Northern Region, future business hub of Ghana
A GNA Feature by Caesar Abagali
Tamale, Aug. 28, GNA - The Northern Region alone constitutes about a third of the landmass of Ghana and it always makes news not because of its tourists, agricultural and cultural potentials but that its capital, Tamale is considered as one of the fastest growing cities in West Africa.
It holds great potentials for this country in terms of investment if given the necessary attention and support as is being done to Accra, Kumasi and Sekondi-Takoradi.
The people are predominantly farmers. They cultivate yam, maize, soya beans, millet, groundnuts, cotton, rice, cashew, cassava and other crops. The Region also has very large tracts of shea nut trees. It is, however, a major phenomenon whose tale has not been completely told. The major ethnic groupings are Dagombas; Gonjas; Kokombas; Mamprusis; Nanumbas and other minor groups like Basares; Vagalas and Tampulimas.
All these groups are represented in Tamale, thus making the capital a cultural melting pot.
Indeed, the Northern Region is both a myth and a phenomenon and shocks the observer into the reality of a Region vast in expanse; potentially rich; bold in social framework and a key to the development of the North and indeed Ghana as a whole. If the societies of Northern Ghana are able to put behind them ethnic feuds there would be no limit to where it can go.
It was a very timely decision by the Government to have picked Tamale as one of the host cities for the African Cup of Nations (CAN) 2008 soccer event to be hosted in Ghana. Essentially this would lay the foundation for the beginning of the realization of the potential of the Region.
Tamale is being provided with a modern stadium as a venue for some of the matches to be played. One only hopes that the city would be given an urgent facelift as well as sanitation revolution to equip it for the event.
Northern Region rightly deserves to host this competition as a venue because it is the only Region in the North that has a premier division club-Real Tamale United (RTU), a very determined and strong football club.
The Region abounds with a lot of potential footballers, boxers and long distance runners. The RTU nurtured Abedi Ayew Pele, one of Africa's finest footballers, who for three consecutive times won the honour of Africa's best footballer.
Already the new Northern Regional Minister, Alhaji Mustapha Ali Iddris has given the assurance that he would lead a crusade to clean the city to befit its Metropolitan status. He said the filth came as a result of the long absence of a substantive Metropolitan Chief Executive (MCE) and a constituted Assembly to plan for the development of the area.
Alhaji Iddris, who was speaking the GNA about his vision for the Region, said he wanted to make the Region a haven of business and investment destination in the entire North.
He said Tamale was the hub of the three Northern Regions in terms of development and size and stressed the need for all Northerners, particularly those in the Northern Region, to collectively put their heads together irrespective of their political affiliations to see how best the North could stand on its own without depending on others for food aid.
Alhaji Iddris said streetlights would be provided for along all major roads in the Metropolis, adding that 10 billion cedis street lighting project was in the offing as part of the preparations for CAN 2008.
On tourism Alhaji Iddris said as a way of developing and preserving the tourists' centres he would lobby the Government to upgrade all roads leading to these centres to boost tourism in the Region. He mentioned in particular, roads leading to the Mole National Park; Salaga Slave Camps in West Gonja and East Gonja Districts; the Naajeriga Fence Wall, built in 1674 with clay mixed with honey and shea butter to protect the community from enemies; the witches' hive at Gambaga/Nalerigu in the West Mamprusi District and the mystic stone in Larabaga.
The Northern Regional Tourists Board should market all the tourists' sites in the Region and to create the awareness on the need to visit the sites while creating a regional Tourists Website for visitors particularly those in the Diaspora. Government and the organisers of the Emancipation Day should not limit tourists to only the Coastal Areas. They should begin from the Paga Slave Camp and all areas in the North where the slave trade thrived. The Northern Region surely has the potential of being developed into Ghana's tourism hub.
Alhaji Iddris appealed to Journalists to market the Region to attract investors to set up there to solve the problem of youth unemployment.
With CAN 2008 the time has come for the development of the Tamale Airport as a major international airport. Tamale has a vast flat land area, which can easily be made into an airport like those found in any part of the developed world.
It is shorter to fly from Tamale to Europe than from Accra to Europe. In the mean time and as a short-term measure the structures around the airport must be rehabilitated immediately while plans are being made for the long-term ultra modern airport.
The construction of the road from Yendi to Bimbilla through the Volta Region to Accra must be given the necessary attention. It is much shorter to travel from Tamale to Accra through Bimbilla but the road is very bad. The cultivation of yam and cassava in the Nanum area would be enhanced if there is a trunk road to facilitate the carting of food to the markets in the South.
A visit to the Northern Region would inform any investor that this is a place to invest. As the story of the mango plantation has amply demonstrated. The Integrated Tamale Fruit Company (ITFC) has cultivated about 455 hectares of mango plantation and has helped about 1,700 out-growers to cultivate about 688 hectares of mangoes. There are dugouts in the Region meant for aquaculture but these are under utilized.
The ethnic groups of Northern Ghana have an added cultural diversity, which could be made almost unbeatable or unrivalled in any part of Africa if properly organised.
The inhabitants of this great Region have an added advantage since they are a very resourceful, courageous and committed and when motivated could push ahead with determination. Much effort should, therefore, be put into the Region by way of policy planning and marketing.