Water And Electricity Access For Home-Based Enterprises And Poverty Reduction In The Greater Accra Metropolitan Area (GAMA)


Access to water and electricity services is intricately connected to improvements in the viability of livelihoods thereby reducing poverty. Despite research that attests to the significance of services and livelihoods, these issues have often been examined separately. In particular, the impact of water and electricity access on home-based enterprises (HBEs) remains largely understudied and not clearly understood. This study fills this lacuna. It illustrates how the urban poor in Accra use a range of strategies to improve their water and electricity access which in turn enhances the long-term viability of their livelihood activities. The study adopts an urban political economy approach to highlight how complex governance networks are (re)shaping household economies and the water and electricity agenda such that the vested interests of local elites determine ‘whose access matters’. This conceptual approach is accompanied by mixed methods including surveys, focus group discussions, in-depth interviews, and mobile interviews such as follow-along participant observation conducted with residents in four of the city’s neighbourhoods to examine the intersections between services, HBEs and poverty. The thesis finds that access is defined by proximity, reliability, quality and affordability dimensions that produce inequalities, with urban dwellers experiencing unequal geographies through a multiplicity of governance practices. The study argues that the contestations over access to urban services take place across a series of different domains incorporating the everyday geographies of the water and electricity network and household livelihood activities. Examining this services-livelihoods intersection, the study reveals how improving access to water and electricity significantly enhances home-based enterprises and reduces household poverty, particularly through job and income generation and increased affordability of services. It is argued that people’s poverty reduction strategies illustrate how informality is nested within formal service provision but in a subtle manner so as to not compromise the veneer of formality of the service or livelihood activity. It also highlights the agency of the poor and the complex ways in which they negotiate poverty, which are shown to be due to the inefficiencies of urban governance. These complexities suggest the notion of ‘emergent formalizations’, as it helps in categorizing the particular configuration of formal and informal elements and the patterns of interaction that characterize different modes of governance arrangements in the water and electricity sector. The study recommends inclusive pro-poor policies aimed at supporting service–dependent livelihoods.


Thesis (PhD)


Water, Electricity Access, Home-Based Enterprises, Poverty Reduction, Greater Accra Metropolitan Area (GAMA), Ghana