Speaking to people living in Ghana recently, I had become worried by the ongoing power problems. While power outages are nothing new to many of us in developing countries, I have started getting worried about the effects of Ghana’s ongoing power issues on the country’s looming economic growth spurt. While power shortages are an inconvenience to the regular Ghanaian, for Ghana’s growing entrepreneur class the shortages are a critical issue. The Wall Street Journal’s Michael Phillips writes
Just as its economy is picking up steam, Ghana is finding its growth stunted by a force beyond its control: climate change.
Rainfall in the West African country has declined so sharply in recent years that the water level behind the 41-year-old Akosombo Dam, long the country’s main power source, is now at a record low, forcing the government to ration power and companies to invest in costly diesel generators. Economists estimate the water-and-power shortage could slash as much as two percentage points off Ghana’s economic growth this year.
The water level at the Akosombo Dam is 41 feet below the dam’s high-water mark, affecting Ghana’s power distribution and subsequently it’s business climate. “Officials say they will bring emergency generators on line and hope a long-dormant plan to add a Chinese-financed dam on the Black Volta River, upstream from Akosombo, will become a reality within a few years.” the WSJ article points out. But while global warming has accelerated it’s unreliability, many Ghanaians I’ve spoken to fault government officials for not moving quickly enough to find alternative sources of electricity to relieve the pressure on the 41-year old Akosombo Dam. With the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations and numerous other economically beneficial events planned in the next year alone, Ghana is at a crossroads and a wrong step can undo 50 years of steady growth.
(photo by ckoukkos)