Ghana’s government has just launched major drive to transform the country’s economy. Dubbed One District One Factory, the plan is to build a new factory in each of Ghana’s 216 local government districts.
In a country where around 48 percent of young people do not have work, the government’s industrialisation plan is seen as vital for tackling youth unemployment.
Dr Yaw Ansu, of the African Center for Economic Transformation, a leading African think tank, warned last year that if not addressed properly unemployment could pose serious security challenges.
“When about three-quarters of your people are without jobs, you’re not safe. It’s a time bomb”, Dr Ansu said at a conference on the issue.
But to deliver on One Factory One District, Ghana will need to ensure that it has a secure supply of reliable, affordable electricity.
Currently a third of the country still lacks power, while those that do have to put up with regular blackouts and power shortages, known locally as “dumsor”. The dumsor problem makes it difficult to attract international companies to come and build factories, as it means production is constantly interrupted.
The unreliability of the electricity supply is one of the major causes of Ghana’s high unemployment. At the peak of the most recent dumsor crisis in 2015, the country experienced 159 days of blackouts, leading to massive job losses and missed economic targets.
Although renewables can help, they won’t solve this problem on their own. Wind and solar, being dependent on wind speeds and sunlight, aren’t capable of providing the uninterrupted, power supply that a modern factory needs.
For Ghana’s economy to succeed, it will need a sensible mix of fuels able to provide round- the-clock energy, just like in Western countries. This is the only way to create the jobs and opportunity that the country’s youth are waiting for.