A GNA Feature by Alice Tettey
Cape Coast, Nov. 12, GNA - The Central Region of Ghana has been blessed with vast natural resources some of which remain untapped. These when fully harnessed could turn the region’s fortunes around with attendant rippling effects on the national economy.
Its ancient city; Cape Coast, served as the first administrative capital of the then Gold Coast, and is now the Regional Capital.
The region is endowed with vast arable lands and rich deposits of natural resources – clay, gold, bauxite and stone quarries and also produces cash crops, such as oil palm, cocoa and cashew, cassava, pineapple and citrus plantations. Salt ponds also abound there.
With a population of about 2.5 million people, the historical region has some top world class monuments, including castles and forts; while the famous Kakum National Park, developed with a canopy walkway in 1995, serves as an additional tourism site giving both foreign and local visitors the opportunity to view its unique fauna and flora.
The region’s 168-kilometre pristine coastal stretch and beachfronts are a sight to behold and could attract huge numbers of tourists from across the globe if well developed and managed. That could significantly bring in more revenue for development.
Indeed, posterity will judge this generation if it fails to tap the enormous rich resources nature has bestowed on the region, referred to as the “heartbeat of tourism” in the country, and allowed them to lay fallow or negatively exploited, whilst its inhabitants struggle with economic hardship – live in squalor and poverty.
Additionally, the rich culture of the people is linked with the numerous annual festivals, including those of Winneba - “Aboakyer”, “Oguaa- Fetu Afahye”, “Edina -Bakatue” and Anomabo - “Okyir”.
To add colour to these festivals are the displays of the various “Asafo” companies always - in their lovely crafted traditional attires and accoutrements, which serve as baits of attraction for large numbers of tourists who visit the area, all year round.
Combined with its wealth of natural endowments are the numerous prestigious educational institutions - both secondary and tertiary - earning it the accolade, “the cradle of education” in Ghana. Mfanstipim Boys; Mfantsiman Girls; Wesley Girls; Adisadel Boys; St. Augustine’s Boys; the Academy of Christ the King; Holy Child Girls, the Ghana National and Apam are some of the Senior High Schools.
Again, the region has produced eminent personalities and statesmen and women who had left their footprints in the sands of time. Indeed, many others are still at the helm of affairs both in national and international bodies.
Notable among the personalities are the late Busumuru Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations, Former President John Evans Atta Mills (of blessed memory), Mr Kweku Awotwe, the current boss of the Volta River Authority, Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang, a former Vice Chancellor of the University of Cape Coast and a former Minister of Education, to mention only a few.
Of course, it is worth mentioning the “Edwumawura”, Dr. Papa Kwesi Nduom, the founder of GN Companies, whose vast investments - hotels, banks, factories, a stadium and more – continue to provide employment for thousands of Ghanaians.
It is, therefore, a paradox that a region, blessed with both natural and quality human resources, could have about a third of its population wallowing in abject poverty.
It is more disturbing that at present, foreigners dominate in the exploitation of a large parts of the resources; leaving the citizens at the mercy these people.
With the introduction of the one district one factory (1D1F) initiative - the Government’s flagship industrialization policy, it is expected that the fortunes of the Central Region would change for the better and a different story told in the next few years to bring smiles on the faces of its citizens both home and abroad.
The initiative when well implemented would significantly raise their hope that there is a flourishing light at the end of the tunnel.
It is imperative that all defunct factories, including the Komenda Sugar Factory, Saltpond Ceramics, Asebu Fruit Processing Plant and the Bawjiase Starch Factory are revamped under the 1D1F to support the economy of the region.
From Ayanfuri in the West to Nyanyano in the East, all the 20 Metropolitan, Municipal and Districts have their own unique investment potentials that must be fully harnessed by sourcing for investors to develop every resource.
The region must never again be labelled as the fourth poorest in the country. Every Metropolis, Municipal or District has something that could culminate into large investment returns.
For instance, in Upper Denkyira West, which has Diaso as its capital, the economic activities there include food crop production, fish farming, cocoa farming, agro-processing and small scale mining. The possible investments here include large scale cassava cultivation and processing, wood processing and also cocoa processing.
Also in Upper Denkyira East where the district capital is Dunkwa-On-Offin, agriculture, wood processing and small scale mining, are the most dominant ventures with promising investment potentials in manufacturing of bricks and tiles, establishment of small scale jewellery companies, agro-processing centres and manufacturing of knocked down furniture for export.
Fish processing, tourism, ceramics and cashew cultivation are rife in the Efutu Municipality which has Winneba as its capital, with fishing as the mainstay of the local economy. Investors could consider boat building and repairs, building of landing sites, cold storage facilities, real estate and beach front developments.
Awutu Senya District with Awutu-Breku, as its capital, has its fair share of the good things. Cultivation of cassava in commercial quantities for starch processing, traditional crops such as pineapple and papaya and trading are the mainstay of the district’s economy. Starch factories and exports of pineapple and papaya could be considered.
TheKomenda-Edina-Eguafo-Abrem (KEEA) and Mfansteman Municipalities as well as Gomoa West District have large quantities of salt deposits that can be developed as the key investment products for export, aside other products such as sugarcane in Komenda for sugar production, pineapple and honey processing in Mfansteman and food and livestock production in the Gomoa West.
The Hemang-Lower-Denkyira District is rich in the cultivation of oil palm plantation. Investment opportunities are processing of oil palm into palm oil with its bi products into Amino Acids and deodorized or refined cooking oil. Establishment of Cottage Industries and the production of handicrafts are also viable.
These are but many of these opportunities found in the various MMDAs in the region, which must be harnessed to the maximum to benefit, the economy both at the district and national levels.
To successfully achieve this, the Central Region Development Commission (CEDECOM), instituted in the late 1980s as the technical and economic wing of the Regional Coordinating Council to help identify and tap the economic and tourism potentials should not be left out in the 1D1F programme.
This is because it has over the years drawn a comprehensive programme of action and has been instrumental in charting the course to economic boom of the region since its inception and achieved a lot in the 1990s.
CEDECOM has adopted strategies to implement clear cut Economic Intervention Projects to facilitate economic growth by providing strategic functions categorized under five main units.
The first being Integrated Tourism Development, the unit mooted and successfully organized the Pan-African-Historical-Theatre-Festival (PANAFEST) from 1992 until the government decided to make PANAFEST a foundation.’
PANAFEST became a major international tourism event on the country’s calendar biannually and attracted large numbers of African Americans from the Diaspora and other tourists into the region and through it the many of those, who, settled in Cape Coast and Elmina are excelling in their various fields of endeavour. It must, therefore be repackaged to reap its benefits.
The second is the Investment Promotion and Enterprise Development (IPED) unit that provides technical support to the private sector in the preparation of feasibility reports and business plans and the organisation of various investment events and trade fairs among other laudable functions, for small and medium scale enterprises.
Next, is the Communication and Information Management (CIM) unit, with the main objective of making ICT education accessible to private sector operators, students and the youth in general and public institutions, eager to be trained but lack access to computers.
There is also the Agriculture and Natural Resources Development, (ANARD) which builds the capacity of local farmers in non-traditional farming, bio-diversity management and widening the income generating base of CEDECOM through cultivation of oil palm, organic sugarloaf, among others.
The last but not the least important is the Administration and Human Resource Development (AHRD), which strengthens the human resource, institutional and fiscal management capacity of the Commission.
It is clear that CEDECOM has what it takes to be the sole secretariat for the 1D1F policy in the region. It has the requisite human resource to facilitate the successful implementation of the programme and this would help cut the cost of hiring new hands and save huge amounts for other developmental projects.
Let the authorities consider this option and give the Commission the leverage to perform and it would not be disappointed because it already has in place the framework that could facilitate the success of the 1D1F to make the region a preferred choice for investors.
It is against this backdrop that a stakeholders’ investment conference slated for early next year to herald a grand investment forum in April 2019 is being planned to showcase the area’s potentials to prospective investors.
It would be held under the auspices of the Regional Coordinating Council and CDEDECOM with support from the MMDAs and other stakeholders including the Coconut Grove Hotel.
The Central Region in this regard, is calling on all its partners and the business community to support it to exhibit its investment resources to the world to efficiently enhance the implementation of the 1D1F policy to propel it out of the quagmire of poverty and despondency, into one of prosperity and wealth.
The Central Region is poised to be a model region of the 1D1F policy for the rest of the country to emulate and it could not fail to achieve this feat.