Feature Article of Thursday, 12 November 2009

Columnist: Fordjour, Kwadwo

The State of Town Planning in Ghana

- A World Town Planning Day Assessment.

November 11, 2009 is World Town Planning Day celebration. This is an occasion to reflect on where how we are in building sustainable great communities, and define action plans for the challenges facing mankind. The theme for the 2009 World Town Planning Day celebration is global warming and green house gasses. However, Ghana is still struggling to develop its planning vision to creating livable communities.

Africa as a continent remains the least exposed to the planning movement that have shaped the rest of the world's greatest places to live.

About 40 percent of Africans live in towns and cities, and it will grow to 50% by 2015 although Africa is the least urbanized. Significant numbers of the urban dwellers live in informal settlements known as slums and zongos where they lack basic services, inadequate housing, over crowding and unhealthy living conditions.

In Ghana Accra, the capital of Ghana and Kumasi and their environs account for the majority of urban dwellers. These metropolitan areas are characterized as dark and filthy. They have high incidence of malaria, cholera, and other environmental related diseases. Piped water is unreliable, solid waste management is abysmal; homes are built without permits and in flood prone areas. Majority of homes in the suburbs have no roads water or sewerage connections. Accra, the capital city of Ghana, and Kumasi, the second largest city are no exception to deplorable condition of African urban settlements.

Ghana with estimated population of 22 million people, located in West Africa, has made inroads to economic development, poverty reduction and democracy. It is a success story in African as an emerging economy. It has a liberal investment climate and excellent opportunities in all sectors of economic activities. Ghana has abundance of natural resources. Gold, timber, cocoa, diamond, manganese and recently found oil make up the major sources of foreign exchange in Ghana. Ghana is the fastest growing democracy in Africa. It has had a stable democratically elected government since 1992. It gained its independence from Great Britain in 1957. There is large presence of international organizations that have partnered with the government of Ghana on development projects. The goals and objectives of these partnerships are to use the experience in Ghana as a gateway to make wider impacts on the African continent.

However, this progress is threatened by deplorable and unacceptable town and country planning policies and practices, or lack of them. Without effective urban planning and management in Ghana, the Millennium Development Goals will be mirage and not be attained. The Ghana vision 2015 to attain middle -class economic status may remain a dream.

None of the 385 towns and cities in Ghana was planned or had structural plan or capacity to implement the plan. Out of 24 accredited Universities in Ghana only one, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) offers courses in planning. Most of the towns and cities lack planning staff and logistics. Only 61 of the 166 Metropolitan areas have token presence of a Town Planning Department. A district of over 140,000 people that covers 1,000 square miles has only one planning officer. Many planners have diverted to other businesses because planning profession is not appealing in Ghana.

It is a matter of priority for the government of Ghana to provide adequate support and collaborate with the bilateral and international organizations, private and non-profit organizations, KNUST and Ghana Institute of Planners (GIP) to restructure the planning system in Ghana. On Thursday, December 20, 2007, the President of Ghana inaugurated the Local Government, charged to develop appropriate and adequate capacity in the enforcement of local government bye-laws; environmental management and waste management; land use planning; and revenue mobilization. The program was to deploy or transfer 3,000 current civil service personnel to work in the Local Government Services.

The local government system was established in the 1992 constitution of Ghana to decentralize government services and to involve residents in decision-making at the local level. This is the area where American Planning Association (APA) -International Division can play a major role as the world's most experienced educational organization in planning. APA recent experiences in China, Mexico and Central America demonstrate its global recognition and influence.

Ghana Institute of Planners (GIP) and other Ghanaian planning bodies participated, for the first time, in the celebration of the World Town Planning Day on November 8, 2007 by hosting planning conference and appearing on media talk show to articulate the role of planning in Ghana's Vision 2015 to attain a middle class status. GIP has expressed interest in collaborating with APA-International Division and other international planning organizations to promote good planning practices, capacity building and technology transfer as well as other planning and training sessions.

APA sees it as both moral and practical to advance the cause of good planning and the interests of its membership. Recruiting American planning expertise and students to work in Ghana to develop the capacity of the Ghanaian planners, District, Municipal and local government officials; and KNUST students has been proposed as the core of the APA Ghana Exchange program. On December 15, 2008 APA-International division hosted a webinar, a computer conference on planning in Ghana which attracted over 300 practicing planners and planning students worldwide.

APA has the capacity and experience to work with Ghanaian community leaders, elected officials, professionals, government, and institutions to address different community issues. APA will bring more American planning professionals into contact with Ghanaian leaders and organizations. Also working side by side with the Ghanaian planners, APA will impact knowledge, skills and good planning practices to the GIP counterparts.

In July 2007, the Ejisu Visioning project was born and sponsored by APA. The Ejisu Visioning project is a good model to start with as a field based learning. APA, GIP and KNUST hope to establish a permanent collaboration in planning and community development in Ghana to champion and promote good planning in Africa.

The GIP has struggled in the past ten years as an active professional organization. Therefore, it does not have much visibility in the national planning and community development arena. APA would mentor GIP to be effective planning organization by helping build its membership and develop educational programs for them. GIP members may job shadow APA members in the USA by working with an American planning agencies or consultants, by attending conferences, and professional development tours in both public and private sectors in the USA.


Kwadwo (Kojo) Fordjour, AICP

(206) 515-3650

(206) 234-1624 - cell