Poor Urban Communities and Municipal Interface in Ghana. A Case Study of Accra and Sekondi-Takoradi Metropolis

by George Owusu and Robert Lawrence Afutu-Kotey


Like many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, Ghana, is undergoing a rapid pace of urbanization associated with socio-economic, environmental, and institutional challenges for urban residents and local government authorities. Under Ghana’s laws, Metropolitan Assemblies (large city local governments) have overall responsibility for the development of their respective cities. This article explores the poor urban communities—municipal interface based on a study carried out in the largest (Accra) and third largest (Sekondi-Takoradi) cities. The study concludes that mechanisms for engaging poor urban communities are limited largely due to the absence of functional decentralized sub-district structures in these communities. In addition, the indirect attempt by the Metropolitan Assemblies to address infrastructure and service needs of poor urban communities through a public-private partnership centered on privatization (franchising and contracting) and community-based participation in the provision of social services has distanced the Assemblies from poor communities. This situation has reinforced the view that the Assemblies are unresponsive to community needs. The implications of limited community-municipal interface for poor urban communities and urban development in Ghana in general are also explored.

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George Owusu holds a PhD in Geography (with focus on urban and regional development) from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Currently, Dr. Owusu is a Senior Research Fellow in the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER), University of Ghana, Legon. He is also the Coordinator of Graduate Programmes at ISSER. Dr. Owusu’s main areas of research include urbanization and regional development, land tenure, decentralization and participatory approaches to development.

Robert Lawrence Afutu-Kotey is a PhD candidate in Development Studies at ISSER and holds an MSc degree in Regional and Urban Planning from the London School of Economics. He has previously worked as a Principal Research Assistant (PRA) at ISSER. His main areas of research include urban youth employment, regional and urban planning, and decentralization and local government reforms. The authors would like to thank the residents of the poor urban communities of Accra and Sekondi-Takoradi in this study for their willingness to share information, CHF-Ghana (an NGO) for financial support, and all others who made the fieldwork possible.

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