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Opinions of Monday, 17 February 2014

Columnist: Abugri, George Sydney

Inside the port city of Tema

Tema is a unique coastal city in many respects: It is West Africa’s first ever planned urban settlement, and was considered a classic model for urban development experts in other sub-Saharan African countries to base their own urban development programmes on.

The city is also one of multiple socio-economic and infrastructure development contradictions: Dusty, unpaved and pot-hole riddled roads merge with roads of much higher riding quality. Roadside table food vendors and traditional eateries compete with scores of top class Korean and Chinese restaurants in the provision of catering services.

Off the Atlantic coast nearby, local fishermen using traditional dug-out canoes compete gallantly with modern fishing trawlers in the harvesting of the fisheries resources of the sea. All across the metropolis, there is an anthropologically intriguing blend of the rural and the urban, the cosmopolitan and the traditionally conservative.

Once upon a time, Tema was a small fishing village. That was until Ghana’s first president, Dr. K wame Nkrumah hit upon the idea of building a unique urban settlement on its location. By 2005, its estimated mid-year population had grown to 424,224 downward from the 2000 population census figure of 506,400. The decrease may be a result of job losses and relocation of labour in recent years.

Today, the city is not only home to one of West Africa’s most preferred shipping ports, but also one of the sub-region’s largest industrial cities. Over half of Ghana’s manufacturing industries are located in Tema. There are at least 250 manufacturing factories and several heavy industrial enterprises in the harbour city.

About 75 percent of the Ghana’s entire sea-borne trade is handled by the Tema Port. Exports through the port constitute half of all exports from Ghana. Since 2000, cargo handled by the Tema Port has averaged up to more than six million tonnes annually. Of this total cargo volume, imports have averaged more than five million tones, exports more than 800, 000 tonnes and transit cargo up to 300, 000 tonnes annually.

The total volume of cargo through the Tema Port reached 9.2 million metric tonnes in 2004 but fell to 7.4m in 2009. Annual cargo volume through the port however rose again to 11.5m metric tonnes in 2012 and although the figures for 2013 are not immediately available, they are believed to be growing past the 12 million metric tonnes mark.

Factories in Tema churn out a wide and varied range of products: chemicals, textiles, processed and cold-stored foods, pharmaceuticals, engineering equipment and materials, printing and wood products.

To encourage manufacturing for export, a Free Export Processing Zone has been established in Tema. Manufacturing companies operating in the zone are accorded various taxes and custom duties in the importation of raw material and exportation of manufactured goods as an incentive.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Tema office was opened in 2001 and charged with responsibility for proactive and routine monitoring of the activities of the numerous industries in the city.

Some of the important activities of the EPA in Tema include the sampling of affluent discharges from the numerous manufacturing industries and investigating industrial pollution-related complaints. Typical complaints the agency has been receiving have included complaints of air pollution, spillage of oil, water pollution and noise pollution from the heavy industrial activities. There appears to be a general impression that Tema is exclusively an industrial and harbour city and that very little agricultural activity takes place in the Tema Region. Officials of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and the Tema Metropolitan Assembly say the impression is misleading: There is substantial annual production of maize, cassava and cowpea in the north of Tema. Tomatoes, garden eggs and pepper are cultivated in the middle zone. Vegetables, such as cabbage, water melon, onion, carrots, lettuce and okro, are produced in other urban and semi-urban communities of Tema. Fishing remains a predominant agricultural activity. There is fairly vigorous canoe fishing at Kpone, Tema Manhean and Sakumono, although in spite of their economic potential, land and lagoon fishing still remain under-developed. Schools, hospitals, hotels and police stations are fairly well distributed across the city. There are over 150 public and private basic schools in the metropolitan area. There are 13 second cycle institutions, six of which are public schools. The Narh-Bita College of Nursing and the Data Link University are Tema’s only tertiary level institutions. A plan to build a polytechnic is yet to be implemented.

The city has a government hospital, a government polyclinic, a women’s hospital, several health centers and several private hospitals including the Narh-Biata Hospital, the Pro-Vita Hospital, the Port Medical Center, The Urban Health Hospital, Bethel Hospital, Raphal Hospital and a host of dental clinics.

The largest of the medical facilities, the Tema General Hospital, was built in 1954 and is now barely able meet the vastly increased demand for medical care. Yet it remains the key medical referral facility for Tema. Authorities of the hospital say a major programme to expand the facility’ infrastructure and upgrade equipment has become necessary has.

Scores of hotels and restaurants, with a wide range of facilities serve both Ghanaian and continental dishes abound. Some of the most popular hotels include Queens Hotel, Hotel Marjorie, Courtesy International Hotel, Coco Beach Resort. Etc.

Tema has an exquisite coastline with ideal beaches and resorts for relaxation, but some residents say the potential of the tourist attractions as foreign exchange earners is yet to be maximized. Holiday makers patronize these beaches and resorts, especially on weekends and during public holidays.

Tema is a region or a district depending on which public institution is making the definition: As far as the Police Administration and the National Fire Service for example are concerned, Tema is an administrative region. The Social Security and National Insurance Trust and the VAT Service on the other hand, designate their organizations in Tema as district offices. The Ministry of Local Government which has the final say demarcates Tema as a district under the Greater Accra Region.

There are five constituencies in the 565-square kilometer Tema Area. The population of Tema has seen significant growth in the past two decades.

The builders of Tema demarcated the city into 26 “City Communities.” The most popular and busiest communities of them being Communities One, Two, Four, Seven Nine and 13 {Sakumono}.

The busiest road, the Community One Market road, is dusty, bumpy narrow and hemmed in on both sides by shops, stalls, kiosks and hundreds of traders. Every bit of available space is taken up mostly by buses, taxi cabs and trucks and the flow of traffic is very slow and rather chaotic.

The industry produces large volumes of fresh fish for the export market. In land fishing in the lagoons remains under-developed. The existence of several large cold stores and other modern facilities for the fishing industry makes the municipality’s southern, coastal section the best place for investment in this area of activity, in the whole country.

With an ever ballooning population, Tema faces uphill challenges in sanitation management. With the privatization of refuse collection by the Tema Municipal Assembly several years ago however, there has been considerable improvement in sanitation management in the city.

Other financially demanding tasks the TMA faces include the rehabilitation of water supply and sewage systems that are more than half a century old and the rebuilding of scores of kilometers of roads of poor riding quality. WWW.SYDNEYABUGRI.COM/WEB