Transformation of old Fadama, Accra

If Ghana's first republic had a profound socio-economic impact on the people, it was probably thanks to President Kwame Nkrumah's 7-year development plan.  The second and third republics were not associated with any known development plans or if they came with one, the military coups that truncated them denied the leaders the time and the opportunity to share them.

One of the world's most outstanding scientists, Albert Einstein once said: "Imagination is more important than knowledge." A Ghanaian architect and designer, Kwame Henaku Addo shares this sentiment: "Imagination is just what we as a nation will have to start building on while taking on the real challenges of articulating good governance, monitoring technical approaches, creating more jobs and uplifting our institutions."

Professor Addo, has been working on a comprehensive plan to address the country's developmental challenges.

"This comprehensive or national renewal plan is all about showing that together, we can make things happen. We will need political leadership, the professionals, the state enterprises and the private sector. But each of these areas needs to be inter-connected," he told GB&F in an exclusive interview.
At the core of the comprehensive plan, which he has named Visions of Ghana, is the concept of shared growth. Three other key components are infrastructure delivery, the social sector and an upliftment strategy to carry the people along.
The architecture and industrial design professor has achieved significant prominence at the international level with his design of the 190E Mercedes Benz car, the BBVA Bank headquarters in Bogota, Colombia and the Columbian currency note commemorating the discovery of the Americas. He will need the backing of the highest political leadership in Ghana if his national renewal programme is to see the light of day.

"Visions of Ghana is a project which is literally owned by all Ghanaians including politicians. This is a very inclusive comprehensive plan that attempts not to leave out any sector. That is why its ownership always remains larger than life," Professor Addo said.


"One of the key issues for successful implementation of this project has been how to get everybody on board so that any politician from any dispensation or any political divide can find him or herself captured within the plan.

"Visions of Ghana has the principal objective of inspiring and uplifting Ghanaians through the use of creative and imaginative projects, while communicating hope and confidence in positive attitudes, outlooks and value.

The plan also aims to act as a catalyst to help reinterpret the country's developmental process by effectively balancing the influence of traditional resources and orthodox ideals.
The plan itself has different but interconnected parts. In its totality, it talks about four main plans; shared growth, infrastructure, social services and an upliftment strategy.
The infrastructure delivery plan has five components; human settlements, transportation, industry, energy and environment, all of which revolve around resource management.

Human settlement is the latest component to be fused into the plan. Though not new, as another architect, Steve Akuffo of the National Development Planning Commission, has already initiated an urban renewal plan, the human settlement component incorporates both rural and urban renewal programmes.  

According to Professor Addo, the human settlement idea is supposed to take care of the social agenda including health care, education and recreation, transportation, housing and the environment.
"Human settlement is very broad. It is not just urban but it is also rural. Now we can even add a third component which is sub-urban intervention - towns which are growing close to major cities but are not quite there but have already started to play a very vital role in socio-economic development issues," he said.

He refers to the transportation component as the wire framework of the nation, breaking it up into road networks, rail networks, water transport, airports and information communication technology that runs on cables as well as utilities.

The first component under industry is agriculture. Professor Addo explains: "Agriculture always has to be pretty
much on its own because it provides more than half of
the employment in this country and it represents a very significant percentage of our GDP. It also has a part to play in rural and urban processes, which is why it is included in industry."

Other components under industry are mining, manufacturing and oil and gas.

Under the plan, energy is the engine of sustainable development. Here, the plan seeks to promote alternative energy sources in addition to the traditional ones including hydro and thermal. Then, there is the environment plan. This deals with water management and waste and sanitation issues.


But why is this comprehensive plan coming out now, 54 years after independence?

"There are three main reasons why this plan has come about. The first one is to give a spatial framework for Ghana's capital investment decision but at the same time, giving a clear spatial view to the private and the public sectors on government's investment opportunities. The next reason is that our national physical plan was last done in 1963 and is yet to be upgraded. The third key reason is the new dispensation we find ourselves in today, which is Ghana's new status as an oil producing country," Professor Addo said.

Undoubtedly, in order to see the fruits of this comprehensive economic development plan, finance will play a major role. However, the architect of the plan believes funding should not be a problem.

"When it comes to financing we always ask ourselves whether we have money. We ask all the time how we are going to fund something. The difference with this project is that finally, Ghana will be showing how it wants to be," said Professor Addo.
"For once, we will be seeing where we want to go so that nobody will have the slightest doubt about where and how we have to invest, because Ghana will finally be showing how we want to be transformed."

"The key to all of that is that as long as Ghana has not shown physical plan models about its national renewal programme and communicated well enough to the people, there
will always be doubt about funding.  But as we adopt
this strategy where we show physical models about the renewal of our country, showing how the country is going to look
like, anybody who comes in from any sector would
like to see where they are going to position themselves and they will immediately know how they can invest and the
money will come automatically. This plan is going to attract
lots of joint ventures and also public, private partnerships,"
he added.

But just like the several other plans that came before it, including Vision 2020 and Vision 2015, is this comprehensive plan not just another theory about the way forward for Ghana that is waiting to be shelved?
"The reason this will work is that it starts off with an idea, which is the vision. This is what has been missing in the past. Apart from that, this will work because if we have a national development policy, we should have a human settlement policy with a social agenda. From that, we can develop a national physical development master plan," Professor Addo explained.

"At the same time, we can be working on the legal framework for land ownership or land planning. It is when we have that master plan that we can get our urban and rural projects. Also, from the legal framework of the land use, we can have building and construction codes. So from the two rural and urban projects we can have a flagship project.  Then after the flagship project, we can get into management, implementation and finally we can get into monitoring and evaluation."

"As Ghanaians, because of our anxiousness or frustration, we jump straight to the flagship projects. We jump there because we feel that we have to do something, forgetting that first, we have to actually go through a number of procedures. So what happens is that, projects don't take off or when they do, they don't get completed. That is why things are as they are."

"I know this plan will work here because similar plans have worked in other countries. What we need in this country are visionaries. A culture is only as great as its dreams and dreams
are dreamt by visionaries," Professor Addo said.