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Ghana is a country located in west Africa, with an area of 227,540 km² [1]. The country is relatively rich with natural resources, including fertile soils, forests, and mineral deposits of gold, diamonds, manganese, and bauxite. The climate is generally tropical and warm, with aridity increasing from south to north. Occupying central Ghana, the Volta River Basin drains nearly half of the country. While Ghana’s coastal zone represents only 6.5% of the total land area, it supports one-quarter of the population and most of the country’s industries [2].

Important National Context

Ghana has a total population of 31.1 million (in 2020), of which 42.65% of the population live in rural areas [3], where agriculture is the main livelihood. The country’s population is projected to reach 52.02 million by 2050, and the proportion of working-age population is projected to increase from its current 59.73% to 64.11% by 2050 [4].  

Ghana’s urban population has rapidly grown over the last five decades. The urban population increased to 57.35% of the total population in 2021, from 28.96% in 1970, an increase of almost 100% in 50 years. Projections indicate that the urban population in Ghana will reach 38.06 million by 2050, or 73.2% of the country’s total population [4].  

This rapid rate of urbanization has brought several economic, environmental, health, and social challenges. Challenges include, among several others, inadequate financial resources, insufficient employment opportunities, spreading homelessness and expansion of squatter settlements, improper land use, insecure land tenure, insufficient and inadequate water supply and poor sanitation, unplanned urban development and an increasing vulnerability to disaster [5].

Ghana has been one of the fastest growing economies in the world, with an annual GDP growth rate of 4.96% over the last two decades since 2001. In 2011, Ghana moved to Lower Middle-Income Country status [6]. Over the last four decades, the contribution of the primary sector (agriculture, forestry, and fishing) to GDP has declined from 57.92% in 1980, to 18.24% in 2020 [7].

Ghana has abundant natural resources (gold, diamond, bauxite, timber, cocoa, biodiversity, fertile agricultural land and renewable natural resources such as sunshine, wind, waste and biomass) with great potential for the attainment of sustainable development. However, Ghana's inability to take full advantage of these resources has contributed to high unemployment and poverty rates, energy crises and inadequate funding to finance its developmental projects [8].

On the back of strong economic growth throughout the past decade, Ghana aims to graduate from lower middle- income status. To achieve this, economic growth will have to accelerate, and productivity will need to rise. Achieving this ambitious goal will necessarily involve, among other things, a more effective application of science, technology and innovation (STI) in the economy in order to drive productivity growth and diversification in production. To date, however, the role played by STI in Ghana’s development has been limited [9].

Ghana is regularly affected by floods and prone to earthquakes. Although the country is generally stable, some areas in the north still regularly experience episodes of conflict and violence [10].

Environmental Governance

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of Ghana is an agency under the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, established by EPA Act 490 (1994). The agency is the leading public body for protecting and improving the environment in Ghana, and oversees the implementation of Government policies on the environment. The mission of the EPA is to co-manage, protect and enhance the country's environment, in particular, as well as seek common solutions to global environmental problems. The mission is to be achieved inter alia through research, scientific, technological and innovative approaches, good governance and partnerships [11].

In Ghana, several environmental policies exist including the National Climate Change Policy, National Environmental Policy, Environmental Fiscal Reform Policy, and the National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, among many others [8]. Ghana’s National Environmental Policy (NEP) is based on a broad vision founded on and directed by respect for all relevant principles and themes of environment and sustainable development. According to the Policy, Ghanaians are entitled to an environment that is not harmful to their health and wellbeing and are enjoined to have the environment protected for the benefit of present and future generations through reasonable legislative and administrative measures [12].

However, industries in Ghana, for the sake of development, have been degrading the environment. It has been argued that environmental policies in Ghana may have been more of state "regulation" or "management" than "environmental governance" overseen by state ministries and the EPA. Nevertheless, environmental degradation, for example, due to mining activities, has been on the increase [13].

National context alignement with the EU Green Deal

The future of EU – Ghana partnership will aim at supporting the sustainable economic and social development of the country while at the same time ensuring environmental protection with a view of eradicating poverty and achieving the SDGs; promoting peace in the country and in the region; and fostering respect for democratic principles, human rights and the rule of law. Digital technologies are also considered crucial for attaining the “Ghana Beyond Aid Agenda” that emphasises the maximisation of resource/revenue mobilisation, reduction of corruption, investments in agriculture and industrialisation, and boosting productivity through changes in attitudes, work ethics and respect for laws and regulation. Ghana is in the process of finalising a new Digital Economy Policy and a Digital Transformation Blueprint to position the country as the leader in ICT innovation in Sub-Saharan Africa. Priority areas for European Partners’ cooperation with Ghana include green growth for jobs, smart and sustainable cities, and good governance and security [14].

Aligned with the European Green Deal, Ghana aims to transition to a green economy [15] and over several years, has formulated policies and developed strategies and plans such as renewable energy policies, low carbon development strategies (LCDs), the national climate change policies, forest and wildlife policies, and the Forest Investment Program (FIP), among others, that have a direct bearing on green economy transformation [16]. The Ghana Shared Growth and Developmental Agenda II (2014-2017) aimed at “leveraging Ghana's natural resources endowments, agricultural potentials and the human resource base for accelerated economic growth and job creation through value addition.” Green initiatives in the GSGDA I and II policies included government efforts to accelerate agricultural transformation and sustainable natural resource management in Ghana [16]. Ghana also recently launched a National Green Jobs Strategy which aims to ensure a just and socially inclusive green transition [14].

In addition, Ghana's 2020- 2025 COVID-19 Alleviation and Revitalisation of Enterprises Support (CARES) is a flagship policy in better building the economy through safeguarding jobs. It is envisaged that the economic gains from the CARES programme would, after 2025, serve as the basis for the Government to continue its economic diversification efforts in the face of the transition towards a resilient and low carbon future [17].

Key Environmental-Development Challenges

According to the World Bank’s Ghana Country Environmental Analysis (CEA), the cost of environmental degradation in Ghana is estimated at about US$6.3 billion, equivalent to 10.7% of the country’s 2017 GDP [6].  



Air pollution is the number one environmental risk to public health in Ghana, costing roughly $2 billion per year (equivalent to 4.2% of GDP) and causing the premature deaths of nearly 16,000 people each year. This is primarily due to the impacts caused by household air pollution (causing about 8,800 premature deaths), and secondarily by ambient air pollution (about 7,200 premature deaths) in rural and urban areas.

E-waste, associated with the Agbogbloshie dumpsite, is Accra’s main source of air pollution. Burning electronic parts cast carcinogenic compounds into the air while deposited toxic metals enter waterways and oceans. Each year, exposure to lead and mercury-causing diseases and lost IQ points in children costs $440 million.

Water Pollution also causes significant damage (equivalent to 3% of GDP) due to the health effects of an inadequate water supply, poor sanitation, and inadequate hygiene (about 10,600 early deaths), as well as discharge of solid waste, industrial effluents, and toxic substances into water systems.

In addition, plastic pollution is rising to crisis proportions. Each day, over 3,000 metric tons of plastic waste is produced with much of it dumped as litter or placed into improvised landfills. This waste clogs open drainage systems and pollutes the ocean [6], [18].


[1] World Bank. [Online]. Available:

[2] Amlalo, D. S. (2006). The Protection, Management and Development of the Marine and Coastal Environment of Ghana. In Administering Marine Spaces: International Issues. International Federation of Surveyors (FIG) Commissions 4 & 7 Working Group 4.3. Frederiksberg, Denmark: International Federation of Surveyors.

[3] World Bank (2021). [Online]. Available:

[4] World Bank (2021). [Online]. Available:

[5] Clarke Owusu (2021). Urbanization in Ghana. Challenges and Prospects for National Development, Munich, GRIN Verlag,

[6] World Bank (2020). [Online]. Available:

[7] World Bank Data (2021). [Online]. Available:

[8] PAGE (2015), Ghana's Transition to a Green Economy: A Stocktaking Report.

[9] United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) (2020). Science, Technology and Innovation Policy Review: Ghana.

[10] UNPFD (2021). Ghana Humanitarian Emergency. [Online]. Available:

[11] Environmental Protection Agency of Ghana. [Online]. Available:


[13] Li, G., Koomson, D.A., Huang, J., Amponsah, E.I., Darkwah, W.K. Miwornunyuie, N., Li, K., Dong, X. (2020). A review from environmental management to environmental governance: paradigm shift for sustainable mining practice in Ghana. Environment Development and Sustainability.

[14] European Commission (2021). Multiannual Indicative Programme 2021-2027 for Ghana – annex.

[15] [Online]. Available:

[16] Ali, E.B., Anufriev, V.P. and Amfo, B., (2021). Green economy implementation in Ghana as a road map for a sustainable development drive: A review. Scientific African, p.e00756.

[17] MESTI. (2021). Ghana: Updated Nationally Determined Contribution under the Paris Agreement (2020 – 2030) Environmental Protection Agency, Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Accra.

[18] World Bank. 2020. Ghana Country Environmental Analysis. World Bank, Washington, DC. © World Bank. License: CC BY 3.0 IGO