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Monday, August 16, 2010

Is Accra too big for AMA to manage? Can the Sub-Metros be made Autonomous?

By Lord Aikins Adusei
Throughout the world cities are in competition with each other for capital, corporate investments, tourists, students, best talents, and the opportunity to host world events among others. City mayors are making tough decisions and approaching city management in business oriented fashion, bringing stakeholders together and identifying different ways to move the city forward. To remain competitive and to attract investments cities are aggressively marketing their potentials and opportunities, setting up priorities, undertaking physical landscape development, infrastructure building, improving quality of the environment and promoting the things that the city has comparative advantage of. This means cities are more and more being run like corporations with objective to deliver better services to their clients. It is in this context that I write this article on Accra.

Accra is ranked as one of the fastest growing cities in the world. According to the 2000 population and housing census, Accra has about 1.7 million inhabitants and has been estimated to be about 1.9 million in 2009. However, in terms of land area, population and density Accra is negligible when compared to that of New York City (8.2m), Tokyo (12.3m), and London (7.7m) yet these cities with all their teeming populations and land area are better managed than Accra.

The task of managing Accra appears to have completely overwhelmed Accra Metropolitan Authority. This is evidence in the myriad of problems seen in the city: from waste management to housing, to water delivery to energy supply, to roads, to education, to environmental quality, to traffic management and telecommunication the list is unending. There are communities without water. It is common to find piled uncollected waste tipping and spilling into roads, gutters which give evidence of the existence of bungling waste management system. There are schools without toilet facilities and proper sanitation.
Sewerage in Accra is almost non-existent, with only some few suburbs (usually where the rich people live) enjoying piped sewerage services. Many residence of Accra do not have access to good drinking water. In many communities reliable piped water supply is a serious problem and many households have to resort to extreme measures to be able to cope.
There is no centralized wastewater treatment system in the city and households and commercial premises generally have no onsite flush latrines. Today despite the availability of technology to convert night soil into biogas night soil is still openly disposed at various parts of the city including the one near Achimota posing serious health and environmental risk to the people who live nearby. Within Accra solid waste is unhygienically treated and disposed; and indiscriminate dumping of waste is creating health problems.
With the exception of Cantonments, Airport Residential Area, East Legon and some few other places that boast of decent housing facilities and other facilities, a greater part of the city looks like a giant slum with narrow dirt streets and crowded poorly constructed houses dominating the landscape majority of them lacking any decent facilities such as electricity, toilet, and water.
There is organised disorder and decay of infrastructure facilities. Accra remains largely unplanned: without gardens, open spaces, and other facilities that could make her fit the status of a modern capital city. There is no coordination between utility suppliers. Today the urban roads will construct a road; tomorrow you see Vodafone or ECG digging the newly constructed road to lay their cables. So you ask yourself were these utility companies contacted when the road was being constructed. In the morning, afternoon and evening the roads are choked with cars whose drivers seem to have no respect for traffic regulations. There is only one option left to travellers to and from the city: road. There are no trams, efficient railway system and ferries. All goods and people enter the city by road even from coastal towns such as Cape Coast and the roads Takoradi. The roads are themselves narrow, dirt, poorly surfaced and heavily potholed. It is a complete mess.
There is pressure on housing, schools, transport, water, electricity, health and other public services but the AMA looks irrelevant in the face of these problems and challenges. It seems the only problem the AMA sees in Accra is Street Vending. The AMA does not see the choked gutters that are causing floods in the city. It does not see the waste which is engulfing the city. It does not see water and energy problems.
There is no official policy that seeks to reconcile the city’s growth with population. AMA does not have one basic ingredient needed to manage cities i.e. data/statistics and in the absence of data management has been spontaneous and sporadic.
What is obvious is that Accra seems to be too big for AMA to manage. Despite being the sole recipient of the District Assemblies’ Common Fund and proceeds of billions of taxes collected annually the challenges remain. The Sub-metros are poorly resourced and seem not have any share of the DACF and the taxes they collect. Choked gutters, dilapidated infrastructure is seen everywhere.
The DACF seem to be used by AMA to pay for salaries of workers with very little going into community development. Besides there is very little accountability with respect to what AMA does with the billions of cedis it collects annually. Public disaffection has grown to the extent that central government has been called upon to step in to redeem the city from the decadence and culture of non-performance.
The sub-metros should be given municipal status and the funds that go to KMA annually should be divided among them based on the same formula used by the District Assemblies Common Fund.
Advantages of making the sub-metros autonomous are huge. Unlike the current situation where AMA has been doing all the work (attracting investors, carrying different projects) each of the sub-metros will be empowered to undertake the burden currently shouldered by AMA and KMA. Accra will gain in terms of the hybrid of policies that will be carried out by the newly formed autonomous metros. The Sub-Metros are much closer to the communities and the people and therefore know the problems in the communities far better than the opaque AMA whose officials seem to be interested in taxes from the sub-metros and not the welfare of the communities.  The Sub-Metros are closer to the utility providers such as water and electricity and can work closely with them to solve the utility problems in the communities. While the Sub-Metros collect tolls, fees and taxes the AMA spends it sometimes with no input from the Sub-metros. Meanwhile some Sub-Metros do not have the basic logistics such as computers, stationery and vehicles despite collecting billions of cedis every year for the AMA. Making them autonomous will give them the opportunity to acquire the necessary logistics to better manage the communities. I believe competition between these autonomous sub-metros with separate but coordinated policies will make Accra the golden city we all want it to be.
Accra can be better managed when the sub-metros are financially empowered to manage the communities that come under their jurisdiction. It is therefore time to make the Sub-Metros autonomous with power to collect and spend the money they collect to improve the communities and the people who live in them.
People who live in these autonomous sub-metros must be made to feel part of it. They must be made to understand that they are the citizens of the metro and therefore direct beneficiaries of anything that goes in there (whether good or bad). Each of the autonomous sub-metros must embark on vigorous campaign to educate its citizens and integrate them in the decision-making process. Special Boards staffed with knowledgeable people must be set up in each of these autonomous metros to plan for the autonomous sub-metros. The boards could include Economic Development board, Energy board, Land, Housing, Education, Sanitation, Water and Roads and other transportation Infrastructure including telecommunication.
Those who run these sub-metros must not be imposed on the people. They must be people who are not there because of politics.
The main objective must be to stimulate growth within the autonomous sub-metros through competition and to improve the quality of life of people who live in those sub-metros. The local leaders must coordinate with national policy-makers but they must not rely entirely on national policy makers to advocate for the economic and social fortunes of their locality. The leadership of the sub-metros must move away from reliance on national policy-makers and generate their own policies that will take advantage of the resources in the area and use it to better its citizens.
Each autonomous sub-metro must take inventories of whatever resources they have and formulate policies with inbuilt strategies to use those resources to better the lot of their locality and its people. Based on the inventories each of the Sub-metro can specialise on some key sectors of the economy in which they have comparative advantage to engineer growth.
For example the sub-metro where Korle Lagoon is situated can devote resources to transform the Lagoon and its environs into a tourist/holiday destination by firstly depolluting the Lagoon, embarking on other infrastructural development to attract hospitality industry actors.
The Sub-metro where University of Ghana, Achimota School, and Legon Presec are situated can turn the whole area into a ‘Knowledge City’ by encouraging investors to take advantage of the schools and high quality of students available to establish research in science and technology, business incubators. The sub-metro can work with Vodafone, and other technology industries in the country to establish research outfits
Sub-metros with adequate land can turn their area into ‘residential hub’ or ‘manufacturing hub’ of the city of Accra by encouraging investors to build a hybrid of houses for the people in the city.
The sub-metro around Osu can turn the area into a Retail Centre of Accra by encouraging the building of shopping malls and other retail outlets to attract consumers and visitors to area.
This therefore calls for the formulation of policies and strategies that will market each of the sub-metros that will attract investors into the sub-metros to partner with the sub-metros authorities to deliver jobs, housing, and better services to the people. It also calls for the formulation of new strategies to mobilise resources internally and externally for the common good of the people in the sub-metros and for the greater good of Accra.
Autonomous will encourage competition among the various sub-metros and Accra will be the final beneficiary.

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