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Opinions of Sunday, 15 March 2009

Columnist: Kuyini, Ahmed Bawa

Re: Upper and Northern Regions: Stop blaming Government:

Part I
By Ahmed Bawa Kuyini

Nana Kofi Amankwah’s article on the subject of northern Ghana Development above raised some issues which are the same stale ideas/analysis driven more by emotion rather than objectivity that have been drummed over and over again on this Ghanaweb whenever the northern development issue is mentioned.

A careful look at comments on the Ghanaweb in response to article on northern development often shows the following mixed bag of insults and ill-informed ideas:

1. The northerners don’t want to go back to their area to develop it, even though they have rich people in Kumasi and Accra; they need to resort to self-help to develop their area like the Kwahus for example.

2. They like conflicts and wars that is why they are not developing.

3. They have free education and expect us to use more resources for them to develop their area; They like to be given free things. These statements and conclusions are exaggerated, ill-informed and based on emotion rather than careful juxtaposition of the competing issues implicated in this northern development discussion. Many of those who make these statements resort to insults and take a simplistic approach to the issue and I want to use this article to PERSUADE all of us to take a step back from the insults and engage in a more rigorous analysis. I have capitalised the word ‘persuade’ so that readers would remember that I do not intend to insult anyone, but just present an alternative set of arguments. Firstly, I want us to look at the northern Ghana development advocacy from an ethical and/or economic perspective; an approach that applies to all regions of Ghana. If we take an ethical approach we are talking about equity in development, which hinges on social justice. And as Rawls (1973) notes, justice is always an issue whenever society engages in a conscious purposive activity. Developing any part of Ghana is a conscious purposive, rather than an adhoc activity and therefore issues of social justice come in play. In seeking social justice in development, all regions should ask for that justice in line with normative development debates. Thus, when northerners advocate for development it is not an exception and it does not stop others from advocating for their regions.

If we take an economic perspective on development, we are looking at entrenching the principle of economic rationality, which will help the entire country. Now, what is wrong with an ethical or economic rationality approach to analysing the development failures in different regions or particularly the north? I will borrow ideas form experts in the field. An ethical perspective to tackling underdevelopment is very important and necessary, but the development specialist Ayala argues that an ethical mentality by itself has severe limitations in finding a solution to the problem of underdevelopment. He asserts that it will be frustrating and constraining if the ethical is the only driving force for wanting to tackle underdevelopment unless effort is made to search for synergies with economical rationality. Thus we need to think of the northern development issue in terms of ethics and economic rationality. Economic rationality lies in producing efficiently at competitive costs to satisfy an economic need of the entire country Ayala-C, et al (2005).

In parallel with the views raised above, if the Ghana government and our countrymen/women are only thinking of northern Ghana’s development in ethical terms; i.e. the north has been neglected for so long so let us o something, then not much will be achieved. This is the view that makes some northerners to see only half of the picture. This I also believe, is what prevents many of our southern brothers and sisters from taking a wider purview of the development concept, hence their constant yelling of insults on northerners as we often witness on this forum.

I would persuade readers to consider the economic rationality perspective more than the ethical when analysing the northern development issue. Taking an economic rationality position; a stance which we Africans often take when we discuss underdevelopment in the third world means that we see development as a necessity. The development literature shows that most specialists are unanimous in the idea that underdeveloped countries need development more than charity; the same goes for the northern Ghana. The case for developing the north has more to do with economic rationality than anything else- charity, solidarity and politics. The potential of the north to contribute to Ghana’s economic emancipation has been imprisoned for 50 years and this is contrary to the principle of economic rationality, It is also, in my view, our nation’s decision to engage in wilful self-torture or failure to stop an existing self-torture.

If we look at development as a necessity then we will forget the uninformed perception that developing the north is about good will towards the backward people who are unlike the south. People often say that the north should resort to self-help for development (I will address this issue later); and by this insistence, tend to completely dismiss the role of history and geographical location in the asymmetry of development in Ghana. Such a point has recently been elucidated by development institutions in Ghana and President Mills when he said that the Savanna Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) will include Savanna areas of Central, Brong-Ahafo and Volta Regions, which are climatically disadvantaged. Undoubtedly, historical, sociological and geographical factors are implicated in underdevelopment of many regions of Ghana. But the role of each of these factors is more profound in the north than other areas. In the first place a lot of the foundations of development were set up the south a 100 years before the north completely came under colonial rule. Secondly, the geographical location of the southern Ghana, including access to coastline and longer rainy seasons favour economic development through increased economic activity/ per capita income more than the north. And this position is proven by empirical research carried out by the Center for International Development at Harvard University. The centre’s eloquent and renowned director, Jeffrey D. Sachs, stated in 2000 ‘Most recent cross-country analysis of economic growth has neglected physical geography as a determinant of economic growth’. Gallup et al. (1999) also concluded that ‘location and climate have large effects on income levels and income growth, through their effects on transport costs, disease burdens and agricultural productivity’. Other researchers, (Mellinger, et al., 1999) using a global analysis with a Geographical Information System has concluded that ‘GDP per capita and the spatial density of economic activity measured as GDP per km2 are high in temperate ecozones and in regions proximate to the sea’

Fellow Ghanaians, let us stand back form out emotional overload whenever the northern development issue is mentioned and try to view it as one of economic rationality, which Ayala and others observed is closer to necessity than to the idea of liberty. Ghana faces formidable challenges and economic freedom does not come by shutting off some your doors of opportunity. If Mali and Niger are trying to outdo us in exporting Shea-butter, are we really serious when some of us argue that government should do nothing and thereby continue to lock-down our economic potentials; just because the northerners are not going back home? Or do we think that Cocoa and Gold and now oil is enough for our economic emancipation? Look at Australia. They have Gold, Oil, Uranium, Iron Ore, nickel etc, in large quantities, but they still strive to develop agriculture, which already brings in billions of dollars at levels comparable with America. What is wrong with us? Let us remember that this necessity of developing any part of our country is for our common good as Ghanaians. I will continue with my analysis in Part II on the northerners are not going back home and the influence of other factors on the discourse of northern Ghana Development.

Dr. Ahmed Bawa Kuyini For CEVS-Ghana, Tamale.