Story: Vincent Adedze, Tamale
The Northern Regional Minister, Alhaji Mustapha Ali Iddris, has stated that no amount of resource intervention and goodwill can lift the northern sector of the country out of its poverty and current predicament unless citizens of the area themselves strive to emerge from their psychological inertia and mindset.
“Citizens of northern Ghana must believe in their inherent ability to turn the fortunes of the area round themselves; It is good and proper to have well-wishers and friends who care and are prepared to help but the essential point is that the people are the most important factor in effecting any desired change,” he pointed out.
Alhaji Iddris said this in a speech read on his behalf at a roundtable conference on the development of northern Ghana in Tamale on Tuesday.
It was aimed at, among other objectives, evolving effective strategies to accelerate development in the three northern regions.
The conference was organised by the Tamale campus of the Institute of Local Government Studies (ILGS) in collaboration with the German Development Service (DED).
Representatives of civil society groups, non-governmental organisations and development partners in the northern region attended the conference.
The minister noted that the government “does not see the bridging of the gap between the north and the south as mere goodwill or a political game”.
According to him, the latest demonstration of the government’s commitment towards the development of the northern Ghana was the establishment of the Northern Development Fund in next year’s budget with the sum of ¢250 billion.
Alhaji Iddris further observed that the conference was a “good start at developing a harmonised approach to multi-donor programming”.
“About 60 per cent of our people do not have access to affordable health care and education, hence ignorance and illiteracy are high; these are but some of the issues I will want you to consider in your deliberations,” the minister pointed out.
The Director of the Tamale Campus of the ILGS, Dr Callistus Mahama, said social indicators pointed to the fact that “infant mortality, malnutrition and stunted growth among children under five years are generally higher in the three northern regions than in the south”.
According to the director, the dropout rate for boys and girls was as high as 74 and 83 per cent respectively in the early 1990s, adding that the quality of education in this area was “frighteningly low, further impinging on enrolment and retention”.
The Local Governance Support Programme Adviser of the DED, Mr Dirk Otten, noted that the conference was part of a number of initiatives that his outfit had taken to promote awareness of, and participation in development co-operation, particularly in promoting democracy through capacity building and building local democracy.
The Advocacy Programme Officer of Send Foundation, a non-governmental organisation, Mr John Nkaw, called for “cross sectoral collaboration to help tackle poverty issues in the north on a sustainable basis”.
The Regional Director of the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE), Mr Issah Nassagri, noted that although institutional and legal frameworks were available, local governance was still a challenge in the region.