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Opinions Mon, 24 Jun 2013

Modernised future of transportation in Ghana

Sometime last year, the Hon. Dzifa Attivor, Deputy Minister of Transport revealed that the IMF/W. Bank etc, had loaned Ghana US$ millions for the improvement of our transport sector (Transport the Future for a Better Ghana,http://www.youtube.com/v/aATAYwtIKkM).

The hon. Minister suggested a new Metro system and other innovative options for the future of transportation in Ghana. While these are commendable, I have some suggestions.

First it is sad that Ghana is still borrowing and increasingly sinking into the quicksand of international indebtedness and certain debt-trap peonage. When will our leaders learn?

The responsibility of having one of the richest gold-bearing mines in the world, a moderately rich oil sector and being the third richest cocoa-producing country in the world, requires of Ghana economic prudence. It is smarter to control and wait on the income realised from our commodity and industrial output, than to mortgage them away through borrowing. What is the rush in borrowing? Do we question the reasons why "we need" to borrow?

Second, in the interim - while the recent transportation development loan is ostensibly placed on a silver platter for our use - the future of transportation does not lie in the traditional quick-fix provision of articulated buses or even the recent innovative plan for the Metro System. It lies in a sound and comprehensive transport policy.

This sound and comprehensive transport policy I mean, be preceded by a media blitz to educate the public to ride bicycles like in China, India and Holland. A national bicycle or auto-rickshaw factory must be built. This could be done through bi-lateral or multi-lateral technological-transfer arrangements with the Chinese, Indian or Netherlands governments. This must be backed up with a new road construction policy that aims to transform the road building culture of Ghana.

Bicycle lanes and comprehensive pavement policy must be instituted. All inner-city gutter in Ghana must be covered by law. We may even find that the manual and auto-rickshaws such as I rode in when I once went stayed in India some years back, will be a jolly good idea. Auto bicycles and rickshaws are easier to adapt and repair than taxi cars.

The advantage of this bicycle-friendly policy is that the Ghanaian people will be healthier in addition to getting to their work places earlier. Our overburdened health system can breath a sigh of relief!

Secondly the government must introduce tramway transportation or even underground "Tube" trains (such as exist in most of Europe and the USA). We could also develop our overland railway system to spider-web the development or rail transportation out of the old A-shaped structure that the British left us (revisit your "Colo" geography books).

This must not be for "show" to impress on our West African neighbours how Europeanised Ghana has become. Rather, it should fit into our national transportation plans and developmental self-interest.

We must constructing railways and tramways in our major cities, regional capitals, districts and commodity export sector.

Advantages: less traffic congestion in our cities, major and minor roads. Quicker transportation of commodities to harbours. Less need to maintain our roads as heavy haulage trucks will be reduced as they will only target our borders. Less road accidents involving large, dangerous, haulage trucks and trucks with flammable material. There will be more income earned from our shipping/rail/truck transportation to-and-fro our neighbouring countries like, Ivory Coast, Togo, Burkina Faso, etc.

Third, by a comprehensive transportation system, I include sea and air transport. It is myopic to exclude these to concentrate only on land transportation.

Ghana Airways and Black Star Line Shipping Ltd. must be rebuild anew. They must be managed by our top private and public sector industrial managers. They must be run as competent Social Enterprises on purely commercial tracks. These managers should have the highest qualifications and business experiences offered from: Harvard, London School of Economics, MIT, Oxford, Cambridge, the top universities in China, India, Japan, Korea, Europe, etc.

Ghana's state Social Enterprises, must maximise their profit margins just like other profitable private and publicly enterprises in the world. However, they must have the economic independence to reinvest their surplus earnings, unlike in the past, to further enhance their staff working conditions, expand their infrastructure and increase their local and international business activities.

Conclusion: Ghana can pay off its modernised rail, "Tube", tram, Metro, bicycle, rickshaw provisions, by increasing local employment to the highest level, increasing transportation services to our neighbouring countries and considerably reducing costly accidents and waste, by sheer competent and competitive management advantages.

Columnist: Kofi of Africa