Ghana beyond Aid High Level Conference – What is in it for Northern Ghana: Statement by the CEO of the Northern Development Authority

I bring you greetings from the CEO, Board and Management of the Northern Development Authority. (NDA). I have been requested by my boss, the CEO to step in to deliver this statement on his behalf. The CEO who would have wished to be here himself but for other equally pressing agendas that has kept him tied up in Accra. I will therefore read his statement and hope you will understand his position regarding the importance of this conference especially under its present theme and how it relates to us in the Northern Development Authority. Mr. Chairman excuse me as I paraphrased the CEO’s favorite proverb which depicts his commitment to the development of Northern Ghana. It is said that a child can play with its mother’s breast but not its father’s testicles. For the CEO, Northern Ghana and its development matters represent the testicles of a father that no true child of the north dare to play or toy with.


It is in light of the seriousness attached to the development of Ghana in general and Northern Ghana in particular that the theme of this conference becomes relevant to us.


Mr. Chairman, the Ghana beyond Aid mantra which represented the central message of the speech of our President, Nana Addo Danquah Akuffo Addo during this year’s Independence Day celebration was not just a slogan but the call for a new paradigm shift meant to propel us as a nation into a frame of mind that will accelerate the pace of our development. It sought to highlight the fact that at present, Ghana’s begging bowl is full of aid after 61 years of independence, but the country has little to show for it.


As relevant as this statement is for Ghana, it is more so for Northern Ghana if we consider the fact that the Zone has little or nothing to show but decimal development statistics despite decades of governmental development programmes and donor support initiatives. Ironically, northern Ghana is endowed with abundant natural resources and human resource potentials.


The state of Northern Ghana

Mr. Chairman, the situation of poverty and inequality in Northern Ghana is so pervasive that even the most uncritical development observer can notice. It is not only wide in the three northern regions which constitute the Northern Development Zone (NDZ) but entrenched. All dimensions of poverty in the NDZ including poverty head count, poverty depth and poverty inequality lag behind national averages. Ghana as a country has been lauded for its great efforts at poverty reduction. The Ghana Living Standards Survey Six (GLSS6) report shows a reduction in the poverty incidence from 31.9 per cent in 2005/6 to 24.2 per cent for 2012/13 and that of extreme poverty from 16.5 per cent in 2005/6 to 8.4 per cent for 2012/13.


While these national poverty statistics are showing a positive trend, that cannot be said for the three northern regions. The northern regions continue to report high incidences of poverty.


In terms of Climate Change and Environment, Mr. Chairman, growing settlements, land clearing for agriculture, and forestry over-exploitation have resulted in some fragmentation of habitats and great loss of biodiversity in northern Ghana. This is a key development concern that needs to be dealt with.


In terms of health, northern Ghana faces enormous challenges related to health infrastructure and health professionals which is affecting the delivery of quality healthcare to residents in the zone. The situation is not too different with reference to education. Even though there have been improvements in education with respect to school enrolments, there are major concerns related to net enrolment at the basic education level and quality, relevance and affordability at the tertiary level of education. Formal and non-formal Technical, Vocational Education and Training is in a poor state and needs to be improved with linkages to industry.


In terms of agriculture,the Zone can boast of about 7million hectares of land suitable for various crops; economic trees and livestock; however, agriculture in northern Ghana is largely rain-fed with less than 1% on irrigation basis. Additionally, the very low inputs represented by the lack of motorable roads, limited quality warehouses, inadequate extension services and high cost of agricultural inputs have collectively contributed to lowering productivity and agro-processing potentials.


Mr. Chairman, it is therefore not surprising that the recent UNDP Human Development Study for northern Ghana (NG-HDR, 2017) highlighted the fact that though the poverty pattern is changing favorably, the situation in northern Ghana compared to the south is still despicable. This sad situation has tendered to increase the migration of the region’s exuberant and youthful population to the south in search of non-existent jobs. It is this high incidence of poverty and deprivation that has fueled the ‘head potters’ or ‘kayaye’ syndrome in our southern cities in recent times.


Mr. Chairman, ‘A Ghana beyond Aid’ for us in the NDA therefore represents a call to be selfless and take advantage of Northern Ghana’s natural resources to help transform the Zone. This is what underscores the mandate of the NDA. Established by Act 963; 2017; the Authority is expected to be a vehicle for transforming the Northern Development Zone (NDZ) into a place of jobs and wealth through;

  • accelerating economic and social development in the Northern Development Zone through strategic direction in the planning and prioritization of development projects;
  • mobilizing public resources including financial resources of private and public investments for accelerated economic and social development of the Northern Development Zone;
  • coordinating development activities in the Northern Development Zone with the aim of ensuring that public resources are effectively utilized; and private sector investments achieve maximum development impacts to reduce poverty and deprivation in every part of the Zone. And;
  • formulating and implementing initiatives towards achieving gender equality and empowerment of vulnerable groups in the Northern Development Zone.

A Ghana beyond Aid for Northern Ghana = Boosting Investments in Agriculture and Industry:

With this broad mandate and calling, Mr. Chairman, a Ghana Beyond Aid for NDA and northern Ghana will entail creating opportunities that seek to transform northern Ghana effectively by harnessing the vast natural resources and deploying these creatively and efficiently for rapid economic and social transformation of the zone. This calls for boosting public and private sector investments in agriculture, Agribusiness and industry.Mr. Chairman, Within the Northern Ghana context, agriculture remains the single most important sector that is capable of turning around the fortunes of our people within a short pace of time given the needed investments.This explains Governments efforts or commitment to key policies and programmes such as the ‘One Village One Dam’ and the ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’ and its allied ‘Planting for food and Investments’ initiatives.

Climate and Environment

Ghana Beyond Aid for the NDA entails ensuring an environmentally friendly investments to secure green-development especially in energy production and thereby enabling future generations of Ghana and northern Ghanaians to have a healthy environment to inherit. We must, thus, be determined to protect our environment and water bodies by joining hands in the fight against illegal mining, also known as galamsey, in order to bring an end to the devastation of some of our landscape, and the pollution of our water bodies, occasioned by the activities of illegal miners.

Education

For northern Ghana, Mr. Chairman, a Ghana beyond Aid has in store for us the opportunity to take effective measures to address widespread unemployment, especially amongst the youth in northern Ghana. Therefore, it is critical to facilitate, coordinate and initiate public and private investments in education and educational infrastructure development especially formal and non-formal Technical, Vocational Education and training with linkages to industry. Government’s ‘Free SHS’ policy is a direct response in this direction. It offers education opportunity to a vast number of Ghanaian youths to develop their potentials, grow competitively and become functional in national and global job markets.


Economic and social Infrastructure

Mr. Chairman, For northern Ghana, a Ghana beyond Aid calls for huge investments in economic and social infrastructure in the areas of roads, bridges, water, electricity, housing, hospitals, schools, etc. Creating or implementing alternative financing models through PPPs, BOTs etc can potentially leverage our financial potentials for to execute these critical infrastructure requirements across the zone. Already, and thankfully, there are many projects in roads, railways, water transport, within the National Infrastructure Plan whose realization will potentially attracting private sector investment is a conducive, business friendly and peaceful environment.


Mr. Chairman, for northern Ghana, a Ghana beyond Aid is an achievable dream in our lifetime that requires a deliberate, qualitative change in all aspects of our lives; especially, in the structure of our economy, the nature of our infrastructure, the education of our young people and acquisition of skills. Above all, Mr. Chairman it entails changing our attitudes as it relates work, government and governance, joint-community actions and collective agendas and in fact, peaceful coexistence.Nobody needs to spell it out to us that changing our attitudes will not come through aid; but even if aid has any role at all, it was never meant to be perpetual. Northern Ghanaians or citizens of this part of the country and CSOs in particular hold the heavier burden in leading the change process; first by changing the attitudes of our people to complement progressive investment and transforming the zone into a place of opportunity prosperity beyond aid.


On this note Mr. Chairman, I wish all of us a successful conference.

Thank you very much!