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Examining the Colonial Roots of Ghana’s North-South Development Divide

  • 2 min read

Ghana’s most important development problem is arguably the disparity between the north and south of the country. The north is acutely underdeveloped, trailing the south in practically all metrics of development. Several inequality reports have consistently labelled the northern region as one of concern. Its rate of poverty level decline has remained very slow: from a poverty rate of 55.7% in 2006 to 50.4% in 2012. Southern Ghana enjoys a lower poverty incidence at 45%. Explanations for the underdevelopment of the north often underscore its geography and climate. The north is dry, unsuited to growing cash crops, and lacking mineral resources. Another school of thought considers the impact of the colonial experience from 1897 till independence. The north was sidelined by the British colonial administration. There have been numerous programmes to develop the north since Ghana gained political independence in 1957. Unfortunately, most either underperformed or failed. This is because the potential of the north has not been properly diagnosed. The north’s historical fortune was oriented towards trade and industry. At the onset of colonial rule, the modernisation of its trade system depended on the extension of railway lines to the region. But the north still has no railways connecting it to the south. Roads to the south are also in a deplorable condition. The construction of the Ghana Railway Masterplan, designed in 2013 to connect the north and the south, has not started. The mooted Eastern Corridor Road project has never seen concrete progress either. These two projects would arguably be the most important routes to transform the north.