A group photo of the participants after the opening session of the conference
A group photo of the participants after the opening session of the conference

Curbing Ghana’s uncontrolled urban expansion, traffic congestion challenges – Prof Owusu provides solutions

A Senior Lecturer at the Department of Geography, University of Ghana, Professor George Owusu, is of the view that providing incentives and disincentives for the use of public and private vehicles respectively will help to ease traffic congestion on Ghanaian roads, particularly in the major cities.

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His reason is that when people pay more to use private vehicles as compared to public transport services, many would turn to the use of public transport services.

He, however, said there was the need for the government to improve the country’s public transport services so as to help attract more people to patronise it.

Professor George Owusu was speaking to Graphic Online on the sidelines of a two-day conference hosted by the Merian Institute for Advanced Studies in Africa (MIASA) at the University of Ghana on May 22-23, this year.

The event, brought together persons in academia and other fields to deliberate on rapid urbanisation in Ghana as well as Africa and its effects if unchecked, was held on the theme: “Urban transformation pathways, sustainable governance, and urban resilience building.”

The MIASA is an institute under the College of Humanities, University of Ghana. It serves as a platform for German-African research collaboration in the social sciences and humanities aims at making African thinking increasingly relevant in academic debates. 

Expanding his argument on the traffic congestions in urban cities, Prof. Owusu said because the public transport services in the country in their current form was inconvenient, many people prefer to use their own means cars, hence compounding the traffic situation in many of Ghana’s major cities.

“We need to take our public transport seriously. We need to begin to invest in high capacity buses, which allow people to move in and out of the city. And we need to create incentives and disincentives,” he explained.  

Prof. Owusu who was speaking on the theme: “Large-scale urban road corridors development and its implications on sprawl, agriculture, and food security in Sub-Saharan African cities,” said “We need to create disincentives for the use of private vehicles. Because if you look at the current Uber and the others, they don't solve the problem, they compound the problem.”

For him, instead of adding more smaller cars on the roads to solve the transport services, it was better to invest in bigger buses and rail systems, saying “We need bigger buses, which actually promote public transport, that allow people to be able to use public transport.” 

He added, “So, instead of me driving my car…there should be incentives for me to use the public transport. And if I decide to use my private car, there should be disincentives. So elsewhere, they put tolls on the way.” 

Prof. Owusu further said “So, if you decide to drive your car from your house to work, probably you are paying four or five tolls before you get to your workplace. And elsewhere, what they do is that, as you get closer to the city, the amount of toll you pay goes up. So that serves as a disincentive for you to use your private car.” 

Expansion 

Touching on urban expansion, Prof. Owusu expressed the concern that unguided expansion would cause more harm to the country’s development than good. 

His point is that “When the city is expanding in the context of weak planning and land use, it compromises green spaces” and consume agricultural lands unnecessarily, a situation he noted, ought to be nipped in the bud.

He noted that while large-scale urban infrastructure is needed to address the infrastructure deficits in Africa cities, this should not be pursued at the expense of urban and land use planning, which compromises agriculture and food security.

He explained that rapid urbanisation, uncontrolled city expansion and mobility challenges are characteristic features of many cities in the Global South, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, where weak urban and land use planning, poor public transport system, and general weaknesses in urban governance exist.

Prof. Owuse expressed the worry that many of the green spaces in the Greater Accra area are have been lost as a result of urban expansion.

For him, if the fundamental challenges influencing expansion and traffic congestions are not dealt with, expanding road infrastructure alone would not solve the problem, hence urging duty bearers to prioritise land use planning as a critical component of the country’s development.

Prof. Owusu observed that ensuring controlled land use would help to solve some of the country’s most burdensome challenges, including traffic congestion, food security and pollution.

He also called for the decentralization of essential services such that people would not have to travel to the center of the cities to access such services, which add up to the traffic congestion. 

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For him, traffic congestion and commuting challenges in large African cities should be viewed as an infrastructural problem. 
Appreciation

Appreciation

The MIASA Directors, Prof. Grace Diabah and Prof. Mamadou Diawara, commended the MIASA organizing team for putting up the conference. 

They also commended their sponsors—the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the University of Ghana for their funding.

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