Ghana, a country of roughly 25 million people in West Africa is embarking on an ambitious undertaking – to become the ICT capital of Africa with a new project aptly called Hope (Home, Office, People Environment) City. Construction on Hope City is scheduled to begin next month and is expected to be completed in 3 years.
What Is It?
The city will consist of six towers located just west of Accra. One of the towers is set to be the tallest building in Africa at 885 feet high. It will include an assembly plant, an IT university, a hospital and housing space. Bridges at different levels will connect the buildings with one another and provide access to communal space. Paolo Brescia, an architect working on the city says the goal is “to create a living place of discovery and exploration that reflects the tradition and culture of local people in a contemporary urban setting”.
Who’s Building It?
Hope City is the brainchild of Ghanaian businessman Roland Agambire, head of local tech company RLG Communications. The project, estimated to create 50,000 jobs and cost $10 billion (25% of the country’s GDP) is strongly supported by the Ghanaian government and President John Mahama.
Agambire and President Mahama are both optimistic that Hope City will allow Ghana to become a key player in the global economy as well as drive growth and development. Florence Toffa, director of Mobile Web Ghana, says “this city hopefully will bring the tech companies together and spark a new ICT revolution in Ghana.” She added that, “the project could equip local techies with the necessary skills to develop apps that would solve community problems, as well as provide a platform for tech companies to find new talent and opportunities to invest in”.
While this certainly is a commendable and exciting project, it does raise some interesting questions concerning poverty in the country.
Poverty in Ghana
Over the past two decades, Ghana has made huge strides in poverty reduction. As of 2006, just 28% of Ghanaians lived below the poverty line compared with 52% in 1992. The percentage of underweight children under the age of 5 has also significantly decreased.
But, according to USAID, the majority of these improvements have occurred in the southern half of the country (where the capital city Accra is located) while the north continues to experience rates of poverty almost twice that of the south. Additionally, agriculture is a large chunk of the economy in Ghana, employing over 56% of the population and accounting for 30% of GDP.
How will Hope City contribute to a widening income gap between the north and the south? Can Hope City be a light at the end of the tunnel for all Ghanaians or only those living in the south?
Only time will tell.
The Borgen Project believes that as one of the most powerful nations on earth, the U.S. should be doing more to fight global poverty. Ghana is no exception. It is a telling example of the vastly complicated nature of poverty and thus the complicated solutions that it requires. As the world progresses, solutions to poverty will need to progress along with it. Hope City can be a light at the end of the tunnel for all Ghanaians, but only if it acknowledges that a, “if you build it, they will come” attitude, won’t be enough to make that happen.
– Erin Ponsonby