Urbanization and National Development

History indicates that no country in the industrial age has ever achieved significant socio-economic development without urbanization. This shows the close association between economic development and urbanization. Studies have also shown that across countries and over time, as the urban share of the total population rises, the overall (urban and rural) poverty rate tends to fall. This effect is transmitted largely through higher economic growth associated with more rapid urbanization rather than through re-distribution. While the recency and speed of the process of urbanization in Ghana have significant negative impact on development, it widely acknowledged that the process could also be the source of national and regional development if properly managed. It is acknowledged that the demographic and economic changes facilitated by urbanization is one means by which improvement in socio-economic development could be achieved in less developed countries like Ghana. In other words, policies and programmes in countries like Ghana should aim at capitalising on the potential benefits offered by a highly urbanized society. Underpinning this argument is the recognition of the close association between urbanization and economic growth – malfunctioning towns and cities also have negative macro-economic consequences. In addition, urbanization can be a positive phenomenon in terms of human development and national integration by fostering a closer interaction of Ghana’s many ethnic groupings. However, recent studies on urban Ghana indicate increasing incidence of urban poverty and development of slums and squatter settlements. A key research question requiring attention is how to maximize the positive effects (socio-culturally, economically, demographically, etc) and minimize the effects of urbanization as Ghana becomes an urbanized society, a historical milestone it achieved in 2010 with an estimated 51 percent of the country’s total population living in towns and cities for the first time ever.