Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Investment in Economic Activities: Backbone to Bridging North-South Development Gap

A senior economist at the World Bank office in Ghana, Sebastian Dessus has advocated that the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) Secretariat should seriously consider supporting economic activities that would actually speedup the bridging of the development imbalance between the North and South of the country.

Citing the construction of feeder roads, irrigation schemes, out-grower schemes among others, he said “North-South connectivity is not an issue. Rather, it is the lack of connection to the backbone of infrastructure and markets (feeder roads), low agricultural productivity and low human capital which explain the North’s economic isolation.”

Speaking at a stakeholders’ workshop in Tamale, Dessus noted that one way to safely avoid the risk of spatial misallocation in public intervention is to invest in human capital (education, health, social protection, security) rather than locations, given individuals’ ability to relocate where economic opportunities are.

The workshop, organized by the SADA Secretariat under the theme: “Reaching The Poor In Northern Savannah”, was aimed at sharing and reflecting on the findings of two poverty studies on the North, within the North.

It was also intended to bring together state and non-state actors in the North to consider how the poor could be reached more effectively by the programmes and interventions they implement.

North-South migration (kaya-yei), Dessus explained, remains moderate and economically unsuccessful, driven by desperation, rather than sustainable opportunities. Migration can be successful, but most migrants from the North are not equipped enough or educated to succeed, he pointed out in a report titled: “Tackling Poverty In Northern Ghana.”

According to the World Bank Economist, Ghana was among the best poverty reduction performers in the world, but the North comprising of Upper West, Upper East and Northern Regions, was lagging behind. “The North is poorer than the South: 63% of the population is poor in the North, against 20% in the South”, he stressed.

Meanwhile, a research report presented by Dr. Seidu Al-hassan of the University for Development Studies (UDS) for validation revealed that 68% of the population in the SADA operational area had not yet heard about it whereas 32% claimed they had heard about SADA.

Also, 85% of those interviewed claimed their source of information about SADA was through the media (electronic media), 11% through personal communication and 4% said through workshops they attended.

Besides, the report further pointed out that 67% of people at the tertiary level of education had knowledge about SADA as against 33% who were unaware, 44% at the Secondary level as against 56%, 23% at Basic level as against 77% and 11% at Non-formal level as against 89%.

The research, which was intended to assess the knowledge, understanding and expectations of the people of the savannah ecological zone of Ghana and other critical stakeholders about SADA, also found out that 65% of those in the formal sector of the economy knew about SADA whereas 35% did not know, 22% in the informal sector as against 78% and 25% unemployed as against 75% respectively.

Dr. Seidu observed that all things being equal, there was broad support for SADA and its vision and no political disagreements or obvious social disagreements about this vision.

However, he cautioned that there needs to be more clarity on the roadmap to be adopted and better awareness created on the specifics of SADA’s mandate and planned programmes. Adding that, “There also needs to be more targeted and qualitative engagement with specific stakeholders who can critically contribute to achieving the aims and objectives of SADA.”

Dr. Seidu Al-hassan also advised that SADA must maintain its mandate as planner /coordinator and not implementer and ensure that resources were channelled into projects. SADA should desist from politicizing the initiative, maintain political neutrality and seek bi-partisan consensus by bringing on board the views and expectations of all political groups through continuous consultations.

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