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Ghana needs a new national capital, says senior economist

Habibu Adam argues that Accra is choked with gridlocked traffic and plagued by bad sanitation problems. The country needs to move its capital to another region, he says

Habibu Adam, senior economist in the Office of the Senior Minister, has argued that it is about time a new capital city was built in Ghana. He has called for a new national capital, sited around Tamale Airport and expanding from the Savannah Region into Bono East.

“If care is not taken, in the next ten years, Accra will need an interchange per kilometre to allow for free movement of vehicles,” Adam told the Ghana News Agency. “There will be too much human and motor traffic, to the extent that the economic costs to the country will be dire.

“Already Accra has captured Kasoa from Central Region and tension is beginning to brew between Greater Accra and Eastern Region,” he said.

Closer to the world

He said Tamale International Airport (TIA) should be designated as the main international airport for Ghana, for strategic reasons. Tamale is closest to the rest of the world. Taking off from there cuts flight travel times by one hour.

“Citizens from neighbouring countries like Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali would find it convenient to pick flights to Ghana and do the rest of the journey by road,” Adam said.

The government could acquire land five times the size of Heathrow or Dubai Airport, at less cost, Adam proposed, and turn Tamale into an aviation hub for West Africa.

“Government through the private sector can set up the maintenance, repairs and overhaul (MRO) of aeroplanes as well as a cargo village, especially for perishable goods, which could reach Europe and the rest of the world faster than when they take off from Kotoka International Airport in Accra,” he said.

Decentralise and spread the benefits

“The African Continental Free Trade Centre, headquartered in Accra, in addition to the Marine Drive Project when completed, could add close to one million people to the population of Accra, [to add] to the almost six million people on the overstretched land of Greater Accra,” he said.

Adam added: “It is therefore high time we start working towards correcting that monumental mistake. Many countries, including Kazakhstan, Burma, Bolivia, Portugal, Indonesia – and, on the African continent, we have Nigeria, Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire and Tanzania – have either moved their capital or are in the process of moving their capital.”

He suggested that, to cure the problem, each region should be given part of the national agenda to lead. “We can have a tourism hub, education hub, automobile hub, financial hub, petroleum hub, among others, to be led by the various regions.”

He added that making Tamale International Airport the hub would provide firm economic grounding for all the other airports in Ghana the government wants to build.

“With passengers arriving at Tamale International Airport, they will be compelled to take flights to the various regions [and] Accra, Kumasi, Ho, Cape Coast, Takoradi and Sunyani. This will boost the domestic aviation industry,” Adam said.

“These actions should be a deliberate policy of the government to decongest Accra and move the services sectors to the less endowed regions.”

Potential to industrialise

Habibu Adam suggested that the US$10 billion “Big Push” proposed by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the GHC100 billion “Ghana CARES” stimulus proposed by the New Patriotic Party (NPP) to restart the economy should be channelled into building this new capital.

He said one of the tragedies of national development has been the failure by successive governments to carve a development path based on the potential of each region.

“Over the years, our major developments have been concentrated in Accra and Kumasi, resulting in a mass exodus of people from the various regions to Accra and Kumasi, bringing in its wake serious economic and social consequences,” the economist said.

“What policymakers should have done was to look at the economic potential of the various regions and direct developments along the same path.

“Highly potentially industrialised regions should have been developed along the same path,” Habibu Adam said.

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