25 March 2010

Ghana: Infrastructure, a Must to Empower National Development

Faced with the enormity of the country's problems and the scarcity of resources available, the Government is poised on an accurate set of priorities to be sought for in the medium term, within the framework of the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS II).

The main objectives of the GPRS, among others, is to reduce poverty form 39% to 32%; improve basic infrastructure such as roads, water, sanitation and market access; increase the level of primary enrolment and education completion rates; reduce infant, child and maternal mortality and the incidence infectious diseases; and improve governance and the efficiency of the public sector.

In the specific context of improving the level of infrastructure in the country, the goal is to facilitate both intra regional trade and to open up rural areas for investment, productivity enhancement and job creation, introduce/deepen competition and create an enabling environment for the private sector to spearhead the country's development.

Infrastructure is key to national development, however; development should not be centrally based as is the common practice in most African countries, including Ghana. Central development dates back to the colonial era when the colonial powers developed only the major towns and cities to facilitate trade from the rural regions that supplied raw materials to the main cities for their domestic industries in Europe and elsewhere.

This has lead to infrastructure being focused in certain parts of the country above others, even the sources of raw material, that is, the geographical regions of most African nations that supply the center are not built up/developed, an example is the Niger -delta in Nigeria that is fighting for resource control over 10 years now.

Infrastructure development should spread from a country's regions to the capital cities, this is another means of allowing regions to develop at their own pace and with available resources. This is necessary because the people in each locality/ regions and their leaders know paramount needs than central based government.

This step will aid manpower development in all regions of the country and reduce the ever present rural -urban migration in the country including social vices that are common in major cities such as Accra etc. It will also make sure that skilled and unskilled labour absent in our rural areas will be readily available.

Information and communication technology

It has been argued that the development of information and communication technology (ICT) provides leapfrogging opportunities for developing countries. Ghana has not been left out in this revolution. According to the Data Development Group of the World Bank, ICT infrastructure in Ghana is progressing better than other low-income countries and above the 1.1% average for Sub-Saharan Africa.

The Government of Ghana has, since February 2004, enacted an ICT development policy with 14 priority areas. The thrust of the policy is to primarily concentrate on promoting ICT physical infrastructure development, which will in turn facilitate the development of the private sector.

Energy

The energy sector is the lifeline in the development of any nation. This belief informed the decision to undertake the construction of the first hydroelectric (Akosombo) dam in 1965, which continues to be an important investment in Ghana's economic history.

Over the years with the increased demand by power users for greater security and reliability other sources of power - thermal, solar and lately windmills, as well as imports - have been added to the generation mix.

Thus, Ghana is currently a net energy importer, having been a net exporter of the commodity till about a decade ago. In 2003, an amount of US$450 million was spent on the importation of crude oil and finished oil products, as well as 13% of its electricity needs.

The thrust of Government policy in the energy sector is to push for a significant increase in its energy resources to become a net exporter of both power and fuel within next five years.

The Ministry of Energy has the responsibility for developing and implementing energy sector policy in Ghana. As part of its oversight responsibility, the Ministry also operates the nation's strategic reserve of petroleum products through the publicly owned Bulk Oil Storage and Transportation Company (BOST).

The sector is composed of two main sectors, namely petroleum and power. The Petroleum sector is made up of two sub-sectors - the downstream activities (i.e. finished products production, distribution) and upstream activities (i.e. exploration, development, production of oil and gas).

In the downstream segment, the Tema Oil Refinery, which operates Ghana's only petroleum refinery with a processing capacity of about 45,000 barrels of crude oil per stream, produce gasoline, kerosene, diesel oil, pre-mix fuel, aviation fuel and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), among others. Tema Lube Oil Company produces assorted lubricants and special oils on behalf of the 17 licensed Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs).

In the upstream sub-sector, the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) is the key institution that is collaborating with private investors to prospect for crude oil and gas within Ghana's territorial boundaries.

The Power sub-sector is run by two utilities: the Volta River Authority (VRA) and Electricity Company of Ghana Limited (ECG). The total installed generating capacity of electric power in Ghana is about 1,650MW comprising 1100MW of hydro generation (Akosombo and Kpong stations) and 550MW from Takoradi Thermal Power Station.

This is supplemented by imports from La Cote d'lvoire to the tune of up to 250MW. As at 2003, Ghana's power generation mix was: thermal and import - 65% and Hydro - 35%.

The large component of thermal power in the generation mix has very high financial implications for the country. Therefore, serious efforts are underway to bring a 125MW power barge into service by mid-2004 to be initially run on diesel and subsequently gas from the West African Gas Pipeline project.

Additionally, the Akosombo Dam retrofit project is to be completed by the year 2005 to gain 108MW extra capacity. Plans are far advanced to implement the Bui Hydroelectric Dam project, which is expected to be completed by 2009 with a capacity of 400MW.

The Ministry also has oversight responsibility over the Energy commission, which is a sector institution responsible for regulating, developing and managing the utilization of energy resources such as electricity, natural gas and petroleum products.

The commission is also responsible, in particular, for preparing indicative plans for the development of the energy sector, licensing of public utilities for transmission, wholesale supply, distribution and sale of electricity and natural gas and enforcing performance standards of the utilities.

The Public Utilities

Regulatory Commission (PURC) is a statutorily independent body responsible for regulating and the overseeing provision of electrical and water utility services to consumers. Its functions include protecting the interests of providers and consumers, approval of rate, monitoring performance, standards and promoting competition among service providers.

Education

Another significant part of the Government's development priorities is the provision of enhanced social services with emphasis on Education and Health. Investment in human resource development starts with education. Education does not only broaden one's perspective on global and national issues, but also one's up access to greater opportunities for improvement in one's living conditions.

According to the 2000 Population Census, 53.3% of Ghana's population (15 years and above) is literate in either English or a known Ghanaian language. Since much of literature and mass communication is in English, the effective literacy level is 46.9%. The level of literacy is higher for males (62.9%) than females (45.7%).

The education system provides for a nine-year Free Compulsory Universal Basic Education (FCUBE), which is followed by a middle-level of 3-year Secondary/Technical/Commercial, and Vocational education. The tertiary level consists of Teacher Training Colleges, Diploma and Degree awarding institutions.

The private sector plays an important role in education service delivery in Ghana. Until recently, this role was restricted to the kindergarten, nursery, primary, second-cycle institutions and to a lesser extent, tutorial colleges.

Since 1996, however, private initiative in tertiary education has surged in response to excess demand for higher-level education and the shortfall in public sector delivery efforts.

Transportation

The provision of infrastructure and operations in all modes of transport in Ghana are dominated by the state. Except in the case of road transport, the public sector has been heavily involved in operations in all modes and has monopoly over rail and inland water transport.

Road

Road transport is very important to the Ghanaian economy. It is estimated that road transport accounts for 94% of freight ton-miles and about 97% of passenger miles in the country.

Road transport in Ghana may be categorized into 4 main segments, namely urban, express services, rural-urban and rural. The demand for urban passenger transport is mainly by residents commuting to work, school, and other economic, social and leisure activities.

Most urban transportation in Ghana is by road and provided by private transport including taxis, mini-buses and state/private-supported bus services.

By road transport buses are the main mode of transport accounting for about 60% of passenger movement. Taxis account for only 14.5% with the remaining accounted for by private cars.

One important trend in road transport (especially inter-city) is that there has been a shift from mini-buses towards medium and large cars with capacities of 30-70 seats.

There has been a growing preference for good buses as the sector continues to offer more options to passenger in tons of quality of vehicles used.

According to the Ministry of Roads and Transport, Ghana's road transport infrastructure is made up of 50,620km of road network linking the entire country.

These are under the control of the Ghana Highways Authority (14,047 km), Department of Urban Roads (4,063 km) and the Department of Feeder Roads (32,594 km). About 15.7% of the total road network is paved.

On the whole, traffic densities are low, except in the large cities of Accra and Kumasi, where peak hour densities are relatively high. The intention is to have many of the existing highways tolled and private-sector participation in road construction and ownership.

Health

Ghana has a relatively good health delivery service with the West African sub-region. All regional and district capitals, as well as most towns have hospitals, polyclinics or clinics. The two (2) teaching hospitals in Accra and Kumasi have facilities for treating special cases, including skin grafting and all types of Cardio cases.

The 37 Military Hospital (with the recent rehabilitation) is also gearing up to become one of the best medical facilities in the West African sub-region. Additionally, several religious organizations and private medical practitioners operate specialized and generalized hospitals and clinics all over the country. Herbal medicine and psychic healing are also generally practiced.

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