Exploring the Crime and Poverty Nexus in Urban Ghana

The link between poverty, crime, and urban violence is one that must be fully explored in sub-Saharan Africa. Existing models and theories aimed at reducing urban violence and crime are largely founded on experiences in North America and Europe. Sub-Saharan Africa is noticeably absent from global debates. This research project will address that gap by developing an evidence-base on the topic. Specifically, it will explore the relationship between socio-economic characteristics in Ghana's urban neighbourhoods and the occurrence, type, and impact of crime and violence. The project will deepen our understanding of the issues and contribute to more effective policy-making and practice on-the-ground. Like many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Ghana is experiencing rapid urbanization at a time of economic growth and poor urban governance. This situation has led to increased poverty levels and a dramatic rise in crime and violence. Policymakers and community stakeholders have been limited in their ability to develop effective interventions to reverse the trends because there is a shortage of knowledge in Ghana on the link between poverty, inequalities, crime, and violence. Researchers will study crime locations and their relationship with the social, economic, and demographic characteristics in urban centres. More specifically, they will examine the relationship between poverty and the incidence of crime in neighbourhoods across cities of different sizes, geographic location, growth histories, and resource bases. Objectives include: -Map and highlight the prevalent types of crime in urban neighbourhoods; -Explore the relationships between neighbourhood and household socio-economic characteristics, and the occurrence rates, types, and impact of crime; -Assess the effectiveness of formal and informal strategies for addressing crime in urban neighbourhoods; -Assess the study's implications for neighbourhood crime mapping and law enforcement interventions; and, -Share the results with African researchers, policymakers, and practitioners working to reduce urban violence and crime. Researchers will study the following cities: Accra, Kumasi, Sekondi-Takoradi, and Tamale. They will conduct interviews and surveys in three neighbourhoods in each of the four urban centres. Each experiences different socio-economic realities. The research team will apply a mix of quantitative and qualitative methods, and use Geographic Information Mapping to enhance our understanding of criminal violence in Ghana, as well as the relationship between crime and socio-economic characteristics. This project is part of the Safe and Inclusive Cities (SAIC) research initiative designed to build an evidence base on the connections between urban violence, poverty, and inequalities. Jointly funded by IDRC and the United Kingdom's Department for International Development, the SAIC program also seeks to identify the most effective strategies for addressing these challenges in Latin America and the Caribbean, South Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa.

Project ID


Project status


Start Date

Friday, December 21, 2012


36 months

IDRC Officer

Ramata Thioune

Total funding

CA$ 497,200


Ghana, United Kingdom


Governance and Justice, Safe and Inclusive Cities

Project Leader

Prof. George Owusu


University of Ghana

Institution Country


Institution Website