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Opinions of Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Columnist: Gordon Offin-Amaniampong

Marine Drive Project: A rebirth of Nkrumah’s dream

This is how Accra will look like by 20127, barring any hitches and glitches. Accra’s skyline at her coastline (or waterfront) -- the Marine Drive Project will be attractive, beautiful and charming. There will be skyscrapers, broadways and craft village, residential buildings, and offices, restaurants, a 300-seater concert hall and hotels. There will be multi- used public spaces and landing site for fisher folks.

The $1.2 billion project will not have towers that would match sensational Dubai’s Buurj Khalifa which stands at (2,717 ft.), or North America’s iconic World Trade Center (1,776 ft.), or Europe’s’ Federation Tower (1,227), but its bespoke creative monuments will be second to none. Why?

They’re designed by architects Messrs David Adjaye and Associates spearheaded by renowned world acclaimed architect Sir David Adjaye (a Ghanaian).

At a sod cutting ceremony on Friday 15 2017, Ghana’s President Akufo-Add0 said: “The architects and planners have ensured that the interest of the public are been factored into the design. They’ve put in a place a network of well-connected multi use public spaces that fit into the surrounding community.”

Also included in this project is a theme Park in honour of the founding fathers of our nation—the legendary BIG Six this will be a monument that will celebrate their contribution towards the liberation of our country from colonialism and foreign domination,” he said.

The project hitherto described by many as a ‘dead dream,’ was Ghana’s first President Kwame Nkrumah’s brainchild. It’s seen more than 15 heads of state since 1963—Five Republics and about seven coup d’états. Sixty years on, the NPP government has resuscitated the dead dream. In April this year a ceremony was held at the Art Centre in Accra to hand over the 241-land to government. This was a precursor to the final commencement of the much-awaited project.

However, there were sceptics and one cannot begrudge them. They’d heard the story before. And they’d perhaps witnessed a ceremony of its kind. But the countenance of the Tourism Minister Catherine Abelema Afeku during the occasion highlighted one thing—the ‘Prodigal Son ‘has returned home. Hope is back. The Marine Drive Project has taken off after six decades.

Suffice to say the long wait is over. And whose body language highlighted that?

A cheery Cathy accentuated that. She couldn’t hide her excitement as she was frequently seen clapping. I salute you Madam Minister you’ve done a great job. According to her the project when completed will help ease pressure on Accra’s city centre or the business district.

What does the sod cutting ceremony mean to her? In one line she says: “Government is ready and we mean business."

The core objective is to decongest the city centre of non-conforming uses and reinstate new land uses befitting the capital city. We also want to create environment to attract high level of investment in the city centre,” Mrs. Afeku said.

According to her the start of construction works is a testament to the relationship she has built with custodians of the land such as the chiefs and opinion leaders.

So ten years from today and possibly before 2027 the shantytown coastline you saw in the yester years (from the Osu Castle to Art Centre) will be no more. Instead, skyscrapers will be springing up like mushrooms. Walkways, board ways, bike lanes and well-manicured landscapes will add aesthetic value to the new city within the city.

Accra’s beachfront will become one of the hottest tourists’ destinations in the sub region. It will pull crowds beyond her frontiers and it will be like a beehive. Tourists from Europe, North America, Asia, the Middle East and Oceania will be frequenting this modern city to savor its arts & culture, hospitality, business and many more.

Our neighbours, especially from Nigeria, the Ivory Coast (Cote d’Ivoire), Togo and landlocked Burkina Faso will flock here in an unprecedented manner. Of course they’re already here. There will be economic boom, financial boom, tourist boom and population boom. Ghana’s signature cloth-- Kente will be in high demand nothing like it.

Our signature foods Jollof, banku and fufu, kelewele will top menus at restaurants across the country and beyond. Our kooko and masa, Apio (Akpeteshiie), Pito and Asana will be sought after like Seattle’s Starbucks coffee. The Azonto dance genre, highlife music and other Ghanaian artifacts will be in high demand.

Many nations across the world have trudged this path. And it has tremendously helped their economies to grow exponentially. Ghana Advocacy Group (GAG) has been following the Marine Drive Project with keen interest. Its members say they’re delighted and also believe that this couldn’t have come at a better time as we vigorously pursue to make Ghana a tourist hub in the west coast of Africa. I’ve no doubt this is going to happen. But are we ready to deal with the booming population and the crime wave that would come with it?

The Marine Drive project is expected to create 150,000 direct and indirect jobs by completion date in 2027. I’m hopeful the workforce could double.

Also other monuments around the enclave will see makeovers, particularly the historic Christianborg Castle—an edifice once used by the colonialists and few decades back by our governments. It will be opened for tourists and visitors in Ghana. The Independent Arch of Ghana and Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum to mention but a few are some of the iconic landmarks in this area.

History

Record has it that late Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey who was the Tourism Minister under the Kufuor-administration between 2002 and 2005 got the design for the project done. Nonetheless Cabinet's approval for the project was secured by immediate past Tourism Minister Elizabeth Ofosu-Adjare and the Executive Instrument was issued for the acquisition of the land.

Indeed it’d been Nkrumah’s vision to modernise the "entire beach front". But that laudable dream wasn’t followed through by the succeeding governments. Until now, 60 years on, six decades of abandonment the NPP) has given life to it by cutting sod for construction works to begin.

"Countries all over the world have made good use of their beach fronts and they are raking in considerable revenue. We intend to go down that path. My government is committed to beginning this project to aggressively give the tourism industry a facelift,” president Akufo-Addo said.