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22.06.2014 Feature Article

A New Capital City For Ghana?

A New Capital City For Ghana?
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Many countries relocated their capital cities after piling up very convincing reasons why new capital cities were necessary. Nigeria and Ivory Coast built new capital cities. Other countries like Morocco, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Cameroon, Benin, and South Africa have also done it. Equatorial Guinea is in the process of doing it.

Lagos was the old capital of Nigeria and the city lies in the coast of the country. Lagos is Africa's second most populous city. Abuja became the next political capital city of Nigeria and the reason for relocation will be explained later in the article. Côte d'Ivoire built a new capital at Yamoussokro to replace Abidjan as the seat of government. Fes was the earliest capital city of Morocco. This capital was changed and relocated to Rabat as the new seat of government and it has remained the same today. Cameroun on the other hand, had its first capital city called Buea When Buea became congested and over-populated, the capital was built in Yaoundé. The old capital city for Ethiopia was Axum which was 365 kilometres, northeast of Gondar. A new capital was built at Addis Ababa. The old capital city of Benin was Porto Novo. A new capital city, Cotonou, was built to replace Porto Novo. Cotonou, therefore, became the de facto capital city and the economic hub of Benin.

There are many Ghanaians who think Ghana must follow suit and leave Accra which is so crowded and build a new capital where our leaders, politicians and the entire population will find most convenient, less crowded and central. Locating the capital city at a central place will be more strategic and will serve as a growth pole. A growth pole is a nucleus or core from where growth spreads in all directions outwards to the periphery. Undoubtedly Accra is limited by its position as it cannot grow southwards due to the sea.  The location near the sea also makes it vulnerable to amphibious attack.

For everyone to have confidence in the new capital city, it should not play a dual role of being the capital city of a region and that of the country Ghana. If the new capital city is made to play a dual role, it may experience similar problems which Accra has experienced since independence. These include heightened pressure of infrastructural facilities and over-population manifesting itself in economic and social ills such as high cost of living, high rents, traffic congestion, slums, high mortality rate and drug addiction. It is also a confirmed fact that Accra lies on an earthquake fault line.

Many may have different suggestions as to where a new capital should be built but it would be expected that a national plan should be rolled out so that a new capital could be constructed at Kintampo which is largely believed to be the central point of Ghana. Such a location must have enough land for future developments such as airports, housing complexes, sports fields, gardens, schools and colleges. Such a capital city should disallow heavy industries which pollute the environment. All the pedestrian walk-ways in the city must be covered with pavement blocks. All the roads including the city centre must be lined with trees and colourful flowers. Such details will make the new city comparable to any city in the world. Accra will, however, remain the commercial capital while the new city that would be constructed will be the nation's administrative capital.

It will be similar to Nigeria where Abuja became the new federal capital while Lagos serves as the commercial capital. Even when a new capital is created, Accra will still maintain its commercial appeal in much the same way as Lagos and Abidjan.

The population in Accra is growing steadily and if care is not taken, the demands this rapid increase in the population of Accra will make on the city's administration will be nightmarish. Already all service delivery are suffering, ranging from water, electricity, transport and health.

What a new capital means is that the seat of government will move there, parliament will relocate to the new capital, all foreign embassies and government services and agencies will also follow suit. When the construction of a new city gets underway, not less than ten thousand Ghanaians of different skills and professions will be employed until the project is completed. These include city planners, architects, masons, plumbers, electrical engineers, skilled and labourers, and many more. Reconstruction of a new capital can begin as soon as Ghana gets total control of her oil revenue. If indeed this total control becomes a reality one day, all efforts must be geared towards checking the corruption which will arise when the oil revenue begins to flow in.

Perhaps we can learn from Nigeria which depended on her oil wealth to construct a new capital city, thus creating jobs and numerous multiplier effects. However, corruption was at its apogee and with oil revenue, many scams went unchecked. Many Nigerian contractors and politicians became super rich from dubious contracts. Suppliers had a field day as they overinflated federal contracts.

If a new capital is to be built in Ghana, I will suggest that our policy makers should go to Germany to look for well tested and experienced contractors to provide us quality service. Even the Austrians, French, Italians and Czechs could be considered. I will recommend that our policy-makers research on how major cities were planned and executed in the 18th and 19th centuries. This will serve as a guideline for Ghana's future construction of a new capital.

Stephen Atta Owusu
Author: Dark Faces at Crossroads
Email: [email protected]

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