A former First Lady, Dr Ernestina Naadu Mills, has urged the government to resource players in the informal sector of the economy for them to contribute to the country’s growth.
“The voices of communities in the informal sector are important to us because there seems to be an invisible dividing line which keeps millions of people in unregulated jobs and housing, unseen and without access to support from the formal economy,” she said.
Speaking at the Informal City Dialogues (ICD2) and Accra Future-Now Video Awards presentation in Accra yesterday, the former First Lady said the informal sector, which was not catered for, “certainly slows down our capacity for growth and transformation because we know over 80 per cent of the workforce in Ghana are actively generating income in the informal sector”.
The ICD2 is a global, multi-stakeholder project fostering conversation about the role of informality in creating inclusion and resilience in future cities. The dialogue was organised by the African Centre for Economic Transformation (ACET), with the support of the Rockefeller Foundation,
The informal city covers diverse activities and actors whose livelihoods and dwellings are usually neither regulated nor protected by the state and yet often account for a large percentage of GDP, housing and transport.
Despite its size and importance in the developing world, the informal city is often excluded from planning and policy and is geographically separated.
That situation, Dr Mills observed, undermined the ability of young people to contribute their quota to the development of the country.
Speaking on a research done in connection with the project, she intimated that it was unacceptable that many young people in poor communities in Accra did not have access to schools, sanitation facilities, electricity, water and other basic services.
“Poverty can destroy many things; it can rob us of many opportunities today and sometimes of your dreams tomorrow too. So our job becomes more urgent as elders and leaders in communities. We need to do more to free ourselves and our children from these very basic obstacles and I know our government is working very hard to address many of these challenges,” she said.
In the video competition which gave members of three slum communities the opportunity to voice out their concerns and propose means to address them, a 19-year-old student of Accra High School emerged winner.
In the three-minute, 25-second video, Master Arongo, resident at Maamobi in Accra, expressed worry over the limited educational opportunities available in his community and called for government’s support to improve the situation.
He also urged people living in slums to see education as a tool for transformation and not just a means of acquiring wealth.
While Adam Alhassan,18, came second, 27-year-old A.M.I. Rukulai placed third in the contest that received 78 entries.
Key issues that cut across most of the videos were the lack of educational, sanitation and health facilities that slum dwellers have to deal with.
The Executive Director of People’s Dialogue on Human Settlements, Mr Braimah R. Farouk, said while most of the country’s cities had 80 per cent of the people working in the informal sector, most solutions designed to deal with problems of the cities dwelt so much on the formal sector.
In that regard, he urged city authorities to work closely with local communities in order to meet their needs.
The Chief Communications Officer of ACET, Dr Sheila Ochugboju, pledged the organisation’s commitment to the continuous engagement of local communities, so that they could lead advocacy for their concerns.