Notwithstanding the great economic potential of the region, the economic infrastructure development of the region, which would increase economic activity and bring progress, is lagging behind the two other industrial regions of Greater Accra and Ashanti. The region’s road network is one of the worst in the country, and the road system to the rich mining and cocoa growing areas is in a terrible state.
Very often, during the rainy season, harvested cocoa and food crops are locked up in the interior of farmlands in the region because of inaccessible roads. Rail transport used to play a very important role in the region’s development by facilitating transportation of goods and people, export of bauxite, manganese, timber,timber products and cocoa through the port at Takoradi. It also kept the mining industries running since it served as a the source of transporting mining products, and made commerce and trade functional. But this is now in a very bad state.
The line from Takoradi to Kumasi and Awaso, known as the Western Line, is however still the only long-distance section of Ghana’s railway system which still functions, though rather inefficiently. The deep-water port at Takoradi handles about 75 per cent of Ghana’s export trade of timber, cocoa, manganese and bauxite.
The present state of the harbour necessitates major rehabilitation and expansion to enable it handle the increase in exportable commodities from the region, and also take the pressure off the Tema Port for some imports. Its waterways need to be deepened to be able to handle larger container ships, to support the level of industrialisation needed to accelerate the economic development of the region and the country.
This, when linked with the Export Free Zone (EPZ) enclave and the Aboadze Thermal Station would increase industrial activity and create more employment opportunities. The economic activities of the region also developed around these important resources, namely cocoa, timber and minerals. The region is now the country’s largest producer of cocoa, and has the highest concentration of individual gold mines in the country.
Only Ashanti Goldfields in Obuasi surpasses the mines in the region in both size of operations and quantity of gold production. The region also has the country’s only active bauxite and manganese mines. The manufacturing of cocoa products at a factory in Takoradi, timber processing in Sekondi-Takoradi, the Sefwi and Bibiani areas and the Amenfi and Aowin areas around Samreboi and Enchi and gold and manganese mining in the Wassa areas, have attracted migrants in search of jobs to the region, including the commercial sea port of Takoradi.
The only rubber-processing factory in the country is also located at Agona Junction, and with plans to revive the former Firestone tyre factory at Bonsa still theoretically on the drawing board, the region may soon have two rubber processing factories to fully utilise the vast raw material base found in the large rubber plantations of the region. The country’s only glass factory, which has unfortunately collapsed after being divested to a private investor, was also located at Aboso in the Wassa West district. There are large deposits of good silica,sand and lime deposits as raw materials in the Jomoro district that could feed the factory.
It therefore still has a good chance of possible revival with good planning and a more efficient investment programme. The lime deposits could also be exploited as raw material to feed the cement factory at Takoradi, but this has not yet happened.
The relatively young age structure of the region’s population has both social and economic implications for the region’s manpower supply and level of participation in economic activity. Legally, persons 15 years and older are allowed to engage in any economic activity in Ghana.
According to the Ghana Child Labour Survey (GCLS, 2001), however, about 40.8 per cent of children aged between 5 and 17 years in the region were engaged in some economic activity. For those who are not economically active, students (67.9%) and homemakers (14.2%) form the majority. The proportions of economically active persons aged between 7 and 14 years (outside the legal age limits), and 15 and 64 years (within the legal age limits) will be discussed in later chapters.
The four major occupations in the region are not different from the national trend. Agriculture is the predominant occupation of the economically active population in the region, accounting for about 60 per cent of the regional GDP and employs about 57 per cent of the total labour force.
There are more females (59.5%) than males (56.7%) in Agriculture (including hunting and fishing). Production and Transport work (14.5%), sales work (10.2%) and professional and technical work (5.0%) follow in that order.
This is however, not true for both sexes. In the case of males, agriculture and related work (56.7%), production and transportation equipment (17.0%), professional and technical (6.6%), clerical work (6.3%) and sales (5.5%) follow in that order while the females exhibit an order quite different: agriculture (59.5%), sales (15.2%), production and transportation equipment (11.6%) and service (6.2%).
The major industrial activities in the region differ slightly from the national trend. At the national level, agriculture (52.1%), mining and quarrying (1.5%), and manufacturing (11.0%) follow in that order. In the region, out of the total number of employed persons (that is, 90.3% of the economically active), 61.2 per cent are in the agriculture sector. The others are in the manufacturing (11.9%), wholesale and retail trade (10.3%) and mining and quarrying (2.9%) sector. The hotel and restaurant industry also accounts for about 2.0 per cent of the working population.
The employment status of the economically active population in the region also follows the national trend; self- employed workers with no employees (68.3%) make up the majority of the economically active. They are mainly found in the private informal sector of commerce and agriculture, which constitute about 81.5 per cent of the labour force in the region. This trend is also true for all the districts and for both sexes. District and local authorities should therefore formulate policies aimed at raising revenues through such persons, since those in the formal sectors are in the minority.
Persons in the informal sector should also be encouraged to go into partnership with other colleagues in order to access credit facilities and also to boost sales and production levels. The working population in the private formal (13.5%) and the public (5.8%) sectors are mainly those with employee status (those who work for someone else). They form only 16.5 per cent of the economically active population.