THE JOB-CREATING MACHINE CALLED THE REAL ESTATE INDUSTRY IN GHANA
I have just returned to Ghana, after 25 years sojourn in the United States, and what I see makes me extremely happy for our beloved country! Despite all the buzz about oil in our country lately, I am rather going to focus this article on the one industry that is quietly creating a lot of economic expansion in Ghana and, therefore, lots of jobs around here – the real estate industry! I intend to simplify this article as much as possible and state the facts in real terms for readers to relate to.
You just have to drive the Accra-Tema Motorway and look on the East side of the road to get a glimpse of what is truly going on in the real estate industry here in Ghana. Houses upon houses fill up all that empty space that used to be on that side of the Motorway, some completed and others at various stages of construction. There is development going on all over the place and building construction is scattered all over the city of Accra. The Accra we know today is not your grandfather's Accra when you were a kid growing up. Not a chance! You can feel the vibrant atmosphere and the brisk economic activity in this country when you drive around and see what's going on here. It tells you that all the billions and billions of dollars and euros pouring into this country from remittances coming from Ghanaians in the Diaspora is truly putting people to work here. Since most of these billions go into buying or building of houses, it is time we took stock of the multiplier economic effect the housing industry is creating in our country. Then the politicians might take note and pay better attention to the goose that is truly laying the golden eggs for job creation in Ghana.
Folks, build one house and you have created employment for so many people, enabling money to flow through so many hands. You buy the land and the Chief gets paid. The chief even pays off his “land guards” for protecting his land. Next, you go through the process of getting your land registered. You are creating jobs for civil servants at the Land Title office, the Lands Commission and the Survey Department. If you can't make the rounds to these offices yourself, then you have to employ the services of people who know the nooks and crannies of the game to get your land registration process through. After registration of your land documents, you definitely will start talking to Architects and Engineers who will be drawing your building plans. This is just the basics, well before you start buying building materials and engaging the services of subcontractors, masons, carpenters, roofers and construction folks. The whole process of building one house takes several months and several workers, including contractors and their employees. By the time the physical structure moves from the ground to the roof level, lots of jobs have been created for several people. Buying of building materials itself creates jobs for so many people – from the cement factory, to the wood, roof, iron, steel, glass and paint factories. And this trickles down through the retail chain for all these industries. Then you come to all the built-in gadgets that have to be installed to make the house livable – from air-conditioning and refrigeration to kitchen, bedroom and bathroom fixtures and fittings, to electrical wiring and lighting fixtures, jobs are being created all around.
Drive around Accra and you see the ingenuity of Ghanaian entrepreneurs staring you in the face. I have driven the streets of Beverly Hills and Bel Aire in Los Angeles but have never seen this beautiful variety of iron and steel gates in my life. The result is that a whole new metal industry is being built around here. Again, when you see all those huge black plastic drums (Polytank) along the streets of Accra, that's a sign that a plastic industry is gradually gaining a foothold in Ghana, to overcome the water distribution and conservation problem facing our country.
It is after the building is completed that a whole new set of job creation starts during the home buying and selling process. It is here that real estate agents and loan officers get busy. Banks and their employees get busy making home loans. Mortgage companies get busy. Title insurance and homeowners insurance companies get busy insuring homes. Here in Ghana, Lawyers also get busy drafting purchase agreements and negotiating real estate deals for their clients.
Can you imagine how many jobs get created after the building gets sold? This is where the furniture and furnishing industry get busy supplying all the draperies, living room, bedroom, kitchen and bathroom furniture. And the home appliances industry gets busy too, supplying refrigerators, washers, dryers, dishwashers, stoves, ovens, trash compactors and disposers, et cetera. Job creation every step of the way! We are told by the experts that the housing deficit in Ghana is over one million houses. Can you imagine how many jobs would be created, building one million homes in Ghana over the next several years?
If I were the Atta Mills administration, I would take a whole new look at this job-creating machine called real estate. I would engage the industry leaders to find out what their problems are and how best to solve them. I would invite them to the Castle and have a tete-a-tete with them. I would create a whole new department under the Ministry of Housing to pay better attention to this industry, get it very well organized and help it grow. I would call it, simply, Department of Real Estate!
Let me quote from an article I wrote in May 2004 on this same subject of the multiplier economic effect of real estate development: “Indeed, the multiplier effect of the real estate industry on any economy in the world cannot be lost on any politician who takes the development of his country seriously. That is why in most developing nations of the world today, there is a completely separate department set up to deal with real estate issues---- from land ownership to land subdivision, from building codes to zoning regulations and from the regulation of real estate agents and escrow officers to the regulation of real estate developers, mortgage bankers and title companies. It is obvious across the world that those countries or communities that have taken real estate regulation seriously and have devised laws to control the development of their cities are those that boast of the most beautiful cities around the world today and those who have not definitely show the worst cities across the globe.” (http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/features/artikel.php?ID=57109)
Indeed, city managers across the globe will tell you frankly that real estate is the cash-cow that sustains their city budgets. Property taxes alone provide most of the revenue for the services a lot of these cities offer. In the United States today, most states are hemorrhaging from the fall in property values because that translates into a fall in property tax revenues. Most State governments couldn't wait for the situation to turn around!
If the government of Ghana could go all the way to Korea to bring a Korean company to build houses in Ghana, our government could sit down with local developers to fashion out a strategy to develop the real estate industry in our beloved country. The folks at the Ghana Real Estate Developers Association (GREDA) will tell you point blank that all they need is capital infusion. The previous government was able to source money into this country from the world capital markets for other purposes. This current government could do the same for the real estate industry too.
Hope someone in government is listening!
Peter Atsu Tsikata
Real Estate Consultant
Millennium Properties Ghana Ltd
# A35 Trasacco Valley Area
East Legon, Accra
Email: [email protected]
Web site: www.millenniumtoday.com
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