Urban Design Studio III

Three Ecologies

ACCRA, GHANA

Accra Neighborhood Upgrading:

Originating as a port, Accra has been the capitol of Ghana since 1877 and is frequently referred to as the “gateway to West Africa.” It is an important Atlantic coastal port with a tropical climate. Its regional population numbers well over 2.0 million. Much of this growth has occurred in recent decades, and the majority of the built fabric is informal self-built construction. Originating as the center of Ga culture and capitol of the Ga State, Accra today is diverse, with several Ghanaian and other cultures predominating. The UD Spring 2011 Studio will build upon, and contribute to the work being done in Accra by the Earth Institute over the past two years since Accra was named a Millennium City in relation to the achievement of Millennium Development Goals. We will work in two sites, which are the Ga Mashie and East Nima neighborhoods.

Ga Mashie is located on the Gulf of Guinea at the heart of Accra, this historic site has been the location of Dutch and British colonial power; port activities related to the gold, diamonds, cocoa and slave trade; and the Ga fishing community. After Ghana’s independence in 1957, Accra has grown many fold, but in a dynamic but haphazard manner. However, Ga Mashie has deteriorated over the same period, particularly since the port was moved to more modern facilities at nearby Tema. Businesses relocated to newer developments, and the local fishing industry became marginalized due to trawler fishing. Ga Mashie is currently inhabited by a proud Ga community with strong traditions, together with poor migrants who rent from them. The area is dotted with historic buildings from the colonial period including the James Fort and Ussher Fort, and is seen as a potential tourist attraction in the future. The issues to be addressed in Ga Mashie include the urgent need for affordable housing, infrastructure and services, commerce to help job creation, and ways to deal with the complex land ownership patterns. Housing considerations have to include facilities for food processing and other micro industries that people depend upon in this area with very high unemployment and low skill levels. A proposed new fishing pier, visual and physical access to the beach and waterfront, and broader issues of ecological sustainability must also be considered.

East Nima is located northeast of Ga Mashie along the Nima highway. Nima was originally planned for the influx of migrants coming into Accra from northern Ghana and neighboring countries. However, over time, this area has densified to house a population several times the original intention, currently said to be around 100,000. About 80% of the people in Nima work in the informal sector (as is the case with greater Accra). While the World Bank has laid roads and services in West Nima, East Nima is in urgent need of emergency access, sanitation, improved housing, public spaces, and economic opportunities. While many of the issues in Nima are similar to Ga Mashie while its social and economic diversity and a higher level of economic activity present differing possibilities. Home to the intensely industrious community of landlords as well as renters, Nima also has community-based organizations that are willing to support change. Home based micro industries include sewing, food processing, and petty trade related to the busy market along the Nima Highway. A thriving shadow market in currency exchange also suggests pockets of wealth and international connections in Nima. While all of East Nima has serious issues of solid and liquid waste disposal, the low lying northern part is also prone to flooding and water logging. The busy Kanda highway on the western edge of East Nima also holds potential threats as well as opportunities that need to be considered.