Ghana is a constitutional democracy with two spheres of government: central and local. Local government is enshrined in the constitution, as is decentralisation, and the main relevant legislation is the Local Government Act 1993. There are three types of assemblies, which are the highest levels of local government: metropolitan, municipal and district. There are also sub-structures that do not hold any legislative or rating powers and undertake activities delegated to them by the assemblies: sub-metropolitan, district, urban, town, zonal and area councils and unit committees. The district assemblies are responsible for the setting and collecting of local revenue. There are also numerous grants transferred from central to local government, the most important of which is the District Assemblies’ Common Fund, where not less than 7.5% of GDP must be transferred to and distributed by the assemblies annually. The assemblies are responsible for the provision of basic education, although central government retains control over education policy. The districts are also responsible for public health, environmental protection and sanitation, whilst social welfare is a shared responsibility.
The ILO, the UN’s main LED delivery agent, defines LED as ‘a participatory development process to create decent jobs and stimulate economic activity; LED encourages partnership arrangements between the main private and public stakeholders. LED enables the joint design and implementation of a common development strategy, by making use of the local resources and competitive advantage.’ LED emerged as a strategy for poverty reduction in the early sixties with a strong emphasis on attracting outward investment and major infrastructure projects supported by the World Bank and bilateral aid transfers. In its current wave, the focus has moved to growing local businesses and developing enabling environments for businesses to thrive, driven by partly by declining inflows of external development finance and the need to develop more sustainable and local models for development. LED has evidenced a major impact on poverty reduction, in emerging markets such as Chile, Thailand and China, the contribution of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) to employment is above 80%. The rise of a country’s GDP per capita correlates strongly to the number of successful MSMEs operating within that country. Local government, often the closest form of government to citizens, is uniquely placed to support MSME’s by ensuring local conditions for business administration, access to finance, and business development support are in place to support local business to thrive.
In Ghana, the Poverty Reduction Strategy gives district assemblies a mandate to tackle local poverty and improve standards of living. A national framework for Local Economic Development is in place and significant transfers from central government to regional development agencies and the Common Fund have been earmarked for LED. District Assemblies (DA’s) are also promoting public-private dialogues, increasingly prioritising LED budgets and encouraging cooperation between public decision-makers, entrepreneurs, and NGOs through LED committees, this has led to an increase in external funding for LED activities. More and more District Assemblies view LED as a standard part of their service delivery to communities. Despite this commitment to resourcing LED, district level assemblies have limited capacity and funding to undertake effective LED initiatives and interventions. It is in response to this situation that, in consultation with its members, the National Association of Local Authorities of Ghana identified LED as an appropriate theme for the GPS in Ghana.
At the UNCDF Global Forum on Local Development 2011 local government was identified as the key state agent in delivering Local Economic Development for poverty reduction as the sphere of government with the most opportunity for direct community and small business engagement and as because of its responsibilities around infrastructure, business regulation and managing trading spaces. The aim of the GPS projects in Ghana is to ensure that Ghanaian local authorities are empowered to take on this important work and have the capacity to manage LED projects and interventions for the benefit communities.
LED was the main focus of the CLGF Conference, in Cardiff UK, March 2011. Click here for presentations, outcomes and the report.
CLGF Ghana Local Government Profile
The National Association of Local Authorities of Ghana
BBC Ghana Profile
UNDP: Localisation of MDGs in Ghana
DfID: Annual Progress on MDGs
IMF: Poverty Reduction Strategy for Ghana
Ghana News Agency
Graphic Ghana News
FCO: Latest Ghana Travel Advice
Ghana High Commission UK