The divergence between acceptability of municipal services and urbanization in developing countries: insights from Accra and Sekondi-Takoradi, Ghana

In most developing countries, the provision of municipal services and infrastructure invariably fails to match the pace and demands of urbanization. The outcome is often increased informality due to improper planning, official bureaucratic barriers, and perhaps, insufficient and shrinking public resources, which then makes leveraging private capital for public service provision imperative. Drawing on in-depth qualitative fieldwork in two Ghanaian cities this paper aims to extend literature on the divergence between service provision and urbanization in developing countries. More specifically, it attempts to qualify recent macro-level data indicating that access to water, sanitation and electricity services in Accra and Sekondi-Takoradi are improving substantively. Contrary to dominant policy narratives circulating in Ghana, we illustrate how the acceptability of key municipal services within urban settings is often inadequate, and how acceptability is tied to spatial and temporal factors. We then identify and examine the reasons underpinning these variations. Through exploring residents’ perceptions of key services, and examining critically the possibility and feasibility of meeting urban service needs through leveraging private resources, this paper contributes to broader academic debates over urban service provision, while also feeding into contemporary policy discussions concerning how to achieve several of the SDGs by 2030.