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Accra’s slums shortchanged by Ghana’s political machine

Jamestown, Accra. (David Stanley/flickr/cc)

Ghana’s urban population has exploded over the past three decades from 4 million to 14 million. Nearly 40 percent of city dwellers live in slums. Mohammed Awal and Jeffrey Paller write for the Africa Research Institute that residents of informal settlements are assiduously courted for votes, but rarely receive the neighborhood improvements they’re promised.

Awal and Paller blame the “urban political machine” that controls Accra and other cities. Nepotism is blatant. Politicians sometimes improve select neighborhoods or streets in exchange for support. Once elections are over, however, resources are often plowed into short-term political organizing rather than long-term municipal improvements. When elected officials do visit slums, it’s usually more about keeping up appearances than effectuating substantive change.

The political gamesmanship is occurring at a time when cities in Ghana and other African nations demand immediate attention. “Some commentators warn of an impending urban crisis,” the authors note. Slum upgrading and infrastructure investment are among the steps that international donors and urban experts insist must be taken now, the article says. Despite the challenges, the authors predict that slums will have growing importance in Ghanian politics since they represent a critical voting bloc.

Source: 
Africa Research Institute

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