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New Approach to Road Sector Investment in Ghana


The Ministry implements its policies, programmes and projects through the Ghana Highway Authority (GHA), Department of Feeder Roads (DFR), Department of Urban Roads (DUR), Road Fund Secretariat and the Koforidua Training Centre.


Towards implementation of H.E. the President’s vision for the road sector, the Ministry, under the able leadership of Hon. Alhaji Inusah Fuseini (MP), has embarked on a gradual paradigm shift from the conventional nature of road construction. Unlike in previous instances when the focus used to be on the road network, the emphasis is now more on socially impacting construction that takes into account the social needs of the catchment areas of road projects, especially major projects.


This new concept ensures the provision of social services such as schools, potable water, health facilities, alternative livelihood opportunities, tourism infrastructure, and markets, among others. It considers construction of road infrastructure as a coordinated and incremental form of development with immense economic and social returns.


For the purposes of this presentation, the Fufulso – Sawla road project in the Northern part of Ghana will be used as a case study.


Overview of the project


The project forms part of H.E. President Mahama’s road policy to link regional capitals with each other with good all-weather roads. In His speech to inaugurate the road, he noted that the policy had been achieved in most of the regional capitals in the southern part of the country, contrary to the situation in the northern part, especially between Tamale and Wa and also between Bolgatanga and Wa, hence the Fufulso-Sawla project.


The project therefore sought to address development constraints caused by poor road infrastructure in the Northern Region of Ghana, which is one of the most impoverished and isolated Regions of the country. It was aimed at enhancing accessibility along the Fufulso – Sawla Road and improving livelihoods in the project area of influence, in line with the Ministry’s objective of providing an integrated, viable and sustainable transport infrastructure to meet the goals of ECOWAS regional integration.


It was envisaged that completion of the project would lead to improved access to all-season public transportation, reduced transport costs between Fufulso and Sawla, increased number of tourists visiting the area, reduced traffic mortality along the road, increased access to potable water, improved access to accident/emergency centres, improved market/lorry park infrastructure as well as increased access to agro-processing equipment and marketing opportunities for women’s groups along the road.


It involved the upgrading of the hitherto 147.5 km gravel road between Fufulso and Sawla, which over the years had been characterized by many poor sections, into a bituminous surface to facilitate the socio-economic development of the area.


The project cost, exclusive of taxes, duties and project coordination expenses, was about US$ 157 million, with joint financing from an African Development Grant and the Government of Ghana (GOG). GOG’s contribution consisted essentially of payments of compensation to project affected persons, resettlement and project coordination related costs.


Project linkages with country strategy and objectives


The strategic vision of the Medium Term National Development Policy Framework (MTDPF) 2010-2013 also known as Ghana Shared Growth and Development Agenda (GSGDA) aims to reduce poverty while achieving the Millennium Development Goals within the context of the country’s long-term policy objective of achieving middle-income status by 2020 and becoming a leading agro-industrial country. The importance of transport infrastructure is highlighted in the MTDPF, as an enabler for economic growth and poverty reduction. The transport Sector is a focus area of the MTDPF whose policy objective is to establish Ghana as a transportation hub for the West African sub-region.


The acknowledgement of the road infrastructure sun-sector as integral to the socio-economic development of the country is also prominence in the manifesto of the ruling NDC Government. The Fufulso-Sawla road has a high priority ranking in the trunk road network of Ghana as it enhances regional and national integration, serving as the shortest link in terms of distance between Tamale (the largest city in Northern Ghana and the Capital of the Northern Region) and Wa (the Capital of the Upper West Region). The road also connects Ghana’s gateway towards Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso with the corridor towards Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Faso’s economic capital, in pursuit of attaining the transport sector goal of MDG 8 (reduction in transport cost of landlocked countries and reduction of missing links of the Trans-African Highway).


The Fufulso-Sawla project will expand market sizes beyond national boundaries and foster a conducive and enabling environment for the private sector and for attracting foreign direct investments. In addition to enhancing trade and strengthening regional integration, the project is expected to contribute to poverty reduction in both countries by increasing access to markets and social services for the surrounding areas, and communities, and by empowering the rural poor, women and other disadvantaged groups through adequate roadside socio-economic infrastructure and services.


The 147.5 km long Fufulso-Sawla Road traverses three districts in the Northern Region of Ghana. These are the Central Gonja, West Gonja and the Sawla-Tuna-Kalba districts. With the exception of the Central Gonja district which has only its third largest town along the road, the capital towns of the West Gonja and the Sawla-Tuna-Kalba districts are traversed by this road. The road corridor’s immediate vicinity is inhabited by an estimated population of 30,000; of whom 50.8% are women.


Despite their vast resources and potential, the three districts along the road corridor were amongst the most deprived areas in Ghana. Only about 30% of households along the road had access to safe water, far below the Northern Regional average and the national average of 57.97% and 57.14% respectively. Majority of households relied on unsafe water sources such as dug-out dams for drinking water, most of which dried-up during the dry season. This contributed to a high prevalence of water-borne diseases in the project area. Of the 242 guinea worm cases recorded in the country in 2009, 237 cases were from the Northern Region of which the Central Gonja district alone accounted for 148 cases; (97% of which were recorded in Fufulso).


The Fufulso-Sawla road could play an important role in the development of the area but its condition severely hampered mobility and access to socio-economic infrastructure. The gravel surfaced was corrugated with most sections unmotorable particularly during the raining season. Public and private transport was minimal and most of the time not available due to the road’s poor condition. It took between 5 to 8 hours to travel from Fufulso to Sawla whereas it should normally take a maximum of 2 hours.


The road traverses an important agricultural area which accounts for over 25% of total food production in the Northern Region of Ghana. Located along the road corridor are some of Ghana’s important tourist sites such as the Mole National Park, the Larabanga Historic Mosque and the Mystic Stone.


The bad nature of the main road was also a deterrent to recruiting and retaining many health, education and other sector professionals for posting to those districts. The three districts along the road had on average, a doctor – patient ratio of 1: 29, 394 which is far below the national ratio of 1: 10,380. The poor condition of the road as well as scarcity of well-functioning community health care was a barrier to physical accessibility of socio-economic infrastructure and a constraint to quality of health service delivery.


Educational infrastructure in many communities along the road were either inadequate or in a deplorable state with some classes held under sheds and trees. Net primary school enrolment is moderate with an average of about 65%. This is still below the regional average of about 72%, the national average of about 84% and the MDG target of 100% by 2015.


To earn an income some women engage in trading foodstuff but majority of them derive their income from petty trading of manufactured products and agro-processing activities such as gari making, shea butter and ground nut oil extraction. There is ready market for these products in the cities but the bad nature of the road made transportation difficult. The scale of their production was also limited because production was done manually. This did not only compromise product quality and scale but also took energy and time of the women. A common coping strategy for poor women was to have their girl-child migrate to southern Ghana for menial jobs in the cities so they could earn an income and remit home.


Socio-economic infrastructure along the road corridor were inadequate and mostly in poor condition. Access to potable water was limited, with few health facilities located in the district capitals and small towns whilst many basic schools along the road were either dilapidated or lacked adequate classrooms. There were no structures for markets/lorry parks in any of the district capitals and small towns along the road. Market activities took place under trees and sheds. The impact of these on economic activity and quality of life of the inhabitants were enormous. School structures lacked sanitary facilities badly needed by children especially adolescent girls.


How the Road Construction Project addressed the above Challenges


Given the dire needs of the population along the Fufulso-Sawla Road in terms of access to and quality of socio-economic infrastructure, an ancillary works component was incorporated into the project, in furtherance of the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). To this end, the project built and rehabilitated key socio-economic infrastructures such as boreholes, schools (rehabilitation), Community-Based Health Planning and Services (CHPS) and an accident center, markets and lorry parks, as well as access roads to health centers and touristic attractions.


Out of the road projects implemented to date in Ghana, this project stands out as flagship in terms of its inclusive all-in-one integrated packaging, providing a holistic response to the socio-economic needs for the region, immediately transforming the lives of its communities (particularly women and children) and availing basic services including access to clean drinking water, quality services for health and education and opening up the whole region for trade within the Country and across the borders. It has been noted that this project has yielded unprecedented results in terms of benefits and impact to the people within the project area of influence.


Furthermore, construction of the infrastructure in support of tourism increases revenue generation, promotes local tourism with a catalyst effect on private sector development and youth employment, a move that seeks to increase employment opportunities and income generation from transport related activities.


This project has been cited oftentimes by the current government as a model to replicate in other parts of the country as it is unique in several ways and provides a one-stop integrated solution that helps to tackle several socio-economic problems through one project and helps unlock the economic potential of the area, creating jobs and sustainable income generation, reducing poverty and ensuring overall socio-economic development.


Towards accounting for gender concerns as per Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 3, a participatory gender assessment approach informed the design of the project and specific interventions were included to promote gender equality, enhance women’s economic empowerment and increase their voice and participation in household and community affairs including decision-making.The road construction created temporal jobs for women either as unskilled or skilled labourers as well as opportunities for ancillary activities such as selling of cooked food at construction sites. More long-term and substantial income earning opportunities would be created through the investments in the various interventions which provide improved mobility and access to marketing centres for trade and income generation.


The availability of potable water supply and improved health services for family members would free women and girls’ time for other activities including economic activity and community development. Also, with the construction of boreholes and piped water systems within the communities, women and girls would benefit from reduced walking distances and waiting time to collect water. This would create space for them to engage in other activities and would particularly improve girls’ attendance in school, an investment whose long term poverty reducing effects are significant.


Improvements in income earning opportunities and the general socio-economic situation in the project would also reduce migration of young girls from the project area to cities in the southern of the country, a phenomenon popularly known as ‘Kayayo’.


The road project has contributed and will continue to contribute to the economic development of the beneficiary communities and beyond.as follows:

  • The project on its own provided employment for local artisans and labourers and this has resulted in the injection of wealth into the local economies with expected multiplier effects through improved savings, increased capital for further investment and increased purchasing power.


  • The project is also expected to yield increased productivity of goods and services in the communities. Economic activities such as farming and trading which are the prevalent occupational activities will be boosted. Farmers can travel outside their communities to access higher order markets outside the farm gates such as the district, regional capitals and beyond for better prices for their food crops.


  • Diversification of the local economy is another impact expected of this project. The major occupation of residents along the road is peasant farming. With the building of market centers in some of the communities, it is expected that more people will engage in commercial activities. The construction of the road will attract different commercial, industrial and service enterprises in the communities. Directly related to the diversification of the economy is the creation of more job opportunities.


  • Another positive impact of the road is the boost in tourism. The largest national park in Ghana, the Mole National Park is located directly along this road. The construction of the road will lead to an increase in both local and foreign tourists.


The road is also expected to open up the area and improve access to agricultural inputs and markets. Due to its bad nature transportation along the road was largely by head portage and bicycles. When completion of the road, it is expected that there would be increased vehicular traffic and improved mobility thereby lightening the transport burden on women.


Given that women along the road corridor derive their income from petty trading and agro-processing, the construction of four existing markets will promote trading activities. The design of these markets included separate wash rooms for men and women and storage places.


Fufulso Market


The project also provided agro-processing equipment to selected women’s agro-processing groups. This will reduce drudgery in the processing of cassava, shea-nuts and groundnuts into gari, shea-butter and groundnut oil respectively. The demand for these processed products exist in Tamale (the regional capital) and other major cities across the country and the use of technology will increase output, save time and improve the quality of the finished products. The profit margins and incomes of the affected women will increase as a result, thereby helping eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.


Damongo Grain Store


There was also rehabilitation of selected basic schools along the road corridor in addition to the provision of school-based water and sanitation facilities which will improve personal hygiene and convenience especially for adolescent girls.


As part of the project, there was an expansion of access to potable water through the construction of 34 boreholes in selected communities along the road. While reducing the incidence of water borne diseases, improved access to potable water will cut down on the time women and girls spend to collect water.


Fufulso Water Treatment Plant


Bearing in mind the need to provide emergency transport response for medical crises in rural communities, Community-Based healthcare facilities were included in the ancillary works component of the project to enhance primary health care, reduce the morbidity rate and the time women spend caring for the sick.


The construction of the road and rehabilitation of health and educational facilities is expected to improve accessibility and enhance the chances of attracting skilled human resources to the area. This would improve service delivery and social development outcomes particularly in health and education.


Furthermore, the construction of the infrastructure in support of tourism (signage, lay-bys, parking) will increase the tourism revenues and create jobs locally.


Key road safety measures were incorporated in the project as improvements in the road condition will lead to a rise in road traffic accident (injuries and fatalities). Road crashes kill an average of four persons daily in Ghana. Some 70% of crashes occur on flat and straight roads and speeding is a major cause of crashes, accounting for over 50% of reported crashes. Pedestrians continue to be the most vulnerable road user group, accounting for more than 40% of the annual road crash fatalities.


Without any mitigation measures, the number of fatalities and injuries will significantly increase with the increase in traffic and speed brought by the improvement of the road condition. The project included the following mitigation measures on both the accident prevention and care fronts: i) accident prevention: the Fufulso-Sawla road design included speed calming devices and signage on approach to all settlements and at the vicinity of the Mole park (to avoid crashes with animals).


Several road safety awareness campaigns have been organized in partnership with Ghana’s Road Safety Commission; ii) trauma care: the construction of an equipped accident centre attached to the Damongo District Hospital along with provision of two ambulances in order to ensure urgent medical attention to accident victims.


The lorry parks provided under the project will also serve as rest stops for drivers in transit and this would be an added benefit for road safety as tiredness/fatigue has been identified as one of the main contributory factors to road traffic accidents.


The project took measures to maximize the benefits of the construction work on the local population while mitigating any negative effects. The inclusion of clauses in contractors’ contracts for the recruitment of local labour created over 200 jobs for men and women particularly the youth. This is consistent with the transport sector goal of MDG1 that considers percentage increase in employment opportunities and income generation from transport related activities towards eradication of extreme poverty and hunger.


It is instructive to note that an HIV/AIDS sensitization component was included in the project to mitigate the possible increase in exploitation of young girls and vulnerability to HIV infection by both construction workers and the local population. Road construction contracts also included clauses that required contractors to regularly sensitize their workers on HIV/AIDS.




Indeed, this project covers all-in-one, infrastructure development, regional economic integration, private sector development, supporting agriculture and trade, with particular focus on gender and the youth, a central pillar of the ruling NDC Government’s manifesto promise.


The project is acknowledged as a model to replicate in other parts of the country and other parts of the globe as it is unique in several ways and provides a one-stop integrated solution that helps to tackle several socio-economic problems through one project and helps unlock the economic potential of the area, creating jobs and sustainable income generation, reducing poverty and ensuring overall socio-economic development.


The project stands out as flagship in terms of its inclusive all-in-one integrated packaging, providing a holistic response to the socio-economic needs for the region, immediately transforming the lives of its communities (particularly women and children) and availing basic services including access to clean drinking water, quality services for health and education and opening up the whole region for trade within the Country and across the borders. It has been noted that this project has yielded unprecedented results in terms of benefits and impact to the people within the project area of influence, a clear testament of H.E President John Mahama’s commitment of ensuring a Better Ghana for all.