Accra is a city full of the “haves” and “have nots”. As I drove off from the airport, though it was midnight, I remember driving through the neighbourhood closest to the airport, it was quite stunning and had a Singapore feel to it. I soon discovered that these areas comprised suburbs such as the Airport Residential Area, Roman Ridge and Dzorwulu. Basically, the city’s east side including East Legon and Cantoments is the most developed and has the highest concentration of expatriate workers living in luxury accomodation which could easily fetch $5000 USD per month in rental income. As I headed west to where mom lives, it was not long before I was greeted with what Accra had to offer from its roads; traffic, and lots of it I might add. What makes matters worse is the juggernaut Tetteh Quarshie-Apenkwa-Mallam road development project currently in progress.
The sheer scale of this project is phenomenal. It is funded by the Millenium Challenge Authority set up by the US government. In fact, it has been proposed that the road is named George Walker Bush Motorway, after it’s major project sponsor. This project alone spans 14km. The view from the ground is that it is much longer than that. The worst bit about this project, I have to say, is that the contractors have gone on to rip out the entire 14km of road, with no provision for diversionary routes. The results? Chaos and ungazetteered roads. And Accra’s main form of affordable public transport in the form of taxis and mini-buses, better known here as tro-tros, does not help with the traffic chaos.
Please excuse me if this blog post comes across as negative, it is meant to paint a positive picture of development as the Tetteh Quarshie-Apenkwa-Mallam road project will offer far more than a better road for transportation; included will be essential development of socioeconomic infrastructure such as drainage systems and sanitation facilities. However, I just can’t help but scrutinize the project for the sheer magnitude of disruption it has caused, with no evidence that an effort has been made to divert traffic and provide passable roads for these diversions. I am also not sure whether effective community consultation has or currently is being done and each time we drive along the road, I look out for courtesy boards so we know who to contact to file complaints. I am yet to find such. A project of this magnitude, which impacts tens of thousands of residents and road users needs to show a greater duty of care for the affected public.
Take what happened to me the other day. I have put on my brave and somewhat tom-boyish persona and have taken to the streets, I am actually driving in Accra, yes, it is the wrong side of the road, and other than the fact that there is so much dust, bumps and “un-made” roads, driving in Accra is like driving in London. Slow moving traffic and congestion exists in both cities. But back to what happened the other day. A couple of days ago, I almost drove into a ditch which had suddenly been dug with no prior notification, in the only access route direct to our home from the Tetteh Quarshie-Apenkwa-Mallam Road. If it wasn’t for the fact that I am a very careful driver, I would have driven straight into that ditch. And this had been done just a couple of days before Christmas, an act which I view as totally pointless. Nevertheless, we are ok, but what about other unfortunate road users who may pay the price in road traffic accidents due to the careless planning of these works? I am not in the business of defrauding any well meaning companies, but would it be fair to hold the major contractors, namely China Railway and MSF responsible? Better attention must be paid to the health and safety aspects of this project and consideration of the local community.
And this project hits closer to home. It is right on the doorstep of my mom’s home. If it wasn’t for the fact that there was significantly expensive drainage infrastructure already installed in the proposed route of the road, mom’s house would have been demolished. Mom was very fortunate, but what about the other estimated 1019 temporary and permanent structures used as homes and businesses2 impacted by the nearby Awoshie Pokuase Road Project? They have all been compensated to a certain extent, but are still left with nowhere to go. And not to mention the expense of constantly cleaning homes of dust, and repairing cars which have not been made for such dusty conditions? And we have to endure this for the next 5 years! Could this project be costing more than that $84 million?
Perhaps. This is development in developing countries for you. This is the real picture, I am loving every moment of it. All this chaos means is that there is always room for improvement.
So good ol’ George Bush sponsored the development of this road, and set up an account worth US$547 million in the Millenium Development Challenge to develop Ghana’s roads. Could Ghana have done this herself? Until my next post from Ghana, stay tuned, be blessed and enjoy your 2011.
1. Millenium Development Authority http://mida.gov.gh/site/?page_id=264
2. Resettlement Action plan http://www.evd.nl/zoeken/showbouwsteen.asp?bstnum=234925&location