Christian Appiah

Christian Appiah

The Republic of Ghana is a country of almost 24 million people located in West Africa. Ghana is the second largest producer of Cocoa in the world and this still forms a major part of its export industry although it has growing service and manufacturing sectors. The latest addition is the large crude oil reserves. Exploration has begun and this is expected to present a major economic boost to Ghana's economy. The capital city Accra and its surrounding region houses about 4 million people creating significant transport challenges. As with most African countries, vast rural hinterlands also create significant transport challenges with important social dimension to them.

As the Transport Facilitation and Policy Expert of the Department of Transport and Telecommunication of the ECOWAS Commission, my key responsibilities include reviewing and assisting in the development of transport policies to improve transport facilitation within the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) region, monitoring the implementation of policy decisions of ECOWAS authorities on road transport facilitation, developing action plans to extend the facilitation programme on new regional corridors, coordinating implementation of the Action Plan of West African Transport Facilitation Strategy, sensitize member states on the needs for transport facilitation and developing plans for the sustainable implementation of the facilitation programme (Project Preparation & Implementation).

"Most of Ghana's transport challenges are shared by the 14 other West African countries in the region."

Commonly there are problems with an over-reliance on road transportation for transporting both goods and freight, inadequate and poor condition of infrastructure, lack of funds for development and timely maintenance of transport infrastructure, and a lack of private sector interest in the provision of transport infrastructure. Ghana has made several efforts to attract the private sector to help rejuvenate its rail industry for over a decade. These have all proved unsuccessful. There are institutional deficiencies and inadequacies of well motivated human resources to undertake policy, implementation and monitoring of projects. For instance, in the recent past, the Monitoring and Evaluation Department of the Ministry of Roads and Highways in Ghana had only four staff, one Land Cruiser and one Pickup. This unit, however, is responsible for monitoring the progress of works on over 60,000km of roads countrywide. Even though it is done with regional Road Agency offices, it is difficult to achieve what is desired.

Regulation and enforcement are also challenging. In the road freight, sector operators can be carrying goods in excess of 70 tons with less than 6-axle trucks. The non-uniform application of axle load limits in the sub-region leads to the quick deterioration of such transit corridors.

Accra is still urbanising, with about 3.8% growth in the urban population compared with a national growth rate of 2.5%. There are significant management issues to be tackled on public transport with unrestricted access and a lack of standards. Growth in the car and powered two-wheeler traffic combined with narrow roads, limited junction capacities and poorly managed road works contribute to heavy traffic congestion. Ghana is not alone in needing to tackle its road safety problems with about 2,237 fatalities registered in 2009. The good news is that in spite of these problems there are several major transport initiatives currently underway to improve the situation.

"Ghana could benefit from much needed skills in transport and traffic management techniques and scientific analysis of road safety to help us address the problem of high fatality rates."

One needs to be able to adapt the skills acquired from ITS to make any meaningful impact in such a challenging and rapidly changing context. It is my desire to help the ECOWAS Commission pursue its regional integration objectives by timely monitoring of the performance of Member States implementation of protocols signed on the free movement of goods, persons and services across borders.

After my engagement with The Commission, I hope to return to Ghana's transport sector with the experience acquired over the period. This will be beneficial to me as an active member of the Transport Sector Planning Group established by the Transport Sector Ministries in Ghana to provide guidance for improvements in the transport sector.

"I wish to contribute actively to discussions on policies related to problem areas like public transport, road maintenance and financing, road safety and transport facilitation".