The Two Faces of Accra

By Kofi Ayim

New York City is larger, more populous, and has more automobiles than Accra, the capital of Ghana. Accra, on the other hand is dustier and dirtier with vehicular congestion notoriously at level F, an unacceptable grade in transportation parlance. Open drainage systems are used as dumping grounds of filth and breeding habitats of mosquitoes, rats, and other rodents. 

Daily commute is more stressful and scarier because roadways cannot sustain the volume of vehicles.  Hawkers peddling their wares as well as beggars often share the roads with vehicles. Some road works are temporarily suspended for lack of funds, while ongoing ones are mostly carried out during normal business hours, adding to already clogged roads.  Aesthetics in road construction is in poor taste. Median barriers are left treeless and dusty, robbing the roadway of beauty and erosion prevention. Comfortable motor coaches such as the Accra-Kumasi VIP buses have pushed government-operated Setra buses into oblivion.

Per square mile, Accra probably has more churches than New York City and consequently more pastors, prophets, priests, apostles, and reverend ministers. The ignorant and the weak are at the mercy of some of these self-made one-man church leaders.  Preaching and collecting offering in local commuter (tro-tro) vehicles is a constant feature of life in Accra. In terms of population density, citizens of Accra have more mobile phones than in New York City, with an average of two phones per person, courtesy of dropped calls by the telecom companies. With the exception of business offices, land phone lines are fast becoming a thing of the past in most homes.

Amidst water rationing and shortages, massive commercial and private properties, as well as private schools continue to spring up all over the place.  The Accra Mall, off the ever congested Tetteh Quarshie Roundabout is in a class of its own, and generally out of the purchasing power of the average Ghanaian. On the George Walker Bush Highway and other roadways, heavy earth moving equipment, most of which were used to devastate the environment in “galamsey” operations are displayed ready for sale or rent.

Power outages (dumso) has virtually ended but the cost of energy has skyrocketed way out of the pocket of the average user.

Even though unemployment among recent graduates is high, admission to tertiary institutions and colleges is very competitive with several excellent students being rejected. Meanwhile, talking heads on the broadcast media continue to holler on air. In an attempt to drive home their points, some of these self-made air heads yell into microphones.

Amidst all the stress, poverty, and hardship in the country, night life in Accra and elsewhere continues unabated, either as a therapeutic stress reducer or the proverbial Ghanaian way of life – enjoyment. On most Friday and Saturday nights, pubs, clubs, and drinking holes are filled to capacity. Some joints like “Just Nibbles” on the Spintex Road occasionally jam with live bands. One such band, the up-and-coming ”Shakers Band” brings memories of yesteryears. Other places around Dansoman , Osu and the Kwame Nkrumah Circle are filled with ”contemptible fortune seekers”. These hookers come in different shapes and forms and may be brazen at times.  Like Cab drivers they have a way to detect and isolate a JJA (Jonny Just Arrived) from locals. The usage of “cab” instead of “taxi” and clicking on a seat belt are giveaway signs of a Yankee in town. Guest houses and Inns abound aplenty and are typically hideouts for quick turnaround lovers. Sunday morning’s omotuo and drinks have become a status symbol of socializing for many. From Hilltop in Amrahia on the Dodowa Road to the heart of the City, friends and families gather to eat, drink and discuss wide range of issues. It is also where bald old men treat their daughter-age girlfriends to sumptuous meals. 

In Accra and elsewhere in Ghana, guys and gals may go out all on their own. In New York City, such an outing may be construed as gayism or lesbianism that could put their lives at risk.

For the homeless, wooden structures that seem abandoned in daytime, as well as front porches of government offices serve as sleeping quarters at night time.

Security is relatively stronger. The two faces of Accra is replicated in most African cities, where the distribution of wealth and national asset is woefully uneven.  Ghana is rich, indeed very rich, but a vast majority of its people wallows in poverty but the attitudes of the people only indicate a normality that nothing can be done about!


Posted by on Dec 16 2013. Filed under Community News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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