“Success is Limited when Extravagance Exceeds Sustainability”
Building bigger, higher and faster is not always the solution for economic, social and cultural advancement. New construction projects have to be intelligently planned with a special focus on the environment, social ecology and sustainability.
The Republic of Ghana is a country whose ancient and modern history is something to be proud of: the ancient kingdom of the Ashanti, whose rich language, history and culture formed an empire that mined and traded gold with merchants from North Africa and the Sudan; the independence movements of African nations, where Ghana was at the forefront of self-governance post-colonization and Pan-Africanism ; and its growing sectors in telecommunication and tourism puts it at the top of the list as one of the most stable and friendly places in Africa to live, work and visit.
It seems like recently, at least for its metropolitan dwellers, that parts of the Republic of Ghana are rapidly converting into an African Silicon Valley in that there is cultural emphasis and economic investment in the field of information and communication technology. A new project currently in the works is called HOPE City, which is to be built close to the region of Accra, the coastal capital city of more than 2.2 million people.
HOPE (Home, Office, People, and Environment) is a current project for a technology park that has a goal to house 25,000 people, offer employment opportunities to about 50,000 people, and construct the tallest building in Africa. Construction of HOPE City began in 2013 and has plans to include schools, restaurants, a university, a hospital, tech centers and more.
With a price tag of about $10 billion, this ambitious project can be a complete success not only if it all goes according to plan, but if it is ecologically sound. One important factor that owners, developers and urban planners often forget to include in their blue prints are aspects of ecological sustainability. HOPE City is an excellent place to display how an African based and African-owned entrepreneurial enterprise can empower the skilled, educated and eager millennial generation in investing their time and energy to making their homeland truly great.
Ghana is a perfect place to continue this ICT revolution in that it has a lot of benefits many other countries in that region of West Africa do not share:
>RLG Communictions is a state-of-the-art Ghana-based tech company that makes laptops, computers and mobile phones.
> Ghana is engaging in government transparency to reduce corruption.
> The Akosombo dam in Ghana produces a lot of hydroelectric energy for Ghana and for export.
> Ghana is a relatively stable democracy with an ever diversifying economic system: minerals, petroleum, ICT, agricultural goods, tourism, research and manufacturing.
> Its rich culture, use of local languages and English, can help it relate it to its neighbors and their economies. Nigeria for example could benefit from a fellow West African technology and logistics hub to build upon their own economy by trading and diversifying.
The 2020 vision for Ghana includes rapid industrialization in all industries in order to propel it into the 21st Century as a stable and technologically advanced democracy. A few things to beware of would be an excessive waste of natural resources, income inequality, and the suppression of freedom of speech. All of these factors can hamper socioeconomic growth in a place where the plight of Sub-Saharan Africa could be completely turned around.
Although Ghana has been experiencing growth from the extraction of hydrocarbon fuels, they should make it their philosophy to power HOPE City from sustainable and renewable energy sources by installing wind turbines and solar panels nearby. In addition to energy needs, proper recycling and urban architecture must be conducive to pedestrian traffic in order to reduce dependence on personal vehicles (include a commuter rail in the project?). New structures should also adapt the idea of including rooftop and vertical gardens. The leaves of trees and plants reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, while helping to maintain a lower temperature anywhere from 3ºC to 11ºC by a process known as transpiration. Reducing the temperature by a natural process reduces the energy needed to cool structures, and provides an ecological environment that adds to the livability factor of a new human development.
Income inequality should be tackled by providing living spaces that are as I mentioned before, friendly to pedestrian traffic. A sprawling, ever-expanding cityscape, where personal vehicles are necessary for obtaining necessities (food, clothes, medicine, hospitals, schools, etc.) is not sustainable. As we are currently seeing in the United States, one of the most developed countries in the world, that urban sprawl is one of the causes of income inequality, crime, and poor health.
Freedom of speech, expression, religion, assembly, and the freedom to promote digital and print media, are probably the most important aspects of evolving a state socioeconomically and culturally. New ideas need to be diffused unhampered by repressive forces in order to influence more people to do better than their predecessors. The government of Ghana will have to allow for people to freely and openly criticize, protest, and demonstrate without fear of repression.
As time goes forth one can only hope and imagine what a techno-ecological revolution could bring to not only the people of Ghana, but to all those in West Africa whose skills and entrepreneurship could propel themselves beyond what no other has done before.
By Opton A. Martin