After successfully winning the bid to host the 2008 African Cup, determining who will govern us for the next four years including knowing the various sector ministers, and after the assurance from the President on the commitment to provide sports infrastructure, it is about time that serious thought is given to decisions that will affect us now and the future.
After the country investing so much in winning the bid, and considering the investments to be made for a successful hosting of the tournament, it is important all the investments made do not negatively impact on the people, economy and the social fibre of the society at least if it is not to improve on the lives of the people. After all the investments, especially the infrastructure will not only be available for the 2008 African Cup tournament but exist afterwards, opening the door and creating the opportunity for the cities hosting the tournament to host similar international and local tournaments.
Fortunately Tamale is one of the cities that will be hosting the tournament. The city officials, government and other interest groups have worked hard for this feat. However, the proposed location of the Olympic size stadium to be constructed leaves much to be desired. The site as proposed is the piece of land adjacent to the education ridge roundabout, close to the “forest”, education ridge and GBC offices in Tamale.
This is not the first criticism of the site and will probably not be the last. The submission presented here are arguments for relocating the site for the Olympic size stadium in Tamale. For the purpose of limiting the length of this paper, arguments will center on the impact or otherwise of the investment (to be borne by Ghanaian tax payers) on the following: education, business growth, congestion in the city, and the environment.
Education: The level of discipline in an educational institution directly bears on the academic performance of that institution. A quick look at the last SSCE performance ratings indicates that the higher the discipline level in the school the better their performance. Tamales Secondary School, the pride of the north was not among the best 100 schools (http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.asp?ID=74940). This situation could be attributed partly to the decreasing level of discipline in the school. The fluid nature of the TAMASCO campus and that of the other educational institutions within the education ridge environs (namely Tamale Training College, Bagabaga Training College, Tamale Polytechnic, Bagabaga Primary and JSS) make it very difficult to control the movement of students, visitors and other commuters on campus. The campuses of the institutions in the education ridge area are thoroughfares for communities and residents of the other sides of the campuses. Any one can go into/through the campus at anytime and do whatever they like without any hindrance.
Putting up a stadium in that vicinity will worsen the situation. All sorts of activities occur around stadiums. The building of the stadium will lead to the establishments of hotels, restaurants, drinking bars, etc. Basically the area will be turned into a social center where people who indulge in these activities converge. Students in institutions in the education ridge area will not be left out in the participation of these activities especially when one can easily move into the campus, and get students out and in – you get what I mean. This will definitely and completely destroy our fragile educational institutions in the education ridge environs.
Fortunately issues concerning sports and education are managed by the same ministry. It is thus expected that the Ministry will not take a decision in one department only to destroy the activities in the other department.
Business growth Any principal investment such as putting up a stadium should be aimed at facilitating the development of the economy. Fortunately the participating in activities going on in a stadium does not depend on proximity. If supporters of Accra Hearts of Oak or Kumasi Asante Kotoko or Tamale Real United travel to the length and breath of the country to support their respective teams, then putting a stadium next to the center of town or otherwise will have very small impact on patronage of the activities at the stadium. Having the stadium close to the centre of the city will rather create more problems ranging from congestions (to be discussed in the next section) through taking away jobs.
The stadium should be located at a place where people will need to take a taxi, trotro, or other vehicles to get to. The site should be such that before one goes to the stadium, the person can have his/her meal at restaurants, chop bars and other eating places in town, have a drink at a place of choice in the center of the city, and then commute to the stadium site. There, recognizing the momentum of activities there, the people may need re-enforcement by visiting the restaurants, chop bars, etc. By this such a stadium will create opportunities for businesses both in the center of the city and the environs of the stadium. Elsewhere facilities such as stadiums, airports etc are intentionally located such that in patronizing such facilities, one is coerced to contribute to the local economy - by commuting, boarding and lodging. Why can we not do that too?
Congestion Tamale has regrettably gone through ad hoc spatial development and has as such become difficult in managing human and vehicular traffic in the city center although the traffic is not that intense to cause such the difficulty. For example, there is no place in town for passing through vehicles to stop/park, vehicles passing through the city from North to South can easily get lost – ending up in Yendi or Salaga. The situation is worse for long vehicles because there are no convenient turning points for them.
Having the stadium at the proposed site will worsen the situation. The roads and other infrastructure in the area have been designed for residential use and hence putting up a stadium will cause a greater stress on these facilities. We can learn from the spatial development of Accra, where a lot of such facilities (Accra International Conference Center, Parliament House, the Ohene Djan Sports Stadiums, Ministries, the National Theatre, etc are clustered in a relatively small geographical area thereby always creating traffic congestion. The stadium should be located a place to prevent such over crowding.
The Environment The opinions of individuals who are not in favor of the present proposed site usually draw people attention to the harm that the destruction of the forest close to the site will bring. Much has been said about the destruction of the forest arguments and hence will add on just some few thoughts. Trees or plants are the only organisms that convert carbon dioxide, our toxic, waste product, to oxygen – the fuel we need to live. Tamale does not have a lot more of such green zones and hence the destruction of the limited green zones will go a long way to affect us and make life unbearable. All human beings, cars, machinery etc produce carbon dioxide into the environment and there should be a mechanism from removing it from the environment. Trees (Forests) are the best for this purpose. All organisms, cars, machinery need oxygen for combustion – respiration. We are thus competing with this rare resource. We should not destroy the systems that recycle the oxygen for us. With a little bit of investment say a million dollars, one can transform the forest to be a safe relax place, with a zoo (When are we going to get one in Tamale), trails, swimming pools etc imbedded in - a place where people who travel to Tamale to watch or participate in the activities at the stadium can relax; - a place which can be a major source of revenue generation, a place where we can proudly tell people to travel to Tamale to enjoy. Meanwhile that level of investment CANNOT recreate the forest anywhere. Let us learn from the various afforestation programmes already implemented.
Proposal So far no specific location has been proposed and it is not the intention make any such proposal. However it is the hope that the issues discussed above will be considered and reconsidered in citing the stadium and that the stadium will be sited out of town. Let us take decisions that will improve the city of Tamale. The site for the stadium should be such that, other peripheral development that will accompany the development of the stadium will enhance the development of the city. For example, if the stadium is cited in the north on the city say beyond Kamina Barracks, it will call for having the dual carriage road currently ending at Agric junction extended to the location or say beyond Kamina barracks – very crucial to reduce accidents in Tamale. The stadium could be somewhere on or off the Nyankpala, Kumasi, Yendi or Salaga roads. In all these, we know for sure that it will create new window of opportunity for those areas to be developed – with hotels, restaurants, drinking bars, etc.
Conclusion In anyway, Tamale is the fastest growing city in West Africa and our city planners should look into the future so that we do not only grow but should also be in the direction that the problems identified in other places do not occur here. Note that as and when Kumasi Sports Stadium was being constructed, it was not in the center of town, but is currently in the heart of the city.
We have not committed any resource to the physical development of the stadium and thus still exist a window of opportunity for such decisions to be made. Let us not create problems for the future generation but rather take decisions where future generations will be grateful.
Long Live Ghana, Long Live Tamale. J. Mensah-Homiah University for Development Studies Tamale Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.