Ghana is often viewed internationally as an example of what successful development should look like. “Over the last decade, Ghana has enjoyed increasingly stable and deepening democratic governance” as well as improved infrastructure, institutional success and enhanced investor confidence resulting in steady and consistent economic growth (UN Ghana). While Accra is developing at a rapid rate and building more housing developments and office buildings, many of the city’s inhabitants are still extremely poor and really struggling to escape a vicious cycle of poverty.
Migration patterns must be considered when examining poverty in Accra. Many of the residents of the poorest communities in Accra have migrated from the Northern, Upper East and Upper West Regions in search of jobs and economic security, as well as improved living conditions. Analysing the North-South Migration and Remittances in Ghana, Stephen Adaween and Boabang Owusu (2013) assert, “The movement of youth from rural Northern Ghana to the South has been a recurrent research focus.” They stress that “the youth embark on the southward journey with the anticipation of getting employed so as to earn money to be able to remit to support and improve the wellbeing of relations back home.” Furthermore, they explain that, “with increasing levels of educational attainment, many of the youth have abandoned agriculture and flocked to lucrative ‘white collar’ jobs that are often difficult to get.” Unfortunately, when individuals arrive in Accra, they are left without accommodation, no means of finding employment, and without any form of social support.
Accommodation is one of the main challenges migrants face. Upon arrival, they may be forced to sleep at lorry stations, or in front of stores or kiosks, as they cannot afford the huge advance of rent that is demanded by landlords in the area. As accommodation is unavailable, hygiene and sanitation also become an even greater problem. Without access to clean toilets and washrooms, it hinders an individual’s ability to properly care for themselves and denies them the dignity and respect they deserve.
Moreover, both migrants and urban poor residents of Accra have limited access to healthcare facilities and must seek alternative services in case of emergencies. Many of the women under ActionAid Ghana’s Young Urban Women Project cite financial restrictions as the main reason why they are unable to access sexual and reproductive health services. As a result, they turn to pharmaceutical services, untrained professionals or self-medication to treat any ailments, which can cause even greater harm.
Adaween and Owusu spoke to hundreds of migrants who had recently arrived from the Northern areas. Of those arriving in Accra, only 34% had completed primary education, and less than 5% had completed any tertiary education. Unfortunately, the result of this pattern indicates that the vast majority of migrants will struggle to find decent paying work, or long-term employment prospects. Almost 71% of the migrants surveyed were porters (kayayei), leaving them in the lower income bracket. 60% of the total number reported earning between GHc 2.00 – GHc 3.50 per day, making it difficult to accumulate savings, pay upfront for accommodation, or support extended families in their communities.
The growing gap between the rich and poor in Accra is evident from some previous national events. The floods of June 3rd caused significant damage to people’s homes and businesses and destroyed many people’s entire livelihoods. Following the floods, the Accra Municipal Assembly (AMA) cleared up some of the destruction caused by the floods and in the process, demolished and removed people’s homes in the Old Fadama area and other slums in Accra. Most of the victims were from Northern Ghana causing even greater hardship on an already marginalized population.
The Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) condemned this act by the AMA and explained that the government should have spoken with residents before acting. They stated, “It is, therefore, incumbent on the Government of Ghana acting through its agency i.e the AMA in this case, to adhere to international human rights norms, principles and standards in relation to eviction of the people inhabiting the demolished structures at Agbogbloshie (Sodom and Gomorrah) who mostly were displaced internally due to the Komkomba and Nanumba conflict in the Northern region.”
Migrants escaping conflict should have been offered support and a safe place to move to within their own country, but instead they were met with incredibly harsh conditions and are being consistently ostracized within their own country. This migrant population has a limited social network and support system as they are living in a new place without the guaranteed support of a family and community. Their absence from their home communities has unpalatable social and economic implications for their families. . As hopes are dashed and dreams are quashed, the difficult life of the poor migrants leaves more footprints of misery and disappointment–in the tracks of a generally unfulfilled life. This is how we have ‘recycled’ and perpetuated poverty in many of our poor and deprived communities.
It is the responsibility of the government to take care of the citizens of Accra. The AMA and the National Population Council could begin a system of tracking the number of migrants that arrive in the city daily, weekly and monthly, in order to adequately provide the basic services that each resident of Accra is entitled too. However, if the data is not available, those services will continue to be insufficient for the ever-growing population.
Lastly, the government of Ghana could provide more economic opportunities for residents living in the Northern and more rural areas, so that they would not be forced to migrate. Providing greater job opportunities in the north would allow communities to thrive and to develop, while simultaneously removing the growing burden being placed on the Greater Accra region.
At ActionAid Ghana, our goal is to eradicate poverty and injustice, so that everybody can live with some dignity. We work with the poorest and disadvantaged people in the most deprived and marginalised communities in Ghana. Most of our pro-poor interventions have been in rural communities in Upper East, Upper West and Northern regions. To bridge the poverty gap between the North and the South, we have designed programmes to economically empower women in poor communities in these regions, to reduce their dependence on men. Some of these interventions are in the forms of skills training, promotion of land rights and access to productive resources and support for food security programmes. Our conviction is that when women’s rights are respected and promoted, they are able to contribute to the development of their communities.
Our youth-focused interventions, such as the Girls’ Camp, Girls Clubs and the Young Female Parliament are aimed at developing the potential and talents of young people to be useful citizens in their communities. In our operational areas, we have seen considerable reduction in north-south migration. With the recent construction of a multi-purpose youth centre in Bolgatanga, ICT centres, educational infrastructure and other developments in northern Ghana, we hope to increase economic and educational possibilities for people in deprived communities in Ghana, especially in our sponsorship communities.
By Dsane Seth