The Social Context



One of the most stable and developed countries in Africa, Ghana’s economy is among the largest in the continent and one of the fastest growing in the world. It is a significant petroleum and natural gas producer, one of the world’s largest gold and diamond producers, and the second largest producer of cocoa in the world.

Ghana’s economy has been strengthened by a quarter century of relatively sound management, a competitive business environment, and sustained reductions in poverty levels. In late 2010, Ghana was recategorized as a lower middle-income country. Ghana is well-endowed with natural resources and agriculture accounts for roughly one-quarter of GDP and employs more than half of the workforce, mainly small landholders. The services sector accounts for 50% of GDP. Gold and cocoa production and individual remittances are major sources of foreign exchange. Oil production at Ghana’s offshore Jubilee field began in mid-December 2010,and is producing close to target levels. Additional oil projects are being developed and are expected to come on line in a few years.

The Ghanaian Government has placed great emphasis upon further tourism support and development. Tourism contributed to 4.9% of GDP in 2009, attracting around 500,000 tourists. Tourist destinations include Ghana’s many castles and forts, national parks, beaches, nature reserves, landscapes and World Heritage buildings and sites

In 2011, Forbes Magazine, published that Ghana was ranked the eleventh most friendly country in the world. The assertion was based on a survey in 2010 of a cross-section of travellers. Of all the countries on the African continent that were included in the survey Ghana ranked highest.



Accra was founded in the fifteenth century by Ga settlers and became a magnet for the economically active, including local and foreign industry owners, manufacturers, and workers. Accra became the seat of the British Colonial administration in 1877. Its status and location as a good natural port and fishing centre and as the nucleus for local trading industries made it the primary destination for Ghana’s internal migration. This rapid expansion has transformed this once-sleepy coastal fishing village into one of Africa’s largest cities.[1]


Environment and Health

The high population density has resulted in congestion, overcrowding, substandard housing, inadequate education and health facilities, poor sanitation, and a generally degraded environment. In poor communities and cities like Accra, the worst problems tend to be associated with a lack of adequate water, sanitation and waste disposal services. The 1991 Annual Report on health for GAMA emphasized the twin role of poor environmental conditions and the lack of health knowledge in causing hygiene-related diseases.

Solid waste collection is a problem around the home where, according to a recent survey, at least 42% of people practice open storage. The 300,000 tons of solid waste collected per year in Accra alone represent only 60% of waste generated.



Urban poverty is a fact in Accra, where about 48% of the metropolitan population have income levels below the World Bank’s absolute poverty threshold of $307 per capita per annum. A 1992 report on housing needs in the metropolitan area revealed that 95% of the population earn below the International Labour Organization’s stipulated poverty line of $4.00 per day. Accra’s poor tend to be concentrated in high-density residential areas and represent 43% of the total population.

Awareness of the nexus between urban poverty and the environment has become a primary concern in Accra. Many of the worst features of urban poverty are environmental, such as inadequate access to safe water, poor waste management practices, contaminated food, and insect infestation. Another of Accra’s critical problems is the management of waste water and drainage throughout the city; industrial, commercial, and residential waste water often discharge into open drains and flood channels. Responsibility for maintaining waste water disposal and drainage lies with a number of local and metropolitan authorities. Due to inadequate financial resources, weak management capability and the lack of well-trained and motivated personnel, however, the resultant health and environmental hazards are severe.

The number of people in Accra is also a problem, as the urban centre does not possess the employment base, the infrastructure, or the social services to support sustained mass migration. The high population density has already resulted in congestion, overcrowding, substandard housing, inadequate education and health facilities, poor sanitation and a generally degraded environment.


Old Accra


This community, once formed by the original settlers – the Ga, was at the heart of the city and had a relatively prosperous economy (predominantly fishing-based), but was importantly affected by the transfer in the 1960s of the harbour activities to another location and is nowadays confronted by general poverty, high population density, deteriorated housing, and poor urban and social services.[2]

Old Accra experiences some of the highest levels of poverty in the capital. According to a 2004 report, in 2000, 12,000 children attended Primary and JS schools, out of a juvenile population of 50,000 and 71.4% of children die between the age of 1 month and 5 years. The area is severely overcrowded, with over 1000 people per hectare, 7-10 people often living in the same room and a severe deterioration of the housing stock. 80% of the population are without a domestic toilet and as public toilets charge many people use the beach as a toilet.[3]

At the same time, Old Accra – the cradle of modern Accra – has numerous sites of cultural and historical interest. The harbor is still used by over 100 fishing canoes, a stones throw away from Jamesfort and Usherfort slave forts.

The palaces of the Ga Mantse, the paramount Chief of the Ga, the Gebese Manste, Abola Manste, Asere Manste, Sempe Mantse, Otublohum Manste, the Akumajey Manste and the Jamestown Mantse are all to be found in the area as well as the seats of the Nai, Sakumo and Korley Wolomei, the traditional priests –  the original rulers of the Ga state in precolonial times when Ga was a theocracy. The area is also home to many of Accra’s leading drummers and dancers and there are numerous ‘cultural groups’ training and rehearsing. However, due to a variety of factors, such as gradual westernisation of cultural tastes and cost, drummers and dancers have been replaced at most traditional cultural events such as funerals, weddings and ‘outdoorings’[4] by DJs and sound-systems.


Youth Unemployment

In 2006, the unemployment rate among Ghanaian youth aged 15-24 was estimated to be 69 per cent.[5]Since the 2008 general election, increasing importance has come to be attached to tackling the issue of youth unemployment. High levels of population growth have not been matched by rates of job creation and there is a growing recognition that economic growth, even when it is achieved, does not necessarily entail job creation.

Several factors account for the high youth unemployment rate in Ghana.

Most notably among these factors is low economic growth which is manifested in low economic activity and low investment. This entails in overall low job creation. Given the sustained population growth rate with the population regarded as a young and growing type, labour markets are not able to absorb all the new comers resulting in scarcity of jobs which leads to a bias selection by education and experience as well as efficient social networks.  Young people are at pains to position themselves in order to benefit from this regrettably unfair system. There is a disparity of skills in the youth labour market in Ghana, partly as a result of lower enrolment rates coupled with low completion rates, low quality of education and a failure to orient curricula with the needs of the private sector.[6]

The costs of social and economic costs of youth unemployment are considerable.

The consequences of youth unemployment are severe. Unemployment has social as well as economic consequences for young people and the society at large.  Unemployed youth are forced to find alternatives to generate income, including activities in the survival-type informal sector like hawking and in the extreme, criminal activities. The lack of economic empowerment and active engagement in social development generally increases the vulnerability of the youth to social vices such as armed robbery, drug trafficking, teenage pregnancy and prostitution.[7]


the issue of rising youth unemployment nags particularly at governments in the sub-region and the greater developing world, because skyrocketing levels of youth unemployment fan the flames of conflict. In Liberia, Sierra Leone and Cote d’Ivoire for example, unemployed youth have been a reservoir for rebel recruits.[8]

Recognition of the need to tackle this issue has been well established, for example in both the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS) and the Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy 2006-9 (GPRSII).

Skill and entrepreneurial gaps are evident in the labour market in Ghana, given the constraints with school enrolment, quality and relevance. Three groups of young people require support most in this regard. These are young people who are barely literate due to early drop out or inability to attend school, and those who have completed (a stage of) formal education but are unemployed due to reasons of quality/ relevance of education. The third group comprises young people who though they have acquired some skills yet need retraining especially in good management practices to succeed in the labour market.[9]



Tourism currently plays a relatively moderate but growing role in the economy of Ghana. Tourism is currently the fastest growing sector of the Ghanaian economy (The real tourism GDP grew by 10.3% in 2004 and 12.28% in 2005).

It is currently considered to be the fourth largest source of foreign exchange earnings (estimated at US$650 million in 2005), and contributes approximately 5% to the country’s GDP. In terms of its contribution to formal employment, the tourism industry employs an estimated 150,000 – 200,000 people directly and indirectly.

Tourist arrivals in Ghana have steadily increased over the past 15 years from approximately 145,000 in 1990 to 600,000 in 2004. Ghana receives visitors from various parts of the world. The principal source markets in order of importance are Ghanaians abroad, the West African sub-region (Nigeria, Togo, Cote d’Ivoire), Northern Europe (UK, Germany, France, The Netherlands), and North America (mainly US). The majority of visitors tend to be business travellers and those visiting friends and relatives (VFRs). Ghana is also attracting visitors through promoting itself as homeland for the African Diaspora.

As a means of tackling unemployment in Ghana, tourism has considerable potential. The Ghana Draft National Tourism Policy 2006 acknowledged that

Apart from generating foreign exchange earnings and revenue for governments, tourism has the potential to become a powerful tool in pro-poor development strategies. It has the ability to create jobs and wealth for local economies, as well as contribute to conserving natural resources. It is envisaged that tourism will be one of the pillars of productive and a sustainable source of national revenue, decent employment and poverty reduction.

Tourism is the world’s largest generator of jobs as tourism is labour-intensive. The tourism industry has the lowest ratio of investment to job creation and tourism employs a multiplicity of skills many of which can be learned on-the-job. Tourism can also drive other sectors of the economy as there is an enormous potential for both forward and backward linkages to other sectors especially the hospitality, agricultural, and manufacturing, transport and construction sectors. Tourism can create entrepreneurial opportunities in both the formal and informal sector. The tourism industry, perhaps more than any other economic sector, has the potential to provide a wide range of opportunities for involving and benefiting Ghanaians, including:

  • Operators of tourism facilities (accommodation, restaurant, bars, clubs, cultural shows, traditional music and dance venue, etc.)
  • Service providers for tourists (travel agency, tour guides, transport, etc).
  • Suppliers of goods to tourism businesses (art and crafts, construction material, vegetables, fruits, herbs, etc).
  • Service providers to tourism businesses (e.g. traditional dance and music, crafts making activities, story-telling, drama, staff training, secretarial, marketing, booking, laundry, maintenance, construction,
  • gardening, landscaping, transportation, etc.

The tourist industry can also build cross-cultural relations and contribute to nation building, influence visitor awareness of, and create export markets for, local goods. It can help strengthen rural communities by bringing development to rural areas where many of the prime tourism attractions are located. This allows rural people to share in the benefits of tourism development. Furthermore it can contribute to protecting the environment, particularly when the tourism activity is reliant on the maintenance and restoration of the landscape and its natural features (lakes, rivers, estuaries, beaches, forests, wetlands, and wildlife areas). Finally, tourism can contribute to greater gender equality, as a higher proportion of tourism benefits, in the form of employment and informal trade opportunities, go to women. Tourism employs more women (and youth) than most other industries.

Governmental tourism policy in Ghana can be understood to be inclined towards supporting and nurturing a variety of different varieties of tourism that can have positive social and environmental as well as economic outputs :

  • Community Tourism[10] – Community based tourism usually seeks to promote tourism initiatives of local communities and individuals at grassroots level and often has a focus on poverty reduction, social empowerment, and environmental conservation.
  • Cultural Tourism[11] – Travel to places for purposes of observing and participating in cultural aspects of interest to the visitor and may include the customs and traditions of people, their heritage, history and way of life.
  • Ecotourism – Environmentally and socially responsible travel to natural or near natural areas that promotes conservation, has low visitor impact, and provides for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local people.
  • Pro-Poor Tourism  – An approach to tourism; one in which tourism aims to generate net economic, socials, environmental, and cultural benefits for the poor by unlocking opportunities for the poor within tourism.
  • Responsible Tourism – Responsible tourism implies a proactive role by all tourism stakeholders to develop, market, and manage the tourism industry in a responsible manner; responsible for the environment through its sustainable use; responsible for the well-being of local communities in the tourism industry; responsible for the preservation of local cultures; responsible for the safety and security of visitors.
  • Sustainable Tourism  – Sustainable tourism development meets the needs of present tourists and host regions while protecting and enhancing opportunities for the future. It is envisaged as leading to management of all resources in such as way that economic, social, and aesthetic needs can be fulfilled while maintaining cultural integrity, essential ecological processes, biological diversity, and life support systems.

In terms of development goals, therefore, the strategy identifies the need

To develop a selective number of high quality tourism products that would build on Ghana’s inherent attractions and cater for specific niche markets. This will entail a focus on Ghana’s strong points; cultural heritage and historical heritage. Elements of Ghana’s natural heritage, such as its flora, fauna, beach, lakes, rivers, and waterfalls are considered as being of secondary importance, complementing Ghana’s main cultural and historical attractions.

To this end, the Strategy calls for a variety of measures :

  • To ensure that as many opportunities as possible are created for the involvement in, and benefiting from, tourism by local entrepreneurs and communities in terms of employment, income generation, training and awareness, and access to better social infrastructure.
  • Promote the development of new types of tourism products (e.g. educational, sports-, medicinal-, agro-tourism) and encourage the provision of facilities, training, marketing and promotion to give emphasis to the development of these types.
  • Encourage horizontal integration across sectors and businesses to create synergy and improve competitiveness.
  • Emphasize the development of products that offer good opportunities for involvement of local entrepreneurs and communities (i.e. filling gaps in the tourism supply chain).
  • Foster the development of community-based tourism products, and encourage tourism facilities and services to reflect Ghanaian culture, architecture and materials (e.g. in accommodation, food, etc).
  • Promote developments that are appropriate to the structures and strategies of local governments and communities.
  • Encourage the established tourism enterprises to take full note, and attempt to make use, of the natural, cultural and historical heritage resources within specific communities and environments; and maximise use of local inputs/resources.
  • Manage cultural and historical resources to the negotiated benefit of all interested parties within the communities.
  • Encourage communities and districts to make inventories of actual and potential resources that are available for tourism.

However, while recognising the potential of the tourist industry to tackle poverty and create employment, a number of obstacles prevent the realisation of Ghana’s considerable tourism potential.

While the tourism industry has tremendous potential to create jobs and provide on the job training, the Government recognizes that appropriate skills and experience are necessary to facilitate employment growth as well as international competitiveness. The industry is currently faced with a critical shortage of skills at all levels. Tourism and hospitality training institutes are inadequate in terms of their ability to meet the required quantity and quality of skilled and well-trained people to be employed in the industry.

The strategy does, however, attach considerable emphasis to the importance of the role of communities in the sustainable development of tourism attractions.

The roles of communities in tourism is therefore to :

  • Identify potential tourism resources and attractions.
  • Organize themselves to exploit opportunities for tourism development, as entrepreneurs, entertainers, travel agents, tour guides, restaurateurs, workers, managers, guest house operators and other roles in the tourism business environment.
  • Support and promote sustainable and responsible tourism.
  • Ensure that benefits from tourism are equitably distributed and used for the betterment of living conditions, and in particular ensure equality in the conditions of employment of women.
  • Promote and where possible ensure respect for and dignity of women in the development, marketing and promotion of tourism.
  • Lobby the support of developers and local authorities for the provision of services and infrastructure to enhance the position of women in communities.
  • Secure the provision of craft training and other opportunities to expand the skills base of rural women.



[3]Social Exclusion in Old Accra:cultural heritage as a solution? Giovanni Razzu, London School of Economics and Political Science 2004

[4]A celebration to mark the survival for one week of a newly born baby, in which it is brought ‘outdoors’ for the first time and shown to the community.

[5] Government To Launch Employment Policy, thanks to UNDP –

[6]Muhammed Alhassan Yakubu “The rhetoric of youth employment: can we rely on our next leader”


[8] Jonathan Adabre, Public Agenda, World Bank Weighs In on Youth Unemployment,

[9]GPRS p72 & GPRS II p76

[10]Often referred to as Community Based Tourism (CBT).

[11]Sometimes referred to as Indigenous Tourism