The Northern Development Authority (NDA), has been urged to take proactive steps to attract development finance to the Northern zone for accelerated sustainable development.
Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the former Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), said it was time for the Authority to proactively engage with the international financial architecture, including leveraging on some of the benefit of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) and the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization scheme for markets.
He noted that there was no gainsaying that the North-South disparity in development was a historical one; declaring that the creation of the Northern Development Authority represented one of the most fundamental steps in the line of attempts over the years to bridge the gap.
Dr Chambas made the appeal in a keynote at the Northern Ghana Development Summit 2021 on the theme, “Accelerating Development of Northern Ghana, Through Investment and Partnerships, Jobs, Peace And Security, ” in Jirapa in the Upper West Region.
“Whilst some significant progresses have been made over the years, especially with the advent of initiatives such as this summit, there is always much more to be done,” he stated.
On current initiatives of NDA, Dr Chambas said while the task ahead in bridging this gap was not lost on them, he commends the Government, the people of the North, the leadership of NDA, development partners and other stakeholders in their tireless efforts towards the development of Northern Ghana.
He said through the 2020-2023 Medium Term Expenditure Framework of the Department of Special Development Initiatives of the Government of Ghana, the NDA had seen significant investments in agricultural infrastructure such as the construction and maintenance of small earth dams, health care infrastructure, including the construction and maintenance of community clinics with fully equipped ambulances, water and sanitation interventions and many more key priority programmes under the initiative which was improving the quality of lives of many people.
With regards to pressing challenges, Dr Chambas said despite those efforts under the President’s Special Development Initiatives programme implemented under the auspices of the NDA, the fundamental problem in Northern Ghana today, remained the high level of poverty in communities.
He said this was particularly exacerbated by the recent Covid-19 pandemic which almost brought the entire world to its knees through its closure of businesses and livelihood activities, travel restrictions.
He said the effects of climate change and the threat of insecurity in many communities in northern Ghana which had threatened many structures that hitherto supported community resilience could not be overemphasized.
He said over the years, persistent chieftaincy and land disputes had retarded development in many parts of the North.
“Looking ahead, much more needs to be done to realize our vision and secure the sustained and development we all aspire for,” he said.
Dr Chambas noted that to succeed required the active participation of the public and private sectors across countries, civil societies, and foundations, indeed communities and constituencies.
He urged NDA to continue to develop and seek out investments and development partners’ assistance in advancing the core goals; saying there was the need for Government and NDA to continue to work together to increase funding for critical projects within the Northern Zone.
He said it was quite critical that NDA eliminated wasteful expenditures, make service delivery more efficient and allocate resources to areas of need, adding that there was the need to take concrete steps to improve the transparency of contracts, increase accountability, and ensure that decisions and projects draw on inclusive deliberations and engagement with beneficiaries.
“In driving through the streets of major Municipalities in Northern Ghana, I see immense potential and ongoing changes. These changes make me feel very optimistic that it is indeed possible,” he said.
“Accelerating this change should therefore be our focus. By working together, we will build a better North. The history and the architecture for sustained growth in Northern Ghana is for us to chart, else posterity will judge us harshly.”