Population surge in Africa, particularly Ghana, and the asymmetrical infrastructural drive by successive governments have rendered many homeless. Meanwhile, Ghana’s leadership since the fourth republic has failed to meet the housing deficit even halve-way! Why is that the case? And would they solve the challenging housing regime any time soon? But seriously, Africa’s Pacey population growth is unmatched and Ghana is no different. Like an albatross, this has put a toll on successive governments.
In Ghana, the conservative housing deficit estimate has been 1.7 million with marginal increment in the past decade. This challenge has been secondary to rapid urbanization due in part to limited economic opportunities within rural enclaves, high population growth, and high cost of available housing structures. In the main, leadership accounts for the dire housing shortfall in post-independent Ghana; and as far as the signals show, the Ghanaian government may be unable to solve the housing crisis anytime soon.
In Ghana, majority of people are ‘unhoused’ and while that is partly evident in the rapid growth of slums in premium areas of Accra, Kumasi and Secondi-Takoradi, it is more evident in the number of people who sleep along the street and in major market areas. Rapid urbanization as a result of limited economic opportunities has summarily ushered Ghana into a housing crisis. In areas like Kuntu near Saltpond in the central region of Ghana, the only economic activities available are: fishing and salt mining—these are all latent as a result of the absence of investments. Even then, this mirrors what situation exit mainly in rural Ghana; it is even worse in many other underdeveloped agrarian regions. As a consequence, the youth migrate to and saturate Accra and other cities after basic and high school for work and or for refined economic opportunities. In Accra, much as other cities, housing is limited. The saturated situation spirals into insanitary and insecurity and the cycle go on.
Africa’s population is well over 1.2 billion, second to Asia which is the highest for any continent; the staggering number obviously makes for difficult sheltering. While population can be managed to extract the most benefit there is, Africa seems to lag in this regard. In Ghana, we could achieve impressive strides if we managed population and or population drift. More economic opportunities could be generated in rural and peri-urban areas so to limit, manage and or prevent as many youths there is from migrating to the city. In so doing, the houses in these undeveloped areas would not be deserted for non-existing ones in major cities. Would the government provide lots more economic opportunities in rural Ghana?
Meanwhile, where houses exist in Ghana, they remain expensive either for rent or for outright purchase. Many Ghanaian middle–class are unable to purchase houses. More of middle-class Ghanaians are unable to rent decent houses. And much of lower-class citizens struggle to get ordinary structures for accommodation. While this phenomenon is the result of low wage earnings, it’s more because real estate developers and contractors prefer to build huge buildings with four (4) to five (5) rooms. These buildings are obviously fit for higher wage earners and upper-class citizens. The salary of the average Ghanaian worker makes it difficult renting and or house purchasing. According to Boac (2018), the Ghanaian worker can be classified as formal or informal. He asserts that while the average salary of the formal worker is 800cedis (equivalence of about $170USD) per month; that for the informal sector varied, but stood at 75cedis($15USD) per month in the agricultural sector. Consequently, a formal Ghanaian worker would be unable to purchase a moderate house after 40 working years—If such average worker saves ¼ of the annual salary that amounts $20,400USD (102,000cedis) after four (4) decades.
In the interim, government could propose a legislation that would conscript estate developers into developing estates with simple houses that reflect the financial capacity of middle and lower-class people. Government could also incentivize the construction of simple houses rather than larger ones. That we do not see as much a policy in this direction is indicative of government’s failure towards housing it citizens and why we cannot trust the government to solve the current housing situation.
Why we cannot trust the government to solve the housing challenge:
Successive governments have acted, albeit negligibly, to nip the monstrous housing phenomenon in the bud. Because, while the housing deficit has ballooned from 1.7million to 2million in 2019, there’s been complete absence of the urgent posturing required in confronting the seeming cul-de-sac. In recent past, governments have ‘sweet-talked’ this issue; they reassure with hope, but nothing tangible is seen. For instance, in 2019, government had announced an ambitious plan to establish a one billion cedis mortgage and housing finance to leverage private capital to provide affordable houses for the populace. Would it be too early to enquire what has been achieved so far? Maybe, yes. Maybe, no. But in my view, the best evaluative parameter would be to ascertain what more has been done beyond that audacious announcement. If nothing has been done beyond the promise, it would be fair to exhibit animus towards that announcement and all others.
Former president Kuffuor’s ‘affordable housing project’ that began in 2006 was frost with so many challenges. Even then, after more than a decade it was not complete. And where few were complete and habitable, the prices were eye-popping. A single room self-contain was about a hundred and sixty thousand Ghana cedis (160,000cedis), a two bedroom self-contain was about two hundred and twenty thousand Ghana cedis(220,00cedis); How then could the average Ghanaian worker afford such a property? Meanwhile, an unhealthy feature of governance in Ghana has been how new governments halt the housing project they inherit from previous ones for political expedience.
This phenomenon is deeply ingrained in politicians in Ghana. For instance, right after former president Mills succeeded President Kuffour, the affordable housing project that was started by Mr. Kuffour was abandoned. It was not until president Mahama succeeded Prof. Mills that a sod was cut for the resumption of the project at Ningo in the greater Accra region in 2013. If this should continue, just as it has in the past two decades, we are sure to be treated to worse forms of the housing situation we find ourselves now. Because while South Africa, Kenya, and Egypt share similar housing problems as Ghana; South Africa and Kenya seem to have found a coherent plan around the housing debacle. And while the NPP, New Patriotic Party and the NDC, National Democratic Party leadership continue to dabble in partisan politics, blame-game, and insensitivity towards its citizens, a gloomy future is not far-fetched. So that from the signals thus far, we cannot trust the government to solve Ghana’s housing problem.
Gilbert is a researcher and an agribusiness consultant with special interest in national development.