Original Research

Following the footsteps: Urbanisation of Wa Municipality and its synergism in risk accumulation, uncertainties and complexities in urban Ghana

Martin Oteng-Ababio, George Owusu, Divine M. Asafo
Jàmbá: Journal of Disaster Risk Studies | Vol 11, No 1 | a479 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/jamba.v11i1.479 | © 2019 Martin Oteng-Ababio, George Owusu, Divine M. Asafo | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 19 April 2017 | Published: 17 January 2019

About the author(s)

Martin Oteng-Ababio, Department of Geography and Resource Development, University of Ghana, Ghana
George Owusu, Department of Geography and Resource Development, University of Ghana, Ghana
Divine M. Asafo, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, University of Sheffield, United Kingdom


Global demographic characteristics have witnessed a significant shift with more than half of the world’s population crossing the rural–urban threshold in 2008. In Ghana, the 2010 census report revealed 50.9% urban population. While the many benefits of organised and efficient cities are well understood, it must be recognised that rapid, often unplanned urbanisation brings risk of profound social instability, risk to critical infrastructure, potential water crises and the potential for devastating spread of disease. These risks can only be further exacerbated as this unprecedented transition from rural to urban areas continues. This also means stakes are high for public and private interventions to ensure that urbanisation reinforces rather than retards prosperity. In spite of these past experiences, urban governance policies in emerging smaller cities are frequently ambivalent and piecemeal, exhibiting similar negative tendencies, a development that has received less academic attention. This study adopted multiple research techniques and the data were generated through a structured questionnaire survey, personal interviews and discussions. Based on our conviction that the development trajectory of any city hinges on the quality of its physical foundation, we seek to fill the knowledge gap using the Wa Municipality, the least urbanised but one of the fastest urbanising cities in Ghana today, as a case study. The results reveal emerging tendencies that indicate that Wa appears to be following in the footsteps of its predecessors – experiencing an inefficient potable water supply system and chronic sanitation situation, making diarrhoea one of many challenges for residents. It is ultimately suggested that a collaborative partnership with all key stakeholders is a better option to reap the potential for urbanisation to strengthen economic growth and development.


urbanisation; risk; vulnerability; Wa; Ghana


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