the cultural heritage of Ghana which are created, preserved and developed by ethnic communities of Ghana or by an unidentified Ghanaian author”.
This suggests that the legislation, which is an update of a 1985 law, applies equally to traditional works where the author is unknown and new works derived from folklore where the author is known.
The rights in these works are “vested in the President on behalf of and in trust for the people of the republic”. These rights are also deemed to exist in perpetuity. This means that works which qualify as folkloric will never fall into the public domain – and will never be free to use.
The 1985 Act only restricted use of Ghana’s folklore by foreigners. The 2005 Act extended this to Ghanaian nationals. In principle, this means that a Ghanaian artist wishing to use Ananse stories, or a musician who wants to rework old folk songs or musical rhythms must first seek approval from the National Folklore Board and pay an undisclosed fee.
This is deeply problematic. Following independence in 1957, many artists have explicitly and habitually drawn on Ghana’s folk traditions to develop today’s creative industries. The 2005 Act means that the current generation of cultural practitioners must either seek permission to use and rework their cultural heritage, or look elsewhere for inspiration.
There is clearly a balance to be struck between safeguarding and access when it comes to the protection of a state’s cultural heritage. However, it is important to acknowledge that while Ghana’s legislation appears to tip towards protection at the expense of access, it restricts growth in the creative industries by discouraging artists from engaging with their national cultural heritage.
History of protection
Ethnomusicologist and musician John Collins has noted that the development of the 2005 Act was partly in response to US singer Paul Simon’s use of a melody taken from the song ‘Yaa Amponsah’ for his 1990 album 'The Rhythm of the Saints’.
Simon attributed this melody to the Ghanaian musician Jacob Sam and his band the Kumasi Trio. But on further investigation the Ghanaian government asserted that the melody was a work of folklore and so, belonged to the state.
From this, two things are clear. Firstly, in Ghana folklore belongs to the state and not the originating communities that predate the modern state. Secondly, Jacob Sam received no recompense for Simon’s use of the work, with all royalties owed on the work flowing back the government.
There are a number of issues here that set Ghana apart from other African states.
Many states allow for the use of folklore by nationals and if a fee is applicable then it is paid as a royalty based on revenue raised. This is the case in all three states bordering Ghana: Togo, Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire. Consequently, if an artist in one of these countries reworks folklore but makes no money, then no money is paid for that use. If the work becomes successful then the artist and the rights holder benefit.
However, in Ghana, the law states that payment is paid prior to use and so prior to any profits made. This potentially adds to the cost of production and so discourages use of folklore.
The other issue here is who owns the rights in national heritage. In many countries, such as Kenya, the originating communities retain the rights to their expressions of cultural heritage.
However, in Ghana the rights are vested in the office of the president. This means that any moral or financial benefit that results from uses of folklore flow to the office of the president, rather than being used to support continued safeguarding and growth of cultural heritage within communities.
Guarding against exploitation
Though Ghana’s present regime may appear draconian, there are compelling reasons why such protective measures are required.
Firstly, Ghana’s cultural heritage – its traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions – have been and continue to be exploited by non-Ghanaians in international markets with no beneficial interest flowing either to the state or to the originating community.
To give this some context, Simon’s use of Yaa Amponsah was only one use of Ghana’s cultural heritage in the developing of a new, and commercially successful, work. More recently, there were a number of press reports in Ghana that the Ghana Folklore Board intended to sue the producers of Marvel’s Black Panther for the unauthorised use of kente cloth in some of the characters’ costumes.
The Folklore Board clarified these reports in a press release, saying it did not intend to sue – but rather, wished to discuss attribution. Kente is specifically named as an object of protection under the 2005 Act and the current proliferation of unauthorised cheap kente designs entering global markets from China presents a significant challenge. Attribution, in this case, would ensure that cinema goers across the world would associate kente with Ghana, bringing a traditional craft to a global audience.
The board faces a particularly complex challenge. It must balance safeguarding traditional heritage with allowing creative artists room to reuse and rework elements of that heritage in a way that does not add to the cost or complexity of production.
Though the threat of unfair exploitation is real, equally real is the potential threat to the creative industries and the future development of Ghana’s living heritage if the country’s artists move away from their cultural heritage.
Ghana is one of the few countries in Africa where more than 50% of the population is permanently resident in cities. This urban population is located primarily in two cities; the capital Accra, and Kumasi. Both Accra, and Kumasi are home to 2 million people.
In the face of rapid urbanisation, the existing infrastructure continues to be extensively overstretched. This includes markets, housing, water, sanitation, roads and power. To meet the growing demand for urban infrastructure and services, the central and city governments have implemented a number of urban regeneration projects.
These include market redevelopment, reconstruction of roads, bridges and interchanges, and redevelopment of drains. They have been designed to address pressing problems of urban infrastructural decay. But the projects have also had a negative impact on the socioeconomic activities of urban residents.
Ghana’s national urban policy states that city authorities must include citizens whenever urban development activities are being undertaken. The reality, however, is different. Participation of residents in the development process is limited. As a result, urban regeneration projects are often met with citizen resistance.
Previously, resistance mainly took the form of street demonstrations during the early phases of urban regeneration. But this yielded very little. Governments knew that if they survived the early resistance, subsequent phases would be free of contention.
Urban residents, however, have begun to devise new strategies to push through their concerns. A recent study I was involved in examined the redevelopment of the Central Market in Kumasi. Our findings demonstrate that things can be done differently.
Making their voices heard
The Central Market in Kumasi, and its adjoining Kejetia Lorry Terminal, were built in Ghana’s colonial era. Over the years, the market fell into a state of disrepair due to overcrowding. The inability of the market to accommodate new traders resulted in a spillover into the terminal and onto the streets.
In 2014, the local authority, the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly, secured funding to redevelop the market. The aim was to expand the market infrastructure to provide trading spaces for existing traders and to admit new or street traders willing to secure space in the market.
Due to the size of the Central Market, the metropolitan assembly took the decision – unilaterally – to undertake the redevelopment in three phases. The first phase affected the lorry terminal while the subsequent phases involved the demolition of the Central Market.
This decision led to a drawn out confrontation between Kejetia trader activists and city authorities.
In our study we found that trader activists didn’t confine their collective action to the early phases of urban regeneration. Rather, they extended it to subsequent phases. They deployed multiple and simultaneous strategies of contention, subversion and self-governance to attract public attention and seek positive responses from city authorities.
They delivered a petition to the regional minister. They also picketed at the inauguration of a major amusement park in Kumasi, calling for the intervention of then President of Ghana, John Dramani Mahama.
The activists also ran a full scale media campaign. They made regular appearances on radio and television to counter the claims of the city authorities. They also organised press conferences and exploited social media to publicise their concerns.
They also made unconventional demands that required the collaboration of state institutions. One was for a written agreement which stated the compensation they were entitled to. This was based on the intervention of the paramount chief of the Asante, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, and his Asanteman Traditional Council. The chief compelled city authorities to cooperate with Ghana’s Lands Commission to achieve this.
As the project progressed, the trader activists modified their strategy from contention to subversion. Subversion took the form of quiet encroachment. Traders abandoned allocated stores in the temporary markets to secure trading spaces around the wall of the ongoing construction work. This action led to an intensification of street trading in the metropolis; an act that is considered illegal.
The activism of the Kejetia traders achieved some positive results. The city authorities had initially indicated that the traders at Central market would be the first group to be allocated stores in the newly completed market. However, upon actual completion of the project, the Kejetia traders were the first to be allocated stores.
More so, due to the activism of the Kejetia traders, the Otumfuo and his Asanteman council have assumed oversightof the market project to ensure that justice is served to all displaced traders.
Our findings suggest that governments in West Africa should pay more attention to the recent waves of activism among urban residents.
In many West African countries there is legal, ideological, and policy support for collaborative governance of urban development. What is lacking is implementation by governments.
For example, in Ghana the government recently repealed an old law, the Local Government Act, 1993, Act 426 with a new Act that dedicates eight sections to participatory governance at the local level. But not much has changed since the passage of this new law.
We recommend that governments change their approach to governance by deepening collaborative delivery of urban infrastructure. This way of doing things is particularly important because it gives citizens the opportunity to participate in decision-making, seek accountability, and contribute resources to the delivery of urban infrastructure.
Isaac and Bless Boahen saved for months to fund her economics doctorate, but when the time came to cash in the investment, they were left empty handed.
The couple are among at least 70,000 investors who have become collateral damage from a cleanup of Ghana’s banking industry. The crackdown, which reduced the number of lenders by a third and saw the closure of 23 savings and loans companies, also triggered a run on fund managers, who couldn’t sell their holdings fast enough to meet demand.
That’s tying up as much as 9 billion cedis ($1.6 billion) of investments, more than a third of the 25 billion cedis in assets that private fund managers oversee for retail and institutional investors.
“My wife was very disturbed,” the 36-year-old said by phone from Kumasi in Ghana’s Ashanti Region. They’re not getting answers and are now worried they’ll never get back the 12,000 cedis they expected back from their investment. “If I knew this would happen, I wouldn’t have gone there.”
They’re in for a long wait. The nation’s markets regulator is looking into whether 21 fund managers violated rules by placing their clients’ money into illiquid assets. The Securities and Exchange Commission has stepped up the pressure, blocking these money managers from accepting new investments for fear they may use the funds to pay out existing investors.
“The harm has already been done,” Lord Mensah, a senior finance lecturer at the University of Ghana, said by phone. “Assets need to be protected.”
As much as 5 billion cedis is tied up in unlisted bonds, direct private-equity stakes and other deals with small- and medium-sized businesses, according to the SEC. Another 4 billion cedis is stuck in fixed-term investments with banks rescued during the clean up, savings and loans companies, and microlenders.
The SEC hasn’t yet released a list of all the fund managers it is investigating. An 11.2 billion-cedis bailout for lenders that were closed down and another package of about 925 million cedis for microcredit companies whose licenses were revoked is helping to release some of the funds locked up in those segments.
“It’s cutting across all the finance houses and when it happens like that the government needs to step in to build confidence again,” Mensah said. “There’s nothing we can do apart from making sure that we create that necessary environment to regain investors’ confidence again.”
That’s of little comfort to the Boahen’s, who were going to use the money to cover the costs of field-data collection for Bless’s thesis with the University of Ghana. After being promised a return of 26% a year on the investment, Isaac, an accountant, had to borrow money against his provident fund.
While he got the loan at a reduced rate of 10% a year, Boahen didn’t want to go the route of raising debt, he said. “It’s costing me more now.”
Ghana’s Atewa forest is one of the most beautiful and scenic landscapes in the country. It is seen as the better of only two Upland Evergreen forests left intact in the country, forming part of the six dominant vegetation zones of Ghana based on different climates zones.
The Atewa forest is part of the Guinean Forests of West Africa which stretch from southern Guinea into eastern Sierra Leone and through Liberia, Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana into western Togo. Deforestation has massively reduced the size of the forests and the Upper Guinea Forest is now restricted to a number of more or less disconnected reserves and a few national parks acting as man-made refuges for the region’s biodiversity.
The Atewa forest landscape is remote and pristine, providing the habitat for a major collection of Ghana’s biodiversity. It has been named as one of Ghana’s 30 globally significant biodiversity areas.
But the forest is under threat. Last year Ghana signed a memorandum with China to explore Ghana’s deposits of bauxite – the primary ore in aluminium. The deposits are found in two locations – Awaso with very high deposits in the moist semi-deciduous forest zone of western region of Ghana, and Atewa, with minimum deposits and located in the Upland Evergreen forests in the Eastern Region of Ghana.
Under the memorandum Ghana will cede 5% of its bauxite resources to the Chinese. In turn, Beijing will finance $2billion worth of infrastructure projects that include rails, roads and bridge networks. The Ghanaian Parliament has passed the Ghana Bauxite Integrated Aluminium Industry Act which would provide a legal framework to exploit country’s bauxite deposits.
Yet the government says it still has to validate the true worth of the bauxite deposit in the forest.
As a botanist I view the Atewa landscape as a scientific gold mine. A recent impact assessment by the US Forest Service corroborates the concerns of several conservation groups about the potential damage that mining would cause.
I believe strongly that Atewa is not for mining and that it must be preserved. Firstly, it needs to be preserved as a living natural history laboratory. Secondly, it should be protected because it provides a vital resource – water. Thirdly, it is a precious gift whose value cannot be quantified, but which must be lived, felt and appreciated. Finally it is a naturally bequeathed heritage that must be protected for future generations to enjoy.
An interesting characteristic of the Atewa forest is that the canopies of its trees are not easily visible as they merge with the surrounding clouds creating a beautiful cloud cover line. This is very rare in the Ghanaian landscape. This feature is described in local parlance as the phenomenon in which the trees are in direct communication with the firmament of the heavens and bring good tidings to the ground underneath.
Scientifically, the phenomenon is responsible for the daily condensation of water vapour which falls as precipitation. As a result the mountain top is kept permanently moist. This in turn explains the interesting hydrological networks beneath the soil surface. The water percolates down to create under ground water ways as well as water falls and many streams and tributaries that coalesce or combine to form Ghana’s famous three rivers. These are the Ayensu, Birim and Densu.
The three eventually drain their basins as they meander through the forests and farm fields providing essential water resources to over 5 million inhabitants. They also deposit suspended clay and silt materials as fertile alluvial for crop production during the rainy periods when they burst their banks and overflow.
The Atewa landscape provides rich forest cover for climate regulation, a show piece to illustrate climate adaptation to avoid drought, reduce poverty and enhance sustainable livelihoods and improve human well being in its catchment area.
The landscape has been the subject of research by geologists, hydrologists and geo-morphologists. A geologist studies studies the solid, liquid, and gaseous matter that constitute the Earth while a geo-morphologist studies the earth’s surface. A hydrologist is a scientist who researches the distribution, circulation, and physical properties of the earth’s underground and surface waters.
Studies of the fauna and flora of the area have brought up new scientific discoveries of species like the critically endangered white-naped mangabey Cercocebus lunulatus. This shows that the knowledge of the faunal and floristic diversity and to a large extent the microbial diversity is still at the exploratory stages.
I would strongly argue that the Atewa landscape is an important species discovery destination, awaiting extensive research and studies. It should, therefore, not be disrupted or destroyed by mining.