Sunday, July 11, 2010



There is a noticeable development gap between Northern and Southern Ghana. Bridging this gap has been on the development agenda of successive governments with not much being achieved.

Poverty in Ghana is concentrated in the rural areas and in particular the rural savannah ecological belt, which covers the three Northern Regions of Ghana-Northern, Upper East and Upper West Regions. The poor in Ghana therefore continue to be concentrated in the three Northern Regions. Out of 18.2% of the total population of Ghana that live in extreme poverty, 53.7% live in Northern Ghana, which has only about 17.2% of the total Ghanaian population. All data from every credible institution or source speak about the desperate condition of the North which has much higher levels of poverty than any other region.

The North was further devastated following the drought and floods of 2007 which resulted in widespread food crop loss which further compounded the already high levels of poverty in the area. This situation provided renewed interest by recent governments in bridging the development gap through new pragmatic policy initiatives.


The idea that a special national initiative is needed to bridge the gap between the North and South is older than Ghana itself. As early as 1953, representatives of the Northern Regions proposed to a constitutional assembly that a distinct institution be established to direct investment to the North “with the purpose of catching up” with the South. The first post-independence government, led by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, established a scholarship fund for students in the North, and most succeeding governments instituted various other measures.

In recent years, Members of Parliament, professionals, businessmen and others from the North put forward renewed proposals to launch a Northern Development Fund. The notion won support from the past government under President John Kofi Odeowuo Agyekum Kufour.

To this end, in the immediate aftermath of the 2007 floods and drought, there was an urgent call led by the ex-president, His Excellency J.A Kufour, for action on a long-term development initiative for Northern Ghana. The President proposed the preparation of the Northern Development Strategy and establishment of a Northern Development Fund with seed money of 25 million Ghanaian Cedis.

During the general elections in 2008, the presidential candidates of the two leading political parties that is, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) during their electioneering campaigns promised to generously finance such an initiative when elected as President. For instance, the presidential candidate of the NPP Nana Addo Danquah Akuffo-Addo pledged that he would put 1 billion dollars into such a fund if elected. Candidate of the main opposition party, the NDC, made similar promises and proposed the establishment of Savannah Accelerated Development Authourity (SADA).


The ruling NDC government in its manifesto proposed to set up a Savannah Accelerated Development Authourity (SADA) to operate directly under the president and with a vision and mandate to accelerate the socio-economic development of the Savannah belt through strategic investment in human resource.

To commission the development of a Master Plan for Northern Ghana’s Development, based on the harnessing of the development potential of the Savannah areas of Ghana.


“To develop a healthy and diversified economy based on the concept of a “Forested North” where food crops and vegetables inter-cropped with economic trees that are resilient to weather changes, sustain a stable environment, and creating a permanent stake in land for poor people”.


· The objective of the SADA Strategy is to develop a diversified and resilient economy that is moreover pro-poor.

· It is expected to increase the pace of growth and development in the North leading to doubling per capita incomes and reducing poverty to 20% of the population over a 25 year period.


It is premised on five principles:

1. Growth is the most cost effective means of addressing poverty, discourse on regional inequality must be based on growth. The North has fast growth potential in agriculture, mining, and tourism.

2. Paradigm shift

3. Long-term and sustainable adaptation to changes in weather (droughts and floods) must be based on economic growth and creating assets for poor.

4. Transforming poor societies requires sustained public sector intervention over a long period in order to change production systems, technology and cultural practices.

5. Development and intervention must be based on respecting the dignity of participating individuals.


The strategy then is based on the concept of a “Forested North” where agricultural production is modernized and oriented towards a larger market enhancing the sahelian countries, including northern Cote d’Ivoire and Togo.


1. Modernization of Agriculture

Ø Modernize agriculture sequentially, initially the most abundant resources of the Northern Savannah; land and sunshine, and less of purchased inputs to generate a competitive economic zone.

Ø The agricultural modernization strategy provides multiple entry points to allow for inclusive growth and poverty reduction. The six entry points of the strategy are:

· A marketing-based out-grower system that defines the shape of existing and expanded markets. This will propel the emergence of a growing private sector capable of engaging the producers in a manner that responds to client and market demand.

· Tree crop production as a source of steady flow of incomes to empower the poor to build their assets and enhance their capacity to invest in farm and non-farm production activities.

· Selected staple crop production systems for productivity improvement to increase Northern Ghana’s competitiveness as a supply source for the sub-regional market.

· Horticulture production to diversify into export agriculture which has been a source of growth and significant poverty reduction among farmers in Southern Ghana.

· Modernization of fishing and fish production

· Agro-processing as a reliable source of demand for agricultural raw materials to drive value chains, while targeting women because processing is an activity women are normally engaged in.

2. Private Sector Development

· Stimulate investment and business development in Northern Ghana in a manner that would change the mind-set and stimulate the creation of high value jobs and increased incomes.

· Empowering people in the three Northern Regions to participate effectively in the “new economy” through training, entrepreneurship development and provision of business development services in general.

· Create a link between agriculture and agro-processing.

· Exploit the natural resource endowment of the zone.

· Exploit the location of the zone to further stimulate the growth of investors and business entrepreneurs capable of providing the impetus for sustained value-added production and services in the Northern, Savannah sector, oriented towards a sahelian market.

3. Investments in strategically-targeted economic and social infrastructure that will

· Relieve critical development constraints and create the pre-conditions for accelerated development and open up production zones for increased production and transit into the expanded markets in Sahel states North of Northern Ghana.

· Social infrastructure, such as education, health and social welfare to complement the economic ones.

· Inter-connected infrastructure of roads, energy, water resources, health and education in a manner that reinforces alternative production and market access, while reducing the incidence of droughts and floods.

4. Climate adaptation

The framework for long-term adaptation to floods and droughts is premised on the belief that economic growth provides the means by which individual households can accumulate the wealth and assets which they rely on during periods of disaster and other contingencies. Long-term adaptation is therefore expected to be achieved through:

· Economic growth;

· Changes in certain economic activities including planting trees;

· Creating canals along certain points on the rivers

· Dredging the rivers; and

· A housing programme that preserves the traditional architecture but also improves on the materials used and the substructure in a sustainable way.

5. Food, Livelihood Security and Peace Initiative

· Empowering marginalized and vulnerable women and men to participate actively in the social and economic recovery process, peace-building and gaining assets and improved incomes through this process.

· Special initiatives are required to enable poor households step out of their poverty traps and step up to the challenges of rebuilding their livelihoods.

· Pro-poor initiatives that create synergies between growth and social protection to ensure sustainable and inclusive development in the North. These include

a. Financial and capacity-building facilities for the poor to build community and private assets;

b. Food assistance during periods of food insecurity and emergencies;

c. Improved seeds and economic tree seedlings to begin the process of cropping towards a forested North.

d. Peace initiatives that combine conflict mediation with institutional support for traditional authourities and governmental institutions to work cooperatively towards sustained peace.

e. The Northern Peace Initiative currently coordinated by the three Regional Coordinating Councils provides a useful framework and is being implemented progressively.

f. In the SADA strategy, two approaches are adopted to tackle conflict mitigation and peace-building:

Ø Build capacities of CSOs to increase awareness of conflict, early warning and actions to prevent outbreak of violence.

Ø Human security through rapid social and economic development.


Currently, the SADA Bill has been approved by Cabinet. It is awaiting parliamentary approval. A panel of experts has been constituted by CEPA and IPA to update the technical document on Northern Development Initiative to reflect the focus of SADA. Funding for SADA would initially come from a Special Development Fund to be established for SADA. The initial start-up contribution to this fund shall be GH¢200 million, with annual government of Ghana contributions of GH¢100 million each year for 20 years. Once established, the government of Ghana will lead a Donor Conference on Northern Ghana, with the aim of raising an additional 200 million United States dollars from Ghana’s Development partners and private sector. With the expressed demonstration of government commitment to addressing the development gap between the North and South through a comprehensive and holistic policy initiative, one can only hope that the concerns being echoed by people of the North would find meaning in the implementation of these policy initiatives in a speedy manner.

By: Mohammed Mahamud

Programmes Officer


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