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Opinions of Friday, 14 July 2017


Would you visit Agbogbloshie for tourism?

Well, how would such a place fare as a tourist attraction? Actually, the real question is why would someone think of doing tourism in such a place? Isn’t the whole idea of tourism in contrast with spending time at a slum?

As unreasonable as it may sound, tourists looking for deprived places to experience is a growing thing these days. And the practice is not entirely new either.

First of all, having experienced all the posh, serene and heavenly places over and over again, certain tourists get bored. They begin to look for something diagonally different from the usual.

Having visited museums, beach resorts and restaurants, many foreign tourists are now turning to places that may offer them the shock which is quite different from their own realities.

Slums are thus becoming the new attractions. Far from being viewed as off-limits, no-go-zones that outsiders would be wise to avoid, some slum-like areas in cities like Mumbai and Rio de Janeiro have now become bonafide tourist attractions, bringing in more curious visitors each year.

Question: Is Ghana positioning itself to take advantage of this emerging market? Do not get me wrong. No one wants Agbogbloshie or Old Fadama to remain as it is. But while we are dreaming up those fantastic ideas to make the place better, some temporary values could be derived from the status quo, no?

Agbogbloshie became known as a destination for locally generated automobile and electronic scrap collected from across the City of Accra. The population of Agbogbloshie consists of economic migrants from northern and other rural parts of Ghana.

Living standards are growing worse. Homes are wooden shacks, potable water and toilets are rare. The area is also home to crime while diseases run rampant.

With this credentials Agbogbloshie and the Old Fadama area more than qualifies as a slum tourist attraction. We just need to design a safe and effective plan and roll it up.

Whether they are called a township, a ghetto, a favela, a barrio, a slum or a shantytown these deprived areas have a mysterious pull effect on observers. Maybe it is the human instinct to empathise. Maybe it is that ever present ‘what if it was me’’ syndrome that is all so human.

Historically, there are records of middle and upper-class Londoners heading over to the East End to gawk at the poor in the 19th century, which grew in such popularity. That was when the colloquial term for this practice — “slumming” entered the Oxford English Dictionary.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic in America, curious visitors began venturing into the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

Today, slum tourism has grown into a legitimate global industry, bringing in over a million tourists per year. Tour operators are now offering visits to places like the townships of Cape Town and

Johannesburg, the favelas of Rio, the slums of Mumbai and New Delhi, or even the skid rows of LA, Detroit, Copenhagen, and Berlin.

In the 1980s in South Africa, black residents organised township tours to educate the whites in local governments on how the black population lived. Such tours attracted international tourists, who wanted to learn more about apartheid.

In the mid-1990s, international tours began to be organised with destinations in the most disadvantaged areas of developing nations, often known as slums. They have grown in popularity, and are often run and advertised by professional companies.

In Cape Town, South Africa, for example, upwards of 300,000 tourists visit the city each year to view the slums.

Prior to the release of Slumdog Millionaire in 2008, Mumbai was a slum tourist destination. The concept of slum tourism has recently started to gain more attention from media and academia alike.