Youth poverty in Accra: livelihood challenges and perspectives in the context of urbanisation

In 2008, for the first time in history, more than half of the world’s population lived in urban areas. Natural population growth in urban areas and rural-urban migration are the essential drivers of this process. Urban growth takes place both in the inner-city areas as well as at the peri-urban fringes and poverty is closely related to these urbanisation processes.

Project Lead:
Benjamin Schraven

Project Team:
Christian von Haldenwang

Participants of the 46th Postgraduate Training Course:
Amelie Lara Hinz
Pascal Renaud
Christina Rumke
Amrei Schommers
Axel Sikorski

Time frame:
2011 - 2012 / completed

Project description

Urban poverty is not only closely associated with ecologically degraded slum areas and shanty towns with poor access to water, sanitation and other basic services; it is also reflected in the increasing loss of traditional livelihoods like agriculture or fishing in the peri-urban areas due to rapid urban sprawl.

The demographic development is of chief relevance in Africa and it is directly linked to urbanisation and poverty. The share of people being 35 years or younger is extraordinarily high in Sub-Sahara Africa providing a stark contrast to the ageing European societies. In this context the African youth are particularly affected by poverty and the lack of sustainable income-generating activities. In fact, the informal economy offers the only economic perspective available for the majority of urban youth in poor areas. Common informal employment opportunities are low-income activities such as street hawking and portering. These are widely characterised by volatile income perspectives and the lack of formal social security mechanisms. Pessimistic views perceive this population stratum as a new working class, totally isolated from the prospects of the growing (formal) world economy and without any chance of ever accessing it. In contrast, optimistic scholars emphasise the informal economy’s crucial function of providing the young from poor backgrounds with at least some basic income perspectives. However, employment and livelihood perspectives for the urban young poor are one of the most pressing questions for international development cooperation.

The country working group wanted to address the issues of successful strategies, important challenges and limitations as well as potential policy instruments in that regard via taking Ghana’s capital Accra as a case study site. What makes Accra interesting as a study site in the context of urbanisation and youth poverty? In contrast to other metropolitan areas in the developing world, the Greater Accra Region has not experienced growing slum areas in the inner-city area and urban sprawl in the city’s outskirts until the 1990s. Yet, the typical implications of this process (increased crime rates, land tenure insecurity, ecological pollution, etc.) have recently hit Accra at full tilt. Furthermore, Ghana has experienced enormous economic growth for years; at the same time, Ghana remains to be a stable and successful democracy. These trends further add to the urgency for Ghana to improve the livelihood perspectives of the urban young from poor areas face in terms of economic and societal participation.

Based on the field research conducted in Ghana the CWG Ghana aimed at consulting Non-Governmental Organisations working on youth poverty, the German development cooperation in Ghana as well as relevant governmental and administrational bodies in Ghana.