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Accra, 4 Jan 05

Slums in Ghana’s towns of Accra and Tema could benefit from privately funded public investments in infrastructure following a fact finding visit there by a team from UN-HABITAT.

UN-HABITAT’s Slum Upgrading Facility (SUF) team concluded a successful mission to the West African nation from 13 to 17 December 2004 where they held meetings with key players who expressed willingness to support UN-HABITAT’s work. The team visited Old Fadama and Jamestown slums in Accra and other slums in Tema.

The team was in Ghana to explore possible areas where it could lend support to develop private sector financing for slum upgrading. During the week-long visit, the UN-HABITAT team won crucial support from the Ghana Stock Exchange (GSE), government officials and other stakeholders including slum dwellers themselves who said that they would support the team’s activities in the Ghana.

The Slum Upgrading Facility was established in UN-HABITAT in 2004 to coordinate initiatives aimed at supporting and raising seed capital for slum upgrading, affordable housing for low-income households and improving urban infrastructure in developing world cities. A central objective of SUF is to mobilize domestic capital for these activities, bringing together the relevant local actors from central and local government, civil society and the private sector, and taking into account the financial, technical and political elements of the initiatives.

At a meeting at the GSE, the bourse’s general manager Ekow Afedzie welcomed UN-HABITAT’s proposal and assured the SUF team leader, Michael Mutter, that the Exchange was always looking for ways to participate more effectively in national development. Mr. Afedzie promised to lobby for a special local financial bond to help in slum upgrading. “People always raise questions about whether there could be money available locally to engage in such projects and from my experience I know that it is indeed possible,” he said. According to the manager, it was important to create awareness among local authorities on how they could float bonds to help finance their operations.

Top officials of the Ministry of Works and Housing echoed Mr. Afedzie’s support for UN-HABITAT’s approach. Dr. T.F. Agyapong and Mr. Yahaya Yakubu said Ghana was not a stranger to slum upgrading projects adding that the country had embarked on such projects on a small scale since the 1980s and that with the support of the World Bank, one such project, the Urban 4 project, was currently underway.

The officials highlighted the importance of sustainable participation of the intended beneficiaries and urged the establishment of a single focal point for slum upgrading projects, which tend to have many dimensions involving different ministries. The Ministry of Works and Housing was proposed as a suitable focal point.

At another meeting, the minister for Local Government and Rural Development Mr. Kwadwo Adjey Darko expressed his interest in the project but raised the concern that people from rural areas coming to search for work in towns might not feel part of such a scheme. Mr. Mutter allayed his fears saying that slum dwellers knew how best to organize themselves as long as they were assured that they would all benefit from the projects.

UN-HABITAT also met with officials of Accra Metropolitan Assembly as well as the Tema Municipal Assembly both of which expressed willingness to participate in the programme.

Members of the Ghana Real Estate Developers Association (GREDA) led by Executive Director William Opare were interested in learning more about SUF programmes.

A visit to Accra slum of Jamestown with officials of Slum Dwellers International revealed the extent of under-investment in housing in the city. A further visit to the Old Fadama slum showed how enterprising slum dwellers are at creating new vibrant and commercial settlements but these are sadly lacking in investment by the city authorities for drains sewerage, water supply, garbage collection or paved roads.

Other talks held were with officials of HFC Bank, the People Dialogue of Ghana national federation, which has seen the formation of 55 savings groups in four regions of Ghana since its establishment two years ago and which continues to grow rapidly, and the Ashiaman homeless federation, which raises daily savings of 45 million cedis (US$5,000) from 1,005 members. “We were struggling on our own before we knew the power of coming together and tackling our problems as a community,” a member of the group said.

Ghana is one of the four countries UN-HABITAT is surveying to assess the viability of pilot projects that can be replicated in other places. “Ghana satisfies many of the criteria we are looking for in assessing the financial viability of slum upgrading projects. These include a well established local government recognized by the central government, a vibrant private capital market base, and functioning community organizations,” Mr., Mutter said. His team, which had a week earlier undertaken a similar mission to Tanzania, will next head to Asia for more scoping missions.

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