Week 3: Ghana and Development

Portrait of mother and child. Mali. Photo: © Curt Carnemark / World Bank

The World Bank main goals are to end extreme poverty within a generation and support development.  It is a vital source of financial and technical assistance to developing countries.  The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is an organization of 188 countries, working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world (http://www.imf.org/external/about.htm).  The IMF, like the World Bank, contributes to the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) through its advice, technical assistance, and lending to countries, as well as its role in mobilizing donor support.  Some critical voices of the World Bank and IMF has been an organization named Oxfam.  They welcome investment from the World Bank and IMF for education but claim it is not enough. That is the chief critique of of the World Bank and IMF.

In 1990, with poverty rates of about 55 percent, Sub-Saharan Africa and East Asia were at the same starting position for the first MDG, extreme poverty. By 2010, East Asia made spectacular progress and reduced extreme poverty rate to 12 percent compared to Sub-Saharan Africa which still had a poverty rate of 48 percent. According to projections, in 2015, Sub-Saharan Africa’s rate for extreme poverty will be 42 percent, or 408 million of the world’s 970 million people living in extreme poverty.  As a region, Sub-Saharan Africa will miss all 9 MDGs by a significant margin.


The first step for a individual country to deal with the global goals is improve the economy. According to Steven Radelet, Ghana’s economy has grown over the past 15 years by 5 percent per year.  That translates into growth of income per person of of 2.6 percent.  As result of the improved economy, the average income per person has increased by more than 40 percent.  The percent of the population living below the poverty line has dropped 50 percent to less than 30 percent.

Ghana is considered medium human development, ranking 138 out of 187.  In 2013, Ghana had a human development index (HDI) value of 0.573 and a mean of 7 years of schooling. The life expectancy at birth was 61 years.  In 1980, Ghana had a HDI value of 0.423 with steady growth of 0.15.  The world average between 1980 and 2013 improved by 0.143.  In Sub-Saharan Africa it improved in the same time frame only 0.12. Social spending is an important reason for Sub-Saharan Africa sustained growth despite economic and financial crisis.  Social spending includes spending on health and education.


Oxfam raises some concerns about reaching the MDGs.  According to the World Development Indicators by the World Bank, Sub-Saharan Africa is off-target.  The biggest concern rest with the inability to provide basic education to the poorest countries.  Caroline Pearce, an Oxfam spokesperson, states “Funds languish in a bank account in Washington, when they are urgently needed to get children into school. Faster progress will be made on getting children into school when the Education for All – Fast-Track Initiative (FTI) is cut loose from the World Bank.”  There are some weakness to Oxfam’s concerns.  As Radelet explained, it is unfair to lump Sub-Saharan countries together when discussing MDGs.  Oxfam’s claims would be more effective if they focused on the individual countries and examined the progress of the MDGs.


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