THOUGHTS ON AVENUES FOR GHANA’S DEVELOPMENT, PREMISED ON A SURVEY IN KNUST
¹Kwakye Sylvester, ²Obiri Darko Stella, ³Sackey Lyanne
This is a working paper, and therefore it represents research in progress. This publication illustrates the authors’ opinions, and it is the product of randomized data collection. It does not represent the position or opinions of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, nor the official position of any staff member or student. All blunders are the authors’ fault.
This is an article based on a randomized data collection conducted among 573 students from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology to find out their views on the future of Ghana concerning population growth, technology, entrepreneurship, and politics.
In this article, we will be discussing the future of Ghana from the perspective of students in KNUST. We will start with a brief introduction to Ghana and KNUST. We will then move on to the results obtained in our survey as well as its statistical analysis. This will be followed by a discussion on the topic and we will finally conclude.
Ghana is a developing tropical country in West Africa with a population of 31.07 million making it the second most populated country in West Africa. 50.7% of the population are females and 49.3% are males. Ghana is currently made up of 16 regions covering a land area of 238,535km2. She shares borders with Burkina Faso to the north, Cote d’Ivoire to the west, Togo to the east and the Gulf of Guinea to the south. Formerly known as the Gold Coast, Ghana attained its independence led by the Big Six on March 6, 1957. The independence of Ghana was quite a remarkable feat as she was the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to achieve independence from European colonial rule. She subsequently became a republic on July 1, 1960. Having gone through three republics, the country is now ruled by the 4th republican Constitution(1992 Constitution). Ghana is also a unitary, multiparty state with a presidential system. The country is well-known to the international community for its numerous natural resources such as gold, timber, cocoa, diamonds, bauxite to name a few. Ghana is also known for its tourist attractions, popular among them being the Kintampo national park, Kwahu paragliding festival, the Elmina and Cape Coast castles among others as well as her rich cultural and ethnic background with over 70 dialects and languages spoken but English is the official language.
The Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) is a public tertiary institution located in the Ashanti region of Ghana which aims to provide a conducive environment for acquiring knowledge and skills in science and technology to benefit the industrial and socio-economic development of Ghana. The school was established in 1951 and has since then produced students with high intellect in various fields who have a lot to offer society. In 2020, KNUST was named the best university in Ghana and West Africa as well as the 12th best university in Africa.
43.8% of our sample size believe that Ghana’s population growth can positively affect the country’s development. But 81.9% also agree that Ghana’s population overwhelms the available facilities and social amenities in the country. Only 8.5% believe that there will be enough facilities to accommodate the population in future. 87.7% of our sample size agree that more investment should be made in locally developed technology. 68.5% also believe that locally manufactured technology can have the same potential as foreign technology. 93% of our sample size believe that research has an important role to play in the development of Ghana. Despite this, 64.3% and 76% had never even read a research paper written by a Ghanaian or by a student respectively. 89% agreed that inadequate attention is paid to the field by both students and prospective job applicants and 65% also believe that the field does not receive adequate remuneration from the government and non-profits. 86.3% of our sample size believe that students should be encouraged to pursue entrepreneurship ventures but only 18.6% of them are engaged in any businesses themselves. 84.9% also believe that entrepreneurship provides a better avenue for innovativeness than regular jobs. 65.7% think that they have the needed skills to engage in business with 41.3% citing money and 7.95% citing lack of support as hindrances to undertaking business ventures. 60% of our sample size believe that student leaders are only selected due to affiliation or favours. Only 15.5% think that students pursue leadership with the right motives. Several of them stated “money” and “fame” as the only reason students participate in politics. Some even said that “nothing” would inspire them to take up any leadership role in the school.
From the information above, it seems that a considerable number of people believe that Ghana’s population growth can have a positive impact on development. The majority of the people also agree that the country does not have enough facilities to accommodate its growing population and only a few people think that the country will have enough facilities in the future. A lot of people also believe that the country needs to pay more attention to developing its technology to achieve the same potential as foreign technology. A striking number of people agree that research is needed to enhance development and should be explored by students and job applicants although the majority of the people do not patronize research publications. It is generally agreed that entrepreneurship should be supported among students. However, only a few of the people are engaged in business ventures. The majority of the people also agree that entrepreneurship improves creativity. Only a few people think that students engage in politics for genuine reasons with a lot of people believing that politics is largely pursued for money and fame.
The population of Ghana has risen rapidly over the years with a 2.12% population growth rate as of 2020. Generally, population growth poses a host of problems to a country’s development if not appropriately catered for. This is because there is overdependence on the available facilities which if also not maintained will deteriorate. Population growth also poses problems such as scarcity of food and potable water as sanitation and waste management problems
The immense benefits of technology in recent times cannot be denied. From providing faster methods of harvesting crops to easier communication with people in different parts of the world to even domestic tasks such as cooking and washing, everything can be done in a relatively short time and at one’s convenience. But of course, technology would not be available if not for the advancement of science. Technology is the application of science to create devices that can solve problems. It is therefore of utmost importance to foster the interest and growth of science in our educational institutions. One commendable way science and technology have been incorporated into the school curriculum is the introduction of STEM programmes into our institutions notably in KNUST. Numerous STEM programmes are offered by KNUST with scholarship packages especially for females to enable people who have the interest but might not have the means to enrol in these programmes to do so. An example is the Empowering Africa Incorporation Scholarship which provides full-tuition for Ghanaian students pursuing STEM programmes who are academically strong and willing to make a difference in their communities. Also, initiatives such as the establishment of the KNUST College of Engineering Center for Innovation aim to bridge the gap between theoretical and practical knowledge. For example, in 2017, students in KNUST developed a solar-powered vehicle for transport called ‘aCar’ to aid farmers transport goods. In the same year, another student from KNUST developed the world’s first open-space fire detector which was aimed at bringing down the nation’s fire incidence by increasing responsive time of detection of smoke during fire outbreaks. Therefore, if appropriate attention and resources are given to students enrolled in these programmes and those who try to develop their technology, innovativeness among students and the youth, in general, will be boosted and in the long run, our country will also have the chance to attain the same level of technological and scientific advancement as the more developed countries.
Research is rapidly becoming a well-appreciated sector in Ghana. Research is all about discovering new and essential information as well as providing explanations to concepts not properly understood, enabling people to make better and more strategic decisions on the associated topic. This encourages critical and analytical thinking as well as developing problem-solving skills. Research does not only pertain to scientific topics but also business, energy, engineering, language and culture, arts and design among others. At the tertiary level, research broadens the educational experience and explore the results of applying new thought processes through observation and experimentation. It may have a positive impact on the lives of students in their field by allowing them to attach their names to findings that may reshape parameters formerly considered as the norm. KNUST as an institution is highly invested in the development of research as is seen in its establishment of some research facilities. Examples of research centres in KNUST are; The Emerging Networks and Technologies Research Lab (ENT Research lab) in KNUST which specializes in the multidisciplinary fields of Artificial intelligence, Network Security, Business Intelligence etc. and the Transport Research and Education Centre, KNUST (TRECK) which provides training, leadership and technology transfer in transport, mobility and integrated logistics. The establishment of such facilities as well as educating people on the benefits of research and encouraging interest in the sector will foster the growth of the sector and the economy at large.
As the world continues to evolve, so does competition in every economically related sector. This plays a positive role in development as it challenges people to not only apply the knowledge attained in the school curriculum but also create different sources of income. These alternatives collectively known as entrepreneurship has become popular among students. Although probably engaged in for different reasons, entrepreneurship ventures among students should be encouraged and supported as they boost creativity and innovativeness, eventually contributing towards national development as new business ventures help to create jobs and contribute to the growth of the economy. In the job setting, employees tend to sometimes lack problem solving, resilience, creativity and communication skills. These qualities are more readily available in people who engage in other extra-curricular activities and can prove quite useful in the workplace. The value of entrepreneurship must be acknowledged especially in our tertiary institutions as well as the prioritization of developing soft skills among students. For example, students in KNUST are already making a name for themselves by participating in and winning several awards in entrepreneurship and innovativeness such as the Presidential Pitch Contest, Housing Innovation Challenge, Green Entrepreneurship Awards among others. Competitions such as these challenge people to come up with original ideas that deserve recognition and explore their untapped potential as they would be rewarded.
We cannot talk about development without mentioning politics. Politics are the activities associated with gaining influence in the governance of a country, area or institution. This makes it quite necessary to develop a politically stable and friendly environment in our country and institutions. Political stability is crucial to enhancing state capacity to mobilize and allocate resources. In recent times though, politics has become associated with unrealistic policies, violence and the desire to amass wealth even among students, especially at the tertiary level. We hear of extravagant promises that are made by political aspirants to gain votes or of supporters of different candidates contesting for the same portfolio attacking each other which sometimes results in casualties or of aspirants finding means to intimidate voters into voting in their favour. This creates the impression that politics is a “dirty game” and prevents people from taking an active interest in matters relating to it which is rather unfortunate as politics affects nearly every aspect of our lives.
Given the information gathered, it is necessary to develop the facilities and infrastructure of our country. It is also necessary to adequately develop the scientific and technological base of our country. We also need to encourage students to embark on their projects or to engage themselves in activities outside of school work which is also needed to build good curriculum vitae required for job applications. Efforts of student entrepreneurs deserve to be recognized and commended to encourage them as well as others to come up with more ideas and solutions to problems in the country. Students engaged in violent and wrongful activities should also be dealt with appropriately to deter others from doing the same. If measures such as these are taken into consideration, there will be a massive improvement in the development of our country.