By Alfred Vanderpuije This week at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town, leaders will come together to discuss Africa’s future.
One of the three focus themes is the importance of ‘Strategic Infrastructure’ as a foundation for the continent’s growth.
As Mayor of Accra and Chief Executive of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly, I would say that there are few areas as crucial for infrastructure investment as cities.
Investors are flocking to the country’s capital Accra to take advantage of new business opportunities and become part of this success story.
Mastercard recently identified Accra as one of Africa’s top cities in terms of economic growth potential over the next few years.
Local and foreign firms are also driving a number of urban development opportunities such as Ghana Cyber City, King City and Appolonia City which aim to set up modern, high-tech hubs within and around Accra.
I welcome these initiatives, however, at the top of my agenda is Accra itself and the transformation of its existing systems and services for the benefit of its citizens and businesses.
The truth is we cannot look to Accra’s future opportunities, without looking into the challenges of today.
Accra’s existing infrastructure is being put under increasing strain by an influx of new residents – the city’s population has expanded by over 1 million people – a 35 percent increase in the past decade alone.
As we cannot, and will not, put a wall around the city to restrict the arrival of new residents, we can expect this trend to continue.
We must therefore act today to ensure that the city’s systems – from transportation, to water, sanitation, energy, healthcare, public safety, education and administration – are able to accommodate and cope with this influx of new residents.
For instance, today nearly all transportation in Accra is by road, but 70 percent of the vehicles carry only 30 percent of the people – a trend which causes significant traffic jams during peak hours.