Accra - Capital of Ghana

Accra and its city parts

Accra – the capital of Ghana and its political and economic center. A city of millions and a huge conglomerate that is very difficult to grasp. This starts with its borders, some of which are completely flowing to the neighbouring cities, and I myself do not yet know how this city is actually structurally divided – what are independent cities, what are districts – but ultimately this plays a role. also no role, as long as you somehow understand where you have to go or even want to go. In some cases, however, this alone is already difficult enough. I remember a situation within the first few weeks where the Tema Station in the middle of Accra was designated as a meeting point. In the end, however, we as a group were in the city of Tema, a few kilometers from the actual destination. This is all the more annoying when you are also stuck in commuter traffic, because Accra is completely congested on its main roads. The city is growing rapidly and even if the infrastructure is expanded, it is hardly enough to meet the ever-increasing demands.
Every year I noticed how fast Accra is changing. Within the six years i have regularly travelled to Ghana, many points that are striking to me have disappeared and some corners have been completely redesigned. However, this development has been going on for some time. As I was told, 10 years before my first trip, there were hardly any more high-rise houses in the city. Today there are some large complexes and hotels in the "centre" and in the area around the airport. Modernly designed malls can now be found at several corners. For many residents, of course, these are also popular attractions and positive evidence of the economic development of the country, or at least this part of the country. For me, these are rather the boring places, whereas for me the attraction lies more in the narrower alleys, the chop bars, the markets – wherever things are a little different than you know it in Germany. Such a modern mall is the same in every corner of the world.
In the previous section, I had already put the word centre in goosebumps, because in fact it is somewhat difficult to identify a classic centre in this patchwork of city. But what comes closest to this is the coastal strip around Black Star Square between the Jamestown and Osu neighborhoods. Here are quite close to each other, e.g. the National Theatre, the National Stadium, the Art Center (a kind of market and center for local culture and craftsmanship), some ministries and banks as well as the Makola Market, one of the most important markets of the city. The Black Star Square itself, the country's Independence Square, is used for various major events, with the annual Independence Day celebrations on March 6. On the whole, the architectural sights of the city in this corner were ticked off relatively quickly with a tour. As I said, it gets much more exciting in the big and small markets and all the corners where everyday life plays out, which of course follows the general rules of a big city, but also has very specific facets to offer everywhere.
Flexibility, apart from the high volume of traffic and the time involved, is fortunately not a problem at all in Accra. Feels every third car in this city is a taxi and you can hardly walk ten steps on a road without a driver alerting you with his horn to the transport option he offers. If you decide to do so, it is only a matter of making it clear to the driver where you want to go and a little negotiating skill is required. The journey with a so-called trotro is significantly more cost-effective, but at the same time also somewhat more cramped and usually more time-consuming. These are vans equipped with benches and serve a wide range of routes for a very low fare. Here, however, one should know even more where exactly it should go and to understand the basic system takes quite a few trips. But once you see through the whole thing, trotros in the city are a really cheap means of transport.
Since I lived mostly in the peripheral areas during my stays, I was quite often dependent on this kind of locomotion, because with all the joy of running, one quickly reaches its limits in Accra and the surrounding area. Within the neighborhoods, however, running is again a very good idea to absorb everyday life here. You can also enjoy some advantages of the way of life, such as traders who walk through the streets with their goods and you can buy a freshly cut pineapple for just a few cents – a perfect refreshment in sunny weather.
I spent most of my time in Accra in the suburbs of Achimota, Dome, Legon and Madina, all of which have little real centre except for their markets. Here we simply live and work, whereby I would structurally distinguish between two ways of life that determine the everyday life that can be perceived from the outside. For many, life tends to take place outside. People live in small houses, often share a common courtyard where you sit, wash, cook, talk and play the children of the neighborhood together. There are also those families who live in larger houses, which are usually surrounded by a large wall and which are accordingly more closed off. Unless you are dealing with such a family, visitors will receive only a limited insight into their lives, with the first case primarily shaping the external image of everyday life in the residential areas. A common feature of the neighborhoods is that the larger streets are mostly lined with small shops, stalls, bars and classic shops. These supply veins run through the city, while in the quieter side streets the houses stand. Especially here it is incredibly easy to get completely lost in winding alleys. Luckily, the Ghanaians are usually super helpful and as a white European you notice here anyway like a colorful dog. The challenge is still to be able to locate where the real goal lies without street names and house numbers.

Accra Art Centre

Not far from the Nkrumah Memorial is the National Center for Culture, or simply art center. The website VisitGhana refers to this place as "Tourist Heaven", about which one can be divided, at least as far as the second word is concerned. It is definitely a tourist place, but you have to deal with it in order to have fun here.
I remember our first arrival at the Art Center pretty much. We were just told to stop there and we didn't really know what to expect. On site we were hardly got out of the taxi and we were already surrounded by dealers and almost dragged to the first stands – without a real price idea of all the things that are offered here. Personally, I imagine a tourist sky differently and had already saved the Art Center under "Once and never again", because such an intrusive sales behavior in Ghana was completely new to me.
Nevertheless, I went there again the following year, this time with a clear mission: interviews and recordings on the subject of "Made in Ghana". With a confident demeanor and a clear focus, the situation was completely different and there was no sign of intrusive dealers and we were able to take full advantage of the Art Center. In a confined space, many of the pieces offered are produced directly by hand. These include, for example, drums, sculptures, small tables and chairs, masks, chains, baskets and various other things. If you look a little behind the facades of the stalls, an exciting world opens up here, where you can look over the shoulder of all the artisans and appreciate the work that is in the sold works quite differently.
With more precise price estimates in mind and a certain idea of what can be used for decoration purposes, even a small shopping trip can of course be designed much better than with the cluelessness of the first visit. However, I had only one problem on the second visit: in fact, individual traders could still remember me exactly. Among other things, one to whom I had promised (of course in faith not to come back to Ghana so quickly) to buy some object later. Well, I definitely owed him a purchase in his shop, whether because of a bad conscience or just in recognition of this cognitive memory.

Kwame Nkrumah Memorial

The fact that today in Ghana stands in a prominent place a quite magnificent mausoleum for Kwame Nkrumah, was for a long time not a given. After all, the man, who died in exile in Romania in 1972, had been controversial for a long time in Ghana and had fallen out of favour with politics. But how did he do it and who was Nkrumah in the first place? This book is not meant to be a treatise on Ghanaian history, but if you want to know something about the West African country, the name Kwame Nkrumah should at least be a household name.
He was born in 1909 in Nkroful (now eastern region), then part of the British colony Gold Coast, where his birthplace can now be visited as a museum. Already during his school years he stood out and began to take an interest in the pan-African movement. This continued during his studies, which he spent in the USA and the UK, and was even intensified. The main role model was W.E.B. du Bois. After graduating with two doctorates, he returned to the Gold Coast and became highly politically active and worked towards the independence of the colony. In return, he became chairman of the Convention People's Party (CPP), which he founded, and in march 1957, after some difficulties, he proclaimed Ghana's independence in March 1957, but still largely peacefully. This made the country the first sub-Saharan country to gain independence, and Nkrumah became Ghana's hero and first prime minister. In 1960, the state was politically re-elected, and Nkrumah was elected prime minister.
During his reign, the President also fought for the freedom of other African colonies and pursued his goal of African unification and the establishment of the United States of Africa. At the same time, however, he faced major domestic challenges, as economic problems continued to decline and popular dissatisfaction increased. As his policies grew, Nkrumah became increasingly authoritarian in his leadership style, becoming a despot with radical views. During a trip abroad in 1966, a coup d'état finally followed. Nkrumah fell out of favor and was unable to return to Ghana.
Politically troubled times followed in the West African state with several military coups, and the unification of Africa, so desired by Nkrumah, did not advance in his sense. He eventually died in exile rather bitterly.
It should take some time in Ghana to refocus on Nkrumah's great achievements instead of focusing on his despotic time. The first president of Ghana did not experience this change, but today he is revered to a large extent as a folk hero again and so his mausoleum is now available for public viewing. This is quite pompously designed and thus also in its architecture gives a clear indication of the clearly increased reputation of Kwame Nkrumah.