Ghanaians have been giddy about the oil discovery on the Western shores of Ghana. Some are looking to work in the potential oil industry, while others are looking to do business around it. Some of the job expectations are unrealistic, people say some are skeptical how much money Ghana will really raise from the oil production and whether we might misuse it. The Western region’s traditional leaders want at least 10% of all oil revenue and many Ghanaians don’t like that idea. One thing many Ghanaians agree on is the fact that places like Sekondi and Takoradi are not going to be the same.
They are about to be transformed. If you read the news or have asked Takoradi residents, Takoradi is transforming. We should watch, guide and tailor this transformation in the absolute best interest of Ghana’s development. a recent news story mentions that The Western regional coordinating council has announced a number of measures being initiated to maximize the benefits of Ghana’s oil and contain the influx of persons and the pressure that would be on infrastructure in the region, mainly Takoradi of course.
From speaking to some relatives and friends who live in Takoradi and know the place well, rent rates and housing prices are going up and skyrocketing. it could reach the same land ownership rates in Accra. Apparently, some room owners have started increasing the rent to exorbitant prices or are asking the tenants to move because they can charge ‘the new people moving to work in Takoradi’ much higher rates and that they can pay.
Yes, many international companies are starting to make their marks in Takoradi, They are employing their expatriate employees who have more buying power and other professionals trained at Tech (knusT) and Legon or folks who’ve been living in Accra. This is what folks will call ‘gentrification’ in other parts of the world. it’s troubling for local residents. The new houses and apartments that will be built (thanks to the booming real estate business) will be out of the price range. i haven’t heard the government talking about low-cost housing in these areas. private sector want to make money.
The current population in the region - 2,325,597 - is a lot but it’s a safe guess to say more than half of that number is in Sekondi-Takoradi. We’ve seen a lot of big mining companies operate in Tarkwa and other areas, but we haven’t seen the development there. of course, they provide some amenities for their employees and their families but these areas are the anti-Johannesburg. Learn how Johannesburg became what it is today.
Johannesburg’s growth into the top centre of commerce in Africa was due to the gold mining industry in the nearby areas. Takoradi can and should become a similar case.
It already houses the Effia Nkwanta hospital, biggest in the region, and it is going to become overstretched, necessitating the need for a bigger health facility. There are plans for a new ultra modern regional hospital, possibly to be sited in the Shama district.
Chief Director of the Council, Mr David Yaro, remarked: “Education, water, our road network need to be expanded because the volume of traffic is going to increase, sanitation, crime - putting pressure on existing facilities. so all these are areas, politically, we are looking at, so the police are being equipped, the navy is being resourced to [protect Ghana’s marine].”
It seems the Western regional council, the Shama Ahanta East metropolitan assembly and co understand the potential growth and are taking steps to meet it with the necessary plans and policies. I don’t think the onus should fall on them alone. Ghana must want to see Takoradi do well. Accra is choked with too much expectation. We need to divvy the wealth and grow other parts of Ghana. This is a perfect opportunity to develop a metropolis that would not be be deviled with the problems Accra is facing. It’s why we organized Barcamp Takoradi to help residents there understand what special place Takoradi can hold on Ghana’s landscape. The theme was “Leading & Enterprising in an Oil & Technology Fuelled Economy”.
Barcamp Ghana is a project being run by the GhanaThink foundation, (http://www. ghanathink.org/) an NGO based both in Ghana and the USA. A BarCamp is a user-generated conference (or unconference). It is an open, participatory workshop-event, whose content is provided by participants. The Barcamp Ghana events are organized to forge networking, discussion, partnerships and change. The goal is to help Ghanaians learn about the issues that affect them, generate ideas for development, network and partner with others who have similar interests and improve or start businesses and projects.
For the development of any city, watching the development of the human resources and the local education are extremely important. I hear of a lot of training programs in and around Takoradi, with people being promised access to new jobs. Some are actually using this promise to pull some Sakawa and 419 on unsuspecting individuals. Either way, I hope that the many graduates coming out of the Takoradi polytechnic and neighboring educational institutions will find their bearings in the burgeoning local economy. it is extremely important, because these are the folks who will make sure the local development is sustainable. This is also where the small businesses in Takoradi should take advantage of these opportunities to increase their portfolios and find capital to grow.
I hope the many international or big local companies that will be gaining footholds in the twin-cities invest in infrastructure - such as education and health. The local, regional councils and state will take care of the rest with the oil money. It’s the way it should work. Let’s get this right. We’ve had Obuasi, Akwatia, Tarkwa, Aboso. Let’s make Takoradi ‘krabehwe’, a place that will attract people from far and near because of its success story. Erm, and Sekondi too :-)
Ps: you should also check out Ghana oil Watch (http://ghanaoilwatch.org/), a good resource for news surrounding the Oil find, and related news. They are on Twitter and facebook. I wish there were some kind of Takoradi watch sites too. We’ll be watching anyway!
By Ato Ulzen-Appiah
A Graduate student of Stanford University and a
Member of the Barcamp Ghana team.