The northern savannah zone, above the 8th parallel, is Ghana’s “breadbasket.” This region supplies much of the nation’s crop yields to Ghana’s largest markets, the Greater Accra region (estimated population 4 million) located on the country’s southern coast, along the Gulf of Guinea, and Kumasi (estimated population 2 million) in the Ashanti region. Ghana shares borders with Burkina Faso to the north, Togo to the east, and Côte d’Ivoire to the west.
USAID- FinGAP defines Northern Ghana as the area north of the 8th parallel, constituting the regions of Northern, Upper East, Upper West and some parts of Brong Ahafo and Volta regions. Northern Ghana is relatively unpopulated compared to the rest of the country; 80% of Ghana’s population lives below the 8th parallel.
Major transportation routes make the region easily accessible and provide channels for moving and exporting goods. An uncongested two-lane highway in relatively good condition is the main physical infrastructure supporting north-south trade. Lake Volta, formed after the Akosombo Dam was completed in 1965, is another major transportation route from the north to the south of Ghana, providing a waterway for ferries and cargo watercraft. The Akosombo Dam provides hydroelectric power for Ghana, as well as for neighboring Togo and Benin.
Tamale, Northern Ghana’s largest city, has the potential to become a major agricultural center. Its location is ideal for serving as an aggregation/warehousing point and transport center to export routes north into Burkina Faso and other Sahelian countries, as well as south to the major centers of Kumasi and Accra. Tamale is located at the northern edge of Lake Volta, from where it can expedite transportation of agricultural products via two southern routes: to Kumasi down the western side of Lake Volta, and to Accra/ Tema on the eastern side of the lake.
Investment in the region has the power to unlock underutilized resources. Arable land is abundant, and smallholder farmers are eager to improve on their livelihoods. Ghana is home to more than 20 large-scale, commercial food processors involved in the maize, soy, and rice value chains; many of which are located in the North. Many of these processing facilities operate under capacity due to limited access to agricultural product supply, as well as limited financing to purchase increased levels of supply.
Northern Ghana is also home to approximately 150 warehousing facilities relevant to the maize, soy, and rice value chains, most of which are in good condition, and many of which are not utilized at full capacity for similar reasons.
“Northern Ghana has the biggest potential in achieving return on investment. The vast land, good vegetation, good soils, and water bodies are good resources for a better yield at lower cost.”
Over the last decade, Ghana has achieved impressive growth rates between 5-8% annually and is now classified as a “middle income” country. The World Bank’s “Doing Business” index ranks Ghana as a Top 10 Reformer and the best performer in West Africa by a significant margin. According to The World Bank’s “Doing Business” 2013 report, the average time to start a business in Ghana is 12 days, down from 33 days in 2010 and 129 days in 2003. Investor confidence is growing.
“We are getting good returns on our investment. The availability of raw materials and relatively cheap labor makes Northern Ghana the most sustainable and attractive location to invest in.”
Ghana’s stable democracy, rule of law, and investor protection mechanisms are contributing to investor confidence and are impacting FDI flows; in 2012, Ghana attracted $4.9 billion in FDI, second in the region only to Nigeria. The Government of Ghana is actively encouraging foreign investment and plans to transform its agriculture sector through the Ghana Commercial Agriculture Project and other programs.
Photos: Batik Cloth - Adam Jones, Lake Volta - Jonatan Freund