The fortunes of Ghana’s capital city, Accra, are growing in areas of education, commerce, trade and infrastructure. How are the fortunes shared? Surprisingly, the city’s wealth, instead of translating into spatio-economic equity, has led to congested living conditions, especially in the slums. Like many African cities, Accra is densely populated and faces seemingly complex decongestive challenges – streets, homes, banks and schools. Statistics suggested that 780,000 lived in Accra in 1978. Today, the combined population in Accra, Tema and the immediate extended peripheral communities such as Kasoa, Amasaman, Pokuase, Fafraha, and Dawhenya is over 5 million.
The rapid built up of infrastructure between Tema and Accra had resulted into shrinking of open green spaces by 85 per cent between the two cities. Now, these cities have spatially merged to form Ghana’s most economically vibrant and urbanised zone. Every day commuting in-between them is very stressful. So, decongesting the zone frequently resurfaces. How can the zone be sustainably decongested to ease mobility and improve service delivery through decentralisation to enhance productivity and liveability? In this context, several policy initiatives have been implemented to decentralise urban services and yet the congestion remains sticky. Will the saddle disappear?
Over the years, harsh consequences of decongestive interventions generated unhealthy controversies among policymakers and residents. At the moment, the critical issue of interest is not so much about a search for faults, myths or what is accountable for the causes. Rather, how to undertake decongestive schemes in humane ways that will not force pro-poor urban residents to go starving, displaced or emotionally distressed.
For congestion to be minimised, then the approach will require all-inclusive strategies and clearly set paths. Though there are other routes to decongest the city, one of the apparently strategic options is to relocate the regional administrative seat of the Greater Accra Region (GAR) from central Accra to a suburb. This will free Accra to fully function and reposition as the nation’s Capital City serving all the ten regional cities, subregional ECOWAS and the global community. It is important to recognize that Accra is not only a major junction to Wa, Paga, Nasia and Avalavi but also to Toronto, Geneva, Paris, Bulawayo, Bamako and Beijing.
If Dodowa is mandated as a regional city, it will generate benefits beyond the singular purpose of decongestion. Constructing new infrastructure to facilitate transfer of administrative power to the new regional city will potentially accelerate socio-economic development of Dodowa, the GAR and the nation as large. Commercial trading activities will increase internally. And, the international community can transact businesses in Accra’s free environment. Thus, if Dodowa becomes a regional city, it is not only for the people of the area. The benefits are for all.
Already it is widely held that poor service delivery is a predominant cause of city congestion alongside climate change and population growth. How easy it is to obtain service from your service provider? No correspondence, the delays, insults and attitudes! Indeed, reassigning regional responsibilities to Dodowa will ease service delivery and, therefore, ought to be given a keen attention in decongestive policies and general urban planning.
The existing physical infrastructure of the District Assembly in Dodowa is situated in one of the most beautiful natural landscapes having savanna, derived forest and mountainous relics. The biodiversity and green infrastructure is spectacularly rich. With an estimated population of over 250,000 (including extended fringes), Dodowa posits as a unique social mix, multi-cultural and an inviting ethnic community exceptionally receptive to others because of the peripheral proximity to Accra’s cosmopolitan livings. The prevailing infrastructural base in Dodowa provides a solid foundation to re-plan and build a new regional administrative system without the financial burden of having to start from nothing. The improved road linking central Accra to Adenta Barrier and the completion of the remaining portion from Adenta to Dodowa will superbly boost the regional city agenda. The availability of relative unused lands in Dodowa makes it possible to expand service delivery outlets to support effective regional administration. When the service outlets are well-connected, distributed and efficiently coordinated it will reduce travelling times and ease access to services. The congested central Accra will be free a bit then.
As a search for comfort, safety and high-productivity in Accra city continues, the situation where service outlets are, at times, distributed but the administrative procedures are centralised would have to be reversed and done away with. Decentralising and delegating regional administrative power to Dodowa can have multiplier effects on decongestion of the Accra city. Is decentralisation really a sine qua non for sustainable decongestion? Has regional administrative system led to decongestion in Kumasi, Tamale or Cape Coast?
Note: For the map shown in the write up above, credits Google maps