For good political campaigning, the Ghanaian electorate have come to learn that great promises are sine qua non. The politicians relish making promises because there is no consequence really to it if they are unable to fulfil them.
Come the next political campaign season, they only need to routinely re-package and recycle the same promises. The Anlos have a name for it: xevidzi (a dazzling red bird which does not exist)
For Election 2016, a promise of one factory by Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo- Addo, the NPP flag bearer, to each Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assembly (MMDA) has been applauded. It has also been equally booed. It depends on where one’s political allegiance lies.
To give some perspective to a one-district-one-factory policy, an unlabelled tricolour Ghana map depicting the size and location of each of the 216 districts is provided. Each district is a potential host of a factory. The patchwork, therefore, shows 216 factories in the event that Nana Addo comes to power in 2017.
The striking feature of this map is the exceedingly tiny size of some of the districts. The Sissala West in the Upper West has a population of less than 50,000. Kadjebi East in the Volta Region has nearly the same population. The GDP of Sissala West Region and Kadjebi East may be equally tiny, considering the natural resource endowments and the low economic activities of the districts. Without any intention to sound cynical, one may question, on a stand-alone basis, what type of factory is feasible for these districts?
One must hasten to state that the idea of district industrialisation is not a new one. The Ministry of Trade and Industries (MOTI) has such a policy since the mid-1990s when the districts were much bigger in size. The Small Scale Industrial Development Initiative was given a new focus during the President Kufuor regime of 2001-2008 under the Millennium Development Goals. Known as the Presidential Initiatives, Cassava processing into industrial starch, textile and garments, palm oil production and salt mining were identified.
The Cassava Starch Initiative still has a processing plant located at Bawjiase in the Central Region, serving several administrative districts. Its supplies traditionally come from districts in Awutu, Gomoa, Agona, Ga, Akwapim South, Asuogyaman and Akyem. In a more recent time, it has sourced cassava from as far afield as Sogakope, Hohoe and Nkwanta in the Volta Region. Thus one single factory has been able to impact on the economy of several districts with all the advantages of economy of size. This factory, Ayensu Starch Company, was set up on the model of a Cottage Venture Entrepreneurship (COVE) or Nnoboa with the Cassava Farmers Association, the government and the banks holding shares as a co-operative. This model did not work and the factory has been partially divested to a public private partnership.
During the Small Scale Industrialisation Initiative era of recent years, the MOTI has pursued the policy by phasing it over five years by the end of which each of the 216 districts will have an industry. Is Nana Addo’s promise a continuation of this initiative which has nothing to show till date?
Yes, there is no lack of choice of industry that Nana Addo could establish in a district. However, the tiny nature of the districts, several of which cram into an ecological zone with same type of natural resources, makes one wonder whether for viability it might not make more sense to go for “commonality” by siting an industry strategically to serve several districts with contiguous boundaries? For example, in the south-easterly districts of Keta, Anlo, Ketu, Avenor and Tongu, a budding sugar and alcohol distilling industry could be located in one of the districts to serve sugar cane production in all the districts. This will cut down on infrastructural development costs of establishing a factory in each district.
Yes, it is possible to establish a factory in each of the 216 districts. But what type of factory? A concrete block, a shed with a couple of looms, a bakery, a collection of blacksmiths turning out farm implements all qualify as factories. Is that what Nana has in mind in this modern era? If Mr Frazier might have a say, he would say, “Nana, revisit John Kufuor’s President’s Initiative with a PPP model. And be careful about whom you choose as managers, else, you are catching the electorate a xevidzi.