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Feature Article of Thursday, 13 January 2011

Columnist: Sakyi, Kwesi Atta

Does Ghana need a new capital city?

By Kwesi Atta Sakyi

2nd January 2011

It is generally thought that a capital city should be strategically located in a central place to serve as a growth pole.

A growth pole is a nucleus or core from where growth spreads in all directions outward to the periphery. Accra is constrained by its position as it cannot grow southwards towards the sea. Besides, the sea location is vulnerable to an amphibious attack. It is also a known fact that Accra lies in an earthquake prone fault line. Judging by the current congestion of Accra in terms of population, houses and vehicular traffic, it would be expected that a national plan should be rolled out so that a new capital could be built in an interior location such as near Atebubu or Kintampo.

Such a location should offer the possibility of growth in all directions with enough land for future developments such as aerodromes, housing complexes, sports fields, gardens, schools and colleges, among others. Such a new capital should disallow sunset or heavy manufacturing activity which pollutes the environment. If we take the case of Nigeria, we see that Abuja is the new federal capital with the old capital Lagos serving as the commercial capital. Since Abuja came on stream, Lagos has lost nothing in its commercial appeal. It still maintains its functionality and primacy as a millionaire city. Lagos is said to be the fastest growing city in the world. I lived in Lagos for seven years and I can testify that in deed Lagos is a megacity or super cosmopolis. The demands the huge population makes of the city administration is a nightmare.

All forms of service delivery suffer, ranging from transport, electricity, water and health. In the case of water, Lagosians are better off than most urban dwellers in the world because Nigeria as a country is blessed with abundant underground water and mighty rivers. The water table everywhere in Nigeria is quite shallow and artesian formations are commonly found all over. With the construction of Abuja, a lot of governmental services have been relocated to the serene surroundings of Asho Rock and Abuja is equidistant from the farthest comers of the country. The construction of Abuja in the eighties and nineties created a milieu of 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 stinkingly rich from dubious contracts. Suppliers had a field day as they overinflated federal contracts. Nigerians were fortunate during the oil boom in the mid-seventies to the mid-eighties as they contracted quality contractors from Germany and France to develop superior infrastructure throughout the country. These included famous companies such as Julius Berger and Strabag who constructed the mighty pre-fabricated flyover interchanges, arterial roads and Lagos Airport terminal. If a new capital is to be built in Ghana, I recommend our policy makers should go to Germany to look for similar contractors to provide us quality service. Even the Austrians, French, Italians and Czechs could be considered. I will recommend that our policy makers research how Washington DC was planned and executed in the 18th and 19th centuries. Other countries which have experience in building new capitals include Australia (Canberra),South Africa (Pretoria), Tanzania (Dodoma), Cote D’Voire (Yamousoukro), Brazil (Brasilia), and Libya (Benghazi).

To decongest Accra means decentralizing some of the governmental functions. This has been done in South Africa. There, the parliament (legislature) is in Cape Town, the Executive arm in Pretoria and the Judiciary in Bloemfontein. As a way of poverty intervention, job creation and even development of Ghana towards achieving the Better Ghana Agenda, I suggest that the following towns and municipalities should harbour the headquarters of the following line ministries:-
Finance, Defence, Foreign Affairs, Home Affairs - Accra
Legislatue, Tertiary Education - Kumasi
Judiciary - Cape Coast
Bank of Ghana - Sunyani
Tourism - Ho
Education - Winneba
Transport & Communication - Takoradi
Mining - Koforidna
Police - Tamale
Agriculture - Bolgatanga
Local Government - Wa
Industries - Tema
Works and Housing - Wenchi
Trade and Commerce - Kintampo
Tourism - Navrongo
Youth /Sports - Dodowa

In conclusion, I challenge the government to come out with a plan to build a new capital for Ghana based on a 20 year rolling plan which will be targeted at the year 2030. Such a capital city plan plus an accelerated decentralization plan will create numerous job opportunities and will quicken economic growth.

Keri Atta Sakyi
attakas2003@yahoo.com

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