Life challenges still exist in Ghana. Among the poorest socio-economic groups in the country are subsistence agricultural farmers, with most of them residing in the northern region without access to the services and infrastructure that urban southerners have. This is not good, considering that agriculture is the sector that currently dominates the economy, though a developing oil industry is showing promise in the future. Thanks to the discovery of offshore oil in 2007 and a fast-growing economy, the country still aspires to reach a middle-income status, with a projected average real gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate of 7%-9% per year. Withal, Ghana is still one of the countries that have been experiencing extreme poverty.
1. Overall, poverty in Ghana has declined, helping the country to position itself as one of the more developed countries in the Sub-Saharan Africa. In 1998/1999, the percentage of its citizens described as poor was 39.5%, and then declined to 28.5% in 2005/2006, with the proportion of those described as extremely poor declining from 26.8% to 18.2%.
2. At the current rate, the country is on track to meeting the Millennium Development Goals for income poverty, primary school completion, hunger, access to water and gender parity at school. Also, its people could achieve and sustain a per capita income level of at least US$3,000 by 2020. The country’s main industries are gold, cocoa and oil, where it is the second largest cocoa producer in the world and the second biggest gold miner in Africa. Now, the challenge would be to make sure that the wealth it generates from these industries would trickle down to every Ghanaian.
3. According to a poverty assessment by the World Bank, inclusive and sustained growth—driven by better educated skilled labor and a more diversified economy—has enabled Ghana to decrease its poverty rate by about 50% in the last 20 years. However, a deteriorating macroeconomic environment, regional disparities and a growing inequality in consumption have posed challenges. Now, the country should make policies to stimulate the private sector, enhance access to opportunities and improve infrastructure to consolidate its middle income status.
4. Another important factor to eliminating poverty in the country is controlling population growth. According to the 2000 census, 44% of the population comprises children under 15 years old, while 5% consists of those above 65 years of age, which means that a huge number of dependent population require substantial investments in health care and education. Unemployment and underemployment are also a concern among many young adults in the country.
5. While the oil industry is developing, it also important to consider agriculture as still a major part of the economy. The thing is, the industry is dominated by subsistence small holder production units who have weak linkages and little technology, and only practice rain-fed farming with little to no fertilizer, which means that they are vulnerable to unpredictable weather changes that can affect their livelihood. These issues should be remedied, or smallholder farmers would remain as a poverty trap in the country.
6. Moreover, a broad-based strategy for human development is needed to keep Ghana on track to reduce poverty. This should include improving access to quality health care and education for both the young and the old.
Crystal Lombardo is a contributing editor for Vision Launch. Crystal is a seasoned writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience. She has been an editor of three popular blogs that each have had over 500,000 monthly readers.