OPIC urges Ghana to leverage on legislation to address housing challenges

Ghana will have to consider possible ways of attaining lower costs and making homes more affordable if it should overcome rising deficits in housing, a US government official has said.

The Executive Vice President of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), David S. Bohigian also believes that, aside doing a lot more to reduce what he calls processing time, there is an urgent need for mortgage-friendly legislation to make home acquisition and ownership much easier to a larger populace.

Figures by the 2000 and 2010 Housing and Population Census shows Ghana has some 1.7 million units in Housing deficits and 2.3 million rooms in arrears and some $25 billion to fix.

Cost-effective decent accommodation keeps rising and only affordable to a selected few.

But citing the Ghana Home Loan Bank Apolonia Housing Project as a successful example, Mr Bohigian narrated how GHL bank played a pioneering role in the housing finance industry, including encouraging the passage of mortgage-friendly legislation on evictions and foreclosures, including reducing processing times, and it’s those kinds of reforms that have a multiplier effect across the economy.

Interacting with selected African journalists in a teleconference organised by the Africa Regional Media Hub from the OPIC Headquarters in Washington, DC, Mr Bohigian shared OPIC’s vision for some projects in Africa after he recently led a team to tour three countries on the continent.

The visit took him to Ghana, Togo and Cameroon where OPIC is funding some high-profile projects. In Ghana, the team witnessed the inauguration of a housing project at Apollonia City, about half an hour outside of the capital, working with GHL Bank, which is an OPIC client, to develop affordable housing in Ghana.

“This housing development is a wonderful example of what’s been called “the American dream” of homeownership going global. To drive into that facility to see a Ghanaian flag, and an American flag, and then talk to first-time homeowners who are joining a development that will include a school, a power plant, and even a water park is truly seeing an emerging Africa with a vibrant middleclass that’s able to work and live in a way that hasn’t been achievable earlier,” he said.

While in Togo, the OPIC delegation met with the Prime Minister and toured an OPIC-supported power plant. This power plant is said to have tripled the amount of power available in Togo. That’s three times the energy supply, because of ContourGlobal, a US company that built the Lomé thermal power plant.

“We supported that through financing and political risk insurance. It’s one of the largest investments ever made in Togo, and that energy generation capacity has both reduced blackouts and helped have a multiplier effect across the economy. Equally interesting in Togo was visiting a local school that ContourGlobal supports. There we saw the country’s first mobile STEM learning center, which is a van that allows students to work on computers and with 3D printers. It’s just a phenomenal work of the social project that ContourGlobal is working on” said Mr Bohigian.

And in Cameroon, OPIC is helping the Magrabi ICO Cameroon Eye Institute provide upwards of 18,000 cataract surgeries over the next five years to help cure blindness.

By Emmanuel J.K Arthur
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