[14 May 2013] -- Ghana held its most recent National Urban Forum April 30, the first since President John Mahama announced a new National Urban Policy 28 March 2013.
The Forum is one of the activities funded through the Cities Alliance Country Programme in Ghana.
Following closely on the announcement of the new national policy, the Forum was another indication of how the National Government is taking ownership of the urban agenda and the momentum that is building towards a positive approach to urbanisation in Ghana.
The event was hosted and organised by the Urban Development Unit (UDU) of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, which is seeking to use the Forum as a platform for implementing the new policy.
The Forum was well attended, with a range of stakeholders participating: Representatives of the National Government, local authorities, District Chief Executives (mayors), organisations of the urban poor, civil society, the private sector, and traditional authorities. Media briefings were also held prior to the event.
Much of the debate at the Forum was structured around two of the major themes in the new urban policy—spatial planning/ slum upgrading and urban transport—and actionable ideas for approaching both themes.
Participants viewed two of four videos undertaken as part of a major urban advocacy initiative supported by the Cities Alliance and the World Bank. The four-part series, called “Fixing the Urban Mess,” documents Accra’s urbanisation challenges from various perspectives—governance, planning, transport, the role of civil society and the growth of informal settlements. The series aired on Ghana TV in 2012 as part of the Ghana Business Report programme produced by Channel Two Communications.
In the keynote address, Chairman of the National Development Planning Commission Paul Victor Obeng noted the importance of addressing Ghana’s urban challenges and stressed that urban issues have been elevated to the national level.
Also addressing the Forum was the Minister for Local Government and Rural Development, Akwasi Oppong-Fosu, who stressed the Government’s commitment to using urbanisation as a catalyst for economic growth, social development and environmental sustainability.
Providing a community perspective, Farouk Braimah of the Ghanaian NGO People’s Dialogue shared his experience with a successful slum upgrading project in the settlement of Ashaiman. Through the Slum Upgrading Facility (SUF) financed by UN-Habitat, the community was able to construct well-designed, energy efficient homes, toilets and market stalls that are managed by the local slum dwellers federation. He suggested that Ashaiman experience could serve as a model for slum upgrading in other parts of Accra.
Plans are underway to hold two additional urban forums this year.