Development In A Vacuum: Challenges, Prospects And The Way Forward

January 29, 2018 Africa , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS

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Isaac Abban





There still continue to be wide disparities in standards of living between countries in the West such as Britain, France, Netherlands, Germany and the United States of America and developing countries, particularly those found in Africa, Latin America and some parts of Asia. Many pundits have attributed the development challenges faced by these developing countries to myriads of factors such as culture and belief systems and adverse geography by positing that the climate of countries in the global south is enervating and saps energy. Also colonial domination and exploitation by advanced countries which keeps developing countries in a dependent position have been used to explain the level of development in most developing countries (Frank, 1971).

In addition, Rostow (1960) sees the argument about the gap between the rich and poor nations as transitory. To Rostow, the cultural practices of the developing countries have made it extremely difficult for them to develop and hence the best way for developing countries to develop is to model themselves against advanced countries.

Although these explanations are all necessary to be grasped if we are to understand the meaning of the term ‘development’. Before 1960’s, gross national product (GNP) per capita was used primarily as a measure of development. However, the attention of development shifted from quantitative measures to include qualitative measures such as respect for human rights, freedoms, peace and harmony. Developing countries are subject to adverse development challenges such as adverse geography, low standard of living and productivity, rapid population growth rates, high levels of inequality and absolute poverty, low levels of human capital among others.

Ghana is not exempted from the adverse development challenges that affect developing nations. In recent times, it has shown a very fragile economy and deteriorating economic conditions and high levels of absolute poverty. These challenges bedeviling the country can be partly attributed to poor leadership that fails to take into consideration the needs of citizens. This paper will examine the meaning of development and then proceed to look at Ghana’s development challenges.



What Is Development?


The meaning of development has been highly contested as some have given varied definitions about what constitute development. Development is thought of as a process, but there are differing opinions on what the outcomes of development should be. At the individual level, development implies increased skill and capacity, greater freedom, creativity, self-discipline, responsibility and material well-being (Todaro & Smith, 2009). Development is the process by which the political, social and economic structures of a country are improved for the purpose of ensuring the well-being of its populace (Fisher, 1995).

Development is mainly progress, be it economic, social or cultural that serves the basic needs of both today and tomorrow. Sen (1999) has argued for an even broader concept of development focusing on the concept of freedom. He sees development as an integrated process of expansion of substantive freedoms. Economic growth, technological advancement and political change are all to be judged in the light of their contributions to the expansion of human freedoms. Among the most important of these freedoms are freedom from famine and malnutrition, freedom from poverty, access to health care and freedom from premature mortality. Thus, development occurs when the basic needs of people have been made accessible to them.

It is then logical to say that a complete definition of development must be the one that is geared towards the complete elimination of absolute poverty. Development is also seen as multidimensional that involves both qualitative and quantitative improvement in the lives of people. In addition, three additional requirements are necessary for the use of the term development, namely that there should be a decrease in poverty and malnutrition, that income inequality should decline, and that the employment situation should improve (Seers, 1979). Some people also argue that development must be sustainable, thus it must fulfil the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations. In sum, development is about change leading to improvement in the lives of people.



Ghana’s Development Problems


Many development challenges abound in Ghana as efforts were not made by successive leaders after 1966 to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor. After independence, Ghana’s development prospects looked very bright as Ghana’s first President used his ‘big push’ ideas to embark on ambitious projects. At certain point in time, Ghana had the highest per capita income in Africa with an enlightened citizenry coupled with an impressive manufacturing sector. However, after 1966, Ghana’s prospects started looking bleak. Today, the country is bedevilled with grave inequality and absolute poverty, poor industrial base, high levels of unemployment, corruption, rapid growth of population and urbanization.

For the sake of this paper, emphasis will be laid on the two major development challenges facing Ghana today, thus, high levels of unemployment and corruption.

To begin with, one major development problem facing Ghana today is high levels of unemployment. Unemployment in Ghana has become a very serious issue to contend with as Ghana’s population shows a youthful population. To clearly understand this phenomenon of unemployment, it means active persons between the ages of 15-24 who are capable of working and are looking for jobs but cannot find one. It is on record that about 5.8 of persons in Ghana are unemployed (Ghana Statistical Service, 2015). According to the World Bank, forty eight (48%) of people in the ages of 15-24 are unemployed. Also, the Ghana Living Standards survey for the year 2012/2013 however states that the unemployment rate in the country is marginally higher for females (2.0%) than males (1.6%) and higher in urban areas (3.5%) than in rural areas (0.8%).

Although the causes of the high unemployment rate in Ghana is multifaceted, it can be attributed to the rapidly growing population with little efforts on the side of government to provide jobs that will meet the demand of the rapidly growing population. The collapse of Ghana’s industrial base is another reason for the high levels of unemployment. In addition, shrinking public sector opportunities coupled with a relatively slow growth of the private sector explains Ghana’s high unemployment levels. This can be remedied if government puts more emphasis on technical and vocational education and also by rejuvenating the country’s weakened industrial base.

Furthermore, corruption is another serious development challenge bedevilling the country. Corruption is one of the most destructive impediment to economic and social development. It takes away resources from the common pool and deprives a large population of partaking in the share of the national cake. Despite Ghana’s good governance and democratic credentials, corruption still remains cancerous in our public service and society. Corruption has in most cases led to the diversion of resources that would have been used for development into the hands of few persons.

The causes of corruption are highly attitudinal but can also be attributed to low remuneration of public sector workers. Corruption in Ghana can be curbed by efforts on the side of government in strengthening state institutions like Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), National Commission on Civic Education (NCCE) to deal with perpetrators. Corruption is a serious canker hence the need to eradicate it completely.





In a nutshell, Ghana’s development prospects still look bright as efforts are being made to deal with the key issues that inhibit the country’s efforts at developing. The issue of unemployment for example should be seen as a reality by governments and hence the need to curb it. Of late, the rise of political vigilantism can be used to consolidate the claim that unemployment levels are high in Ghana since these groups put pressure on the government to provide them with jobs, hence there is the need for the government to deal with the high unemployment levels if the country is to achieve lasting peace and stability. In addition, the challenge of corruption has a long history since successive governments have failed to put in place measures that will aid in strengthening the existing state institutions. It is of the firm believe that the creation of the office of special prosecutor by the current government will help bring sanity in Ghana and hence the complete eradication of corrupt practices.






Isaac Abban

I’m Isaac Abban, a 24 year old man and a final year student studying Geography and Sociology at the University of Cape Coast, Ghana. I hail from Cape Coast in the central region of Ghana and have a keen interest in seeing to it that my generation and generations yet unborn in Africa are set free from the perils of illiteracy, ignorance and poverty. As an astute writer I believe that through writing the world can be made a better place.





Todaro, M.P. & Smith, S.C. (2010). Economic Development (10th ed.). Harlow:  England, Pearson Education Limited.

World Bank. (2006) World Development Report 2007. Development and the Next Generation. New York: Oxford University Press for the World Bank.

World Commission on Environment and Development. (1987) Our Common Future (the Brundtland Commission). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Sen, A. (1999). Development as Freedom. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Seers, D. (1969). The Meaning of Development.  International Development Review, 11: 2–6.

Rostow, W. W. (1960). The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto (6th ed.). Cambridge: University Press.

Frank, A.G. (1971), Capitalism and Underdevelopment in Latin America. Budapest: Pelican Publishers.

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