Restructuring the economy is crucial. Many sectors of the economy need support, their advocates make compelling arguments, but all sectors cannot be prioritized. Where do we allocate limited resources? What guides prioritization? 

Do we invest in areas that can provide the most impact for the largest number of people with the lowest income?  Do we focus on massive job and wealth creation? 

Do we focus on a strategic economic sector, which can generate jobs immediately and into the medium term?  Invest in agriculture, housing and health.

Agriculture is the second largest source of livelihoods; it is a high impact sector.  Supporting the livelihoods of agricultural sector workers positively impacts local economies as well as the national economy. How do we invest here for maximum impact?

  1. It is critical that the government implements policies and practices that are small holder female farmer friendly. For example, strengthening women’s access to extension services and credit.
  2. Government should focus on minimizing post-harvest loss by enabling more on-farm agri-processing.  Importantly, government should also invest in the development of appropriate low cost technology for small-scale agri-processing. This includes the development of solar dryers and solar refrigerators. 
  3. Government should prioritize the use of agroecology approaches. For instance, the ongoing fertilizer programme should be reorganized so it exclusively uses locally produced organic fertilizer.  Similarly, the government should focus on saving, improving and protecting indigenous seeds.
  4. The government should support value addition in strategic products for domestic consumption, and regional export. For instance, ensuring the optimal functioning of factories producing tomato based products is urgent.
  5. The government should strengthen the agri-processing sector as well as the potential forward and backward linkages.  Strengthening and expanding school feeding programmes would also be a critical intervention.

To systematically embrace the opportunity to redress Ghana’s two million housing shortage is to seize the opportunity to create quality jobs, reduce housing injustice, and build a national asset – the country’s housing stock.  Thus, quality housing enables public health, good living and is wealth itself.

Some key suggestions:

  1. Government should directly lead the construction of quality social housing, which will remain the property of the state. People who are vulnerable should be given priority in accessing the housing.
  2. Government should enable and finance housing cooperatives that will lead the construction of quality social housing, which will remain the property of the housing cooperative.
  3. As a housing and job creation initiative, the construction process must provide formal and unionized construction jobs for masons, carpenters, electricians, plumbers etc.
  4. This housing initiative will be intentionally designed for climate change resilience.  It will include rain water harvesting, decentralized waste water management, storm water management, and solar electrification.
  5. This housing initiative will be designed holistically, to provide employment opportunities and public services. For example, all housing communities should include cooperatively owned and managed day care centers and pharmacies as well as a community market, a credit union, and a playground/park.
  6. Government should not enter into any new private-public partnerships to build “affordable housing,” since there is no evidence of it working effectively to fulfill its stated objective of “affordability.”

COVID-19 did not expose the historic and ongoing underinvestment in the health sector.  This was already well known. Now is the time to build a robust health sector that is adequately resourced.  Ghana is a signatory to the Abuja Declaration. A commitment was made to allocate 15% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to the health sector each year. Ghana, like most African countries, has never fulfilled this commitment.

Here are some recommendations for building a robust health sector.

  1. The Government should invest in the development of the health workforce. This includes the attraction and retention of healthcare workers in rural areas.
  2. The government should strengthen preventive and promotive health interventions by working through community institutions (e.g. women’s and widows groups). These should be provided with a basic income.
  3. As part of the national industrialization efforts, the government should advance a health equipment production focused strategy.  This could focus initially on the production of ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPE).
  4. The government should develop and implement a strategy of generic substitution.  This should be linked to the production of generic medication within the country by indigenous pharmaceutical companies.
  5. The government should strengthen the ongoing development (formalization) of traditional medicine. There should be the development of Public-Public partnerships to enable the further production of traditional medicine and its further incorporation into the national health sector.

Strategic focus on these three areas – agriculture, housing, and health — can be transformative. More than rebuilding the Ghanaian economy is at stake.  The economy is not only to be rebuilt. It must be restructured, to be more equitable, green, and resilient.

About the author: C. Uzondu (Ph.D.) is a Policy Analyst. His writings cover topics ranging from water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), health, housing, agroecology and political ecology.