Accra, June 20, GNA - Mrs Deborah Kuwornu, Director, Department of Rural Housing (DRH), on Wednesday said the way to Ghana's economic independence depended on the achievement of self-reliant and self-sustaining development of technologies and systems to improve upon existing local content.
She said it was however, a tragedy that despite breaking advancement in global technology in industrialisation, Ghana still supported technological initiatives that merely sustained the essential extractive nature of the economy, thereby fueling a vicious cycle which sent the economy in search of foreign exchange to finance the burden of essential imports.
Mrs Kuwornu argued that the core of any successful development and industrialisation programme was the possession of machine building capacity, herein, “lies the spring and path of effectively generating new processes to add value to current production methods, and by implication, to increase the share of national income that is re-invested in economic development”.
She was addressing the opening session of a two-day Fabrication Forum in Accra aimed at sensitising and encouraging the public and stakeholders in the construction industry to support the initiative of using local materials in the provision of decent, safe and affordable housing in Ghana.
The forum, organised by DRH in collaboration with Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing and Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology (MEST), would provide a platform for participants to share knowledge and further encourage local machine and tool fabricators to continue to exploit avenues of technical advancement and expansion.
It was on the theme: “Promoting Improved Local Building Materials through Appropriate Machinery Fabrication Techniques”, and represented by engineers and fabricators selected from various areas in the Central, Eastern, Western, Volta and the Greater Accra Regions, which constitutes the Southern sector of the country.
Mrs Kuwornu noted that Ghana's initiatives at industralisation since the attainment of independence had never advanced past constrict import substitution supported by imported raw or semi-processed materials, capital equipment and even technical personnel.
“This is to say that the heavy reliance on importation of industrial plants, tools, equipment and gadgets to provide services especially in construction and infrastructural development causes more losses to the nation and is not sustainable,” she said.
She stated that machine building capacity would greatly expand the economy in construction and infrastructural development and made it technically feasible to increase production and ensure competitive quality products and standardised specifications.
Mrs Kuwornu said this fact made it imperative that all involved in the manufacturing and fabrication of machinery and tools for construction be brought together to ensure uniformity and standardisation in products and outputs.
Dr Hannah Louisa Bissiw, Deputy Minister of WRWH and Dr Mustapha Ahmed, Deputy Minister of MEST, both gave the assurance that government was committed to the implementation of Local Content Policy, which required the use of 60 per cent of local building materials in the construction of buildings by 2015.
They indicated that in pursuance of this, government was committed to fully integrating the local building materials into mainstream building and the local construction industry.
Dr Bissiw said to demonstrate its commitment, the Ministry, under the DRH recently inaugurated its flagship houses for cocoa farmers nationwide, which were built using improved local building materials.
She noted that although there had been a long history of high quality building materials research in Ghana, mainly from a number of institutions such as the Building Road and Research Institute in Kumasi and other small-scale manufacturers, factories and fabricators dotted around the country, but little of their expertise and skills had passed on onto common adaption and use.
Dr Bissiw noted that whereas many believed that the use of local materials needed to be encouraged, the building regulations, material standards and availability of knowledgeable artisans, constituted severe challenges to growth of the local market for local building materials.
In addition, institutional mechanisms and procedures for encouraging mass adaption and use of such materials were significant in the entire housing delivery.
Dr Ahmed said the issue of housing had been on government's agenda, citing the current housing deficit of 1.5 million.
He said there was undeniable evidence that the construction industry had experienced a steady growth in Ghana over the years, with a multiplicity of artisanal skills, imported building materials, which might not be durable were still commonly in use, of which much of it could be substituted with sometimes better local equivalent.
Dr Ahmed advocated for the use of local building materials which could save the country at least 80 million dollars annually, generate employment, provide affordable housing and infrastructural development in the districts.