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Co-funded by the European Union

Ghana is Set on a Path for Green Jobs

Ghana wants better and more sustainable jobs across the country and is ready to invest more than USD 13 million to that end. But the to-do list is long. As a first step, law makers, policy makers, and investors need to embrace the notion that new jobs should not only boost the economy but also protect the environment. If the strategy succeeds, thousands could be lifted from precarious employment.


At the Kpone landfill near Accra, Ghana’s capital, the trash mound heaps up to 30 meters high. Every day, trucks and tricycles dump hundreds of tons of waste electronics, plastics or imported second-hand clothes. The landfill poses a serious public health risk. Nearby residents and businesses have been protesting continuously for its closure as the odour and the buzzing flies cause inconveniences and repel customers.1


For the estimated 300 waste pickers at Kpone, however, the landfill is their source of livelihood. Every day, they come here to collect recyclables that they can sell to middlemen or businesses: metals, cans, components, cardboard, or electronics for instance. In the Greater Accra Region, as many as 7,800 people are estimated to earn their living from waste picking.These are the types of men and women the Ghanaian Ministry of Employment and Labour Relation refers to when speaking of the informal workforce.

High level of underemployment in Ghana

Ghana, like many developing countries, has an employment problem. The country’s labour force constitutes only 42 per cent of the population, with an unemployment rate of 10 per cent and more than 50 per cent underemployment. Sixty per cent of employed persons work in informal establishments, only 40 per cent in formal ones. The high informality has widened the ‘decent work deficit’ and regrettably promoted precarious employment in Ghana, a report by the ILO and Ghana’s Employers Association says.3 Informality is not the only problem the government faces; creating decent jobs for the country’s teeming youth is the government’s biggest challenge.


In the last decade, Ghana recorded an average gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 6.8 per cent.4 As exciting as the country’s economic growth has been, overdependence on natural resource extraction like oil, gold and cocoa has been associated with high greenhouse gas emissions. While the government vigorously aims to promote sustainable growth and development, these efforts will affect current and future employment. As Ghana embarks on a path towards a Green Economy, it needs to get the labour force on board.

Green Jobs Strategy illustrates Ghana’s pathway

This understanding has led the Ghanaian government to develop a five-year national Green Jobs Strategy. A Green Job is a decent job that contributes to preserve or restore the environment, according to the ILO. ‘The Green Jobs Strategy assembles all the important things to look at in having Green Jobs in a country’, says Emma Ofori Agyemang, who was involved as policy planning director in the Ghanaian Employment Ministry. The government reckons that to foster employment, it must look beyond the traditional sectors of industry, manufacturing and agriculture to creating jobs that also address the country’s environmental challenges.


Recognizing the importance of creating sustainable jobs, Ms. Agyemang tapped into external resources and partnerships to get the strategy implemented quickly. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) was first to support the development of the strategy. In 2020, she requested support by the Investment Climate Reform Facility (ICR), a project co-funded by the European Union, the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS), together with the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and the British Council. This has provided a strong institutional backup. ‘ICR has been a very formidable partner in the support towards some of the fallouts of the policy’, Ms. Agyemang says.

Together, they identified five sectors that are key for promoting Green Jobs in Ghana: agriculture, waste management, construction, renewable energy, and tourism. These sectors contribute to relatively high greenhouse gas emissions, comprise a high share of employment and have relatively high contribution to the country’s GDP. Here, even minor progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and creating decent jobs will make great impact.

Capacity building is the first step

Take waste management and recycling, for instance. Although there has been some investment in this sector, the current infrastructure is inadequate, and the government is unable to finance it, too. Of all the waste disposal modes available in Ghana, 70 to 80 per cent of waste is dumped in landfills. Recycling is undertaken by only a few private companies and investors lack incentives to engage in this sector.


Hence, the to-do list is long when it comes to greening this sector. Where to start? The government realised that the main challenge is to create awareness at all levels. Policy makers, law makers, investors, and the public should see that there are alternatives to traditional methods. Hence, the first step was to inform, train, and organise the involved authorities, to create a common sense of purpose as well.

Rapid growth of the construction sector

Waste management is only one example. The government gave equal priority to all five sectors identified in the strategy. Another example is the vibrant construction sector. Currently, it employs about 320,000 people. In the next ten years, it will be 1 million more, estimates say.5 How to make sure these additional jobs will be green? When it comes to constructing residential buildings, bridges or manufacturing plants, one particular challenge is that few architects and contractors understand the environmental impacts and the energy efficiency characteristics of building materials.


While the public sector plays a major role in the construction sector, it became clear how important it is to involve the private sector, since it has first-hand experience. Ghana’s government did exactly this and consulted, for instance, the Association of Building and Civil Engineering Contractors of Ghana and the Ghana Real Estate Developers Association. Together, they identified how jobs can best be greened. Now, for instance, Ghana’s government is promoting a green building and construction framework that is to train architects, project managers, or district level engineers.

Implementation requires a strong political commitment

The ICR Facility advocated the idea that, to implement the strategy, strong political commitment should be shown at the highest level and by all the government. And indeed, at the inception phase, the Ministry was represented at the highest level by Bright Wireko Brobbey, Deputy Minister of Labour and Employment. The Ministry was also involved in the sectoral and sub-national public private dialogues that were set up to bring together all relevant stakeholders. Furthermore, the National Development Planning Commission, a state agency, and multiple other ministries were involved.


Had the multiple stakeholders from various sectors not been involved, the strategy would likely have been ill-conceived and few, if any, green jobs would be created. Now, the commitment is also evident in numbers: Ghana expects to spend close to 80 million Ghanaian Cedi, or more than USD 13 million, on the implementation of the strategy.6 That may not sound like much, but relative to GDP per capita, it’s like the United States launching a nearly USD 400 million jobs programme.

Waste pickers are ready for change

As for the waste pickers of the Kpone landfill, they founded an association and are now calling for better integration into the municipal waste management system.7 Ghana’s Green Jobs Strategy does not state that informal waste pickers are to become municipal garbage men. To start with, waste management workers shall be trained in safety and health standards, and prior learning approaches shall be recognized for waste-pickers. Additionally, Ghana’s Cabinet has approved the National Plastics Management Policy to reduce plastic waste and pollution in Ghana – showing that the implementation is most effective when complemented by other policies.


However, with the strategy being implemented further and further, secure job opportunities could indeed arise also for people like the Kpone landfill waste pickers. With their desire for secure contracts and better work conditions, they send out a clear message: they are ready for change.


2Baah-Boteng, W., Vanek, J. (2020): Informal Workers in Ghana: A Statistical Snapshot. WIEGO Statistical Brief No 21, January 2020.


4Bank of Ghana Annual Reports ( accessed 18/12/2020




Graphic Source: Ghana Statistical Service, Integrated Business Establishment Report; National Employment Report; 2015 and Ghana’s Fourth National Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report

The ICR Facility supported the production of this publication. It is co-funded by the European Union (EU), the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) under the 11th European Development Fund (EDF), the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the British Council. The ICR Facility is implemented by GIZ, the British Council, Expertise France, and SNV. The contents of the publication are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the EU, OACPS, BMZ or of the implementing partners. 

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