GhanaTwo weeks ago I visited Accra, Ghana. I had heard so many great things about the city and had to see it for myself. My travels around Africa had been limited to a woeful grand total of 2 countries (Sierra Leone and Benin Republic). Now that I'm back home, I intend to raise that number significantly.
I think you can tell a lot about a city by how clean and efficiently-run the airport is. And if Kotoka Airport was anything to go by, Accra would be miles above Lagos. Indeed in terms of cleanliness and orderliness, Accra was a model for Lagos as far as I was concerned. There was a clearly-marked information desk where we were told when to expect the next hotel shuttle.
On the way to the hotel, the spacious, well-tarred roads with ample medians and sidewalks spoke volumes of the city government's dedication to maintaining pleasant driving conditions. In the days that followed I could not help noticing how dutifully Ghanian drivers paid attention to the traffic lights and road signs, as well as adhering to basic driving safety rules. There was also a noticeable absence of that plague of Lagos roads: Okadas. Driving around Accra was a pleasure.
Accra Street. See how PATIENTLY the cars wait, well BEHIND the road markings, for pedestrians to cross the street.
In our time there, my brother, sister and I visited Makolo Market; the University of Ghana at Legon; the National Cultural Center; the Elmina and Cape Coast Castles down in Cape Coast; Accra's own Oxford Street in the commercial district of Osu (where we stumbled upon the flagship store of the very popular Woodin fabrics) and Aburi Botanical Gardens. It was a fairly lazy trip in that we did not cram our days full with sight-seeing, but instead took our time in getting-up and lounging around the hotel before, in-between and after going out. Ghana is so close that I know I can return and see more of the things I did not get the chance to this time around.
The University of Ghana at Legon. While we were there, I caught myself constantly comparing it to the University of Lagos. Unlike UNILAG, Legon's campus grounds were beautiful and obviously well cared for, and the buildings all looked like they had just had a fresh coat of paint. It actually looked like a really nice estate.
Cape Coast Castle, the British seat of Slave Trade activities in West Africa. Elmina Castle, which we also visited, was used by the Portuguese and the Dutch respectively to keep captured slaves before shipping them out to different parts of the world.
Aburi Botanical Gardens. Aburi is about an 45-minute drive from Accra.
I had heard that Accra had recently celebrated 6 (?) years of uninterrupted electricity supply, so it was a rude shock when the electricity went off in our hotel on our last night there. It took close to 20 minutes for the lights to come back on again (no generators??), so it appeared that this loss of electricity was indeed a highly unusual situation. This was later confirmed when we heard an announcement of the city-wide blackout on the radio with a plea to the relevant authorities to quickly remedy the situation. I could not have been more shocked than if I heard of uninterrupted electricity in Lagos for ONE WEEK.
A new Zenith Bank branch seems to be popping-up on almost every other Lagos street these days, but still it was a big surprise to find out that Zenith is in Ghana too!
It is amazing (and sad for Nigeria) when you consider the fact that Ghana is just three years 'older' than us, but yet so far more advanced in so many respects.