Vice President John Mahama on Saturday kicked-off discussions on the proposed Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA), an ambitious development agenda aimed at reducing poverty in northern Ghana to 20 percent of the population within fifteen years.
Official statistics say currently, about 80 percent of the population are poor.
The discussions which were being held at the Accra International Conference Centre brought together politicians, development planners and policy makers.
The focus of the deliberations was how to roll over the current GH¢25 million Northern Development Fund (NDF) into the projected GH¢200 million SADA.
SADA is seen as the most ambitious programme till date that aims at narrowing the yawning development gap in the northern regions of Ghana, as well as the contiguous savannah areas of the Volta and Brong Ahafo Regions, to the rest of the country.
Among the broad concerns of the Authority is the creation of a competitive northern economic zone that would highlight the enormous agricultural potential of the selected areas.
Vice President Mahama, who convened the meeting, re-echoed the necessity of establishing the SADA as to serve as a “road map” in tackling the myriad of problems besetting the savannah areas of the country.
He said the government intended the SADA not only as a mechanism to help scale up development in the selected areas, but also to help transform agriculture in the country by enhancing infrastructure development and promoting agri-business.
He said the programme enjoys a “broad scale of support” not only from Ghanaians but also from bilateral institutions.
He asked experts working on the proposals to set a blueprint for a larger stakeholder meeting to be held later in the year for the eventual establishment of the Authority.
Dr Charles Jebuni, Head of Technical Team of the SADA implementation committee, said the Authority would help to correct past policy failures in the northern parts of the country.
He said a policy thrust of SADA was to position the selected areas as economic zones that could serve as alternate to some national projects.
Citing the energy sector, Dr Jebuni said emphasis could be focused on promoting solar as alternative to the national grid given the amount of sunshine in the area.
He said SADA would also be used to promote economic growth in the mining, agriculture and tourism sectors to create assets for the poor.
Dr Sulley Gariba, Coordinator of the Social and Political unit of the project said the team was working towards a long-term strategy in addressing the developmental problems of the north.
Madam Hannah Tetteh, Minister for Trade, lauded the proposal as a masterpiece which would help promote the overall developmental strategy of the country.