Accra’s Resilience Journey

The City of Accra plays many vital roles: capital city, economic driver of Ghana, gateway to West Africa. The city’s economic renaissance is evidenced by robust growth, rising foreign investment, and an expanding urban middle class creating an internal market of global scale. Home to most of the country’s manufacturing industries, oil companies, institutions of higher education, and a hub for finance, telecommunication, and tourism, the Accra Metropolitan Area serves as the focal point for the Greater Accra Region’s economic development. This has attracted people from across Ghana and beyond to seek economic opportunities and a better quality of life. It has also led to rapid urbanisation.

Accelerated growth has effectively outpaced urban planning in Accra, presenting the city’s residents and administration with a range of complex challenges. Since forging our partnership in December 2014, the City of Accra and 100 Resilient Cities have worked collaboratively to bring together systems, institutions, and resources. We have worked to enable the city to prepare for and mitigate the effects of climate change, and to become more responsive to the acute and slow-burning disasters that come with rapid urbanisation – building a resilient future for all in Accra and especially for those communities most vulnerable to an interconnected set of challenges such as poor waste management, flooding, and disease outbreak.

Today we are thrilled to unveil Accra’s Resilience Strategy, a holistic roadmap of immediate and long-term actions to ensure the metropolitan district and surrounding area are better equipped to face the challenges of the 21st Century. A result of broad and inclusive engagement over more than three years, the strategy’s 3 pillars, 8 goals, and 27 initiatives support Accra’s ambition of becoming a smart, sustainable, and resilient city that anticipates and plans for unexpected shocks and stresses, rather than reacts to them. Central to the Resilience Strategy is a vision to transform the city’s ongoing stresses into opportunities: by embracing informality as an engine of growth, designing infrastructure to improve our natural and built environments, and optimising our resources and systems for greater efficiency, accountability, and transparency.

We are particularly excited to begin work on the initiatives in the strategy’s third pillar: Embrace Informality’s Contributions to Resilience Building. There is growing acknowledgement of the informal sector as a mainstay in Africa’s urbanisation narrative – a topic we explored during a recent Network Exchange on Urban Informality, and the annual African Centre for Cities’ International Urban Conference – and its significant scale in Accra means that it cannot be ignored. Rather, we will learn from it and make strides toward integrating its most successful components into the city’s formal sector. For example, over 80% of the urban population participates in the informal economy; they contribute enormously to Ghana’s GDP but lack any welfare benefits. New initiatives in the Resilience Strategy seeks to facilitate access to safety nets and coverage in Ghana’s National Health Insurance Scheme for informal workers, so that they may respond better to physical risks, economic crisis and job insecurity, medical emergencies, and other shocks. Another critical initiative aims to launch a program to integrate informal waste collectors into the municipal waste management system. This will complement innovations in formal waste collection, and play an integral role in providing an efficient alternative in underserved areas such as informal settlements and markets. Support for these and similar programs will come from a newly-created, external working group on the informal economy, run by the Accra Metropolitan Assembly’s Resilience and Sustainability Unit.

This is just a taste of what’s ahead for Accra. Today’s strategy release in no way marks the end of our resilience journey, and the City of Accra is committed to implementation. This next phase will require significant coordination and collaboration, similar in many regards to the efforts required to develop this ambitious vision for resilience. Partners will play an essential role. And with many of the city’s challenges traversing jurisdictional boundaries, we also look forward to a regional approach at the Greater Accra level to ensure a strong, resilient future for all residents. Join us as the journey continues.