Ghana poised to build and maintain sustainable cities and communities

by 04/07/2018 16:43:00 0 comments 1 Views

By Christabel Addo-GNA

Accra, July 4, GNA - Professor George Gyan Baffour, the Minister for Planning, on Wednesday said the government has fully embraced the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and was poised to build and maintain sustainable cities and communities.

This, he said, was in line with its desire to domesticate the global goals, and align them with the national agenda to provide a strong foundation for sustainable development.

Prof Gyan Baffour who said these in his welcome address at the opening of a three-day International Conference on Sustainable African Cities, acknowledged the fact that although the concept of sustainable cities was not new to Ghana, progress in building this dream has been slow.

He said this has created challenging gaps in the provision of facilities for proper solid and liquid waste disposal, ensuring access to potable water supply and toilets, as well as failing to address the huge housing deficit of approximately 1.7 million units as at 2015.

The Conference, which was being hosted in Accra, by the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences in collaboration with the Network of African Sciences (Leopoldina), and supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, would hence, discuss the topic: “Debating Current Challenges and Exploring Future Pathways”.

Besides developing a visionary outline for the future development of African cities, it would serve as a joint horizon scanning by African and German, and other European experts for possible collaborations, which was hoped to also enable the network of African Science Academies, to prepare joint key recommendations on the issues of sustainable urbanisation in Africa.

Prof Gyan Baffour said the conference was timely, in propelling the country towards achieving saying, though Goal 11 of the SDGs explicitly emphasised sustainable cities and communities, they were directly or indirectly linked with other social and economic challenges such as poverty, inequality, energy access, and access to health care, education, water, sanitation and other related-issues.

He said the government has initiated several policies and programmes aimed at addressing the challenges and gaps in achieving sustainable cities, and the President’s Coordinated Programme of Economic and Social Development Policies (2017-2024).

This, he said, focused on four major areas aimed at promoting sustainable, spatially integrated, balanced and orderly development of human settlements, providing adequate, safe, secure, quality and affordable social housing and private housing solutions.

Others interventions include the implementation of the Land Use and Spatial Planning Act 2016 (Act 925), and the accompanying National Spatial Planning Framework (NSDF), to ensure efficient and effective use of lands especially in Cities and other Urban and peri-urban areas.

Prof. Gyan Baffour said government was determined to establish special growth centres and urban networks, with spatially targeted investment interventions, and implement the district capital and small town programme to ensure proper planning towards infrastructure provision.

Another intervention, he said, was also to mainstream security and disaster prevention in urban planning and management systems, creating awareness on the greening of human settlements, and facilitate the implementation of urban renewal programmes, by encouraging and using public-private partnerships in the development and maintenance of urban infrastructure.

He said the government was also poised in constructing storm drains in Accra and in other cities and towns, to address the recurrent devastating floods, and in view of this a National Hydrology Authority was being established to develop long-term solutions to flooding and the protection of the country’s coastlines.

He also mentioned the policy interventions aimed at upgrading inner cities including ‘zongo’ and slums, while preventing the occurrences of new ones.  

Prof Edgar Pieterse, the African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town, South Africa, who gave the keynote address, said the continent still lagged behind in terms of policy and technology among other things, leading to its present challenges.

He noted that African cities faced low productivity, tepid job creation, high informality, huge infrastructure and service gaps, weak linkages with rural areas, high levels of informality, increasing inequalities, growing environmental damage and vulnerability to climate change and weak institutional systems and capacities.

Studies show that 61 per cent of urban employment in Africa was informal, saying, unless resolved, these impediments would undermine Africa’s urban potential for structural transformation.

He gave an overview on the key trends, conceptual considerations regarding sustainable urbanisation, African specificities and the pursuit of sustainability, suggesting some strategic entry points towards sustainable urban transitions.

He said a chunk of Africa’s challenges including the predominance of informality, resulted from infrastructure deficits, which in turn fuel low levels of wellbeing, saying public investments for instance, in the built environment suffered from an elite and middle-class bias.

He noted that the vast infrastructure needs, produced an indiscriminate acceptance of any investment, even if it worsened the “performance” of the built environment, stressing that these have resulted in dualism and splintered spatial forms and functioning.

Prof Pieterse said the lack of economic diversification, was a means to the limited formal employment and rising inequality among African societies, saying that, “despite sustained GDP growth since 2000, there is a lag in formal employment, especially, industrial jobs. Wages are sustainably lower and more precarious in informal employment compared to formal”.

Prof Pieterse called for the need to drive citizen empowerment through service delivery and place-making, as well as the mobilisation of city-based innovation systems to ensure sustainability.

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