Monday, January 16, 2006


Two 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 StreetAccra 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.

University of Ghana at LegonThe 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 CastleCape 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 GardensAburi 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.

Zenith BankA 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.


Oluniyi David Ajao said...

Ore, its good to know. I just saw your headline on and thought it was a must-read foe me.

I'm a Nigerian, based in Accra Ghana. Its good to know that you found Ghana such a nice place. Not everyone shares your opinion, though.

I was in Lagos, Ibadan and Ijebu-Ode, recently and know the difference between the two countries.

I'd do a full piece about this, very soon, and would let you know when this is done.


John said...

Does What you have in Accra spread all over Ghana? If that is the case, then Ghana might be better than Nigeria in that regard. there are equally clean cities in Naija

Ore said...

@ Oluniyi: Hmm, I'd be interested in hearing what negative opinions people have of the country. Let me know whenever your write-up is ready.

@John: I spent most of my time in Accra, taking day-trips to Cape Coast and Aburi, so my observations are limited to those places only and predominantly to Accra.

I agree that there are many clean cities in Nigeria. My comparisons for cleanliness were really to Lagos.

Oluniyi David Ajao said...

I have done a piece about the two countries. You'd find it interesting to read.

I also did a piece about female heads of states yesterday, that I want you to comment on, as a female women rights activist. :)

Everchange said...

From what I hear, Ghana is all around a better country- the standard of living is so much higher than Nigeria's. In some UN reports (HDR), Ghana is considered a Middle-Income country! In my opinion, that puts it in a different category than Nigeria.

While one may want to continue being patriotic, I think if we Nigerians spent a little less time trying to be proud of mass unemployment, civil unrest, injustice and inequality, police brutality, skeleton educational system and unDemocracy, we may be better off. I am all for imitating the Ghanaians bcuz they are obviously doing something right. We would do well to learn from them.

Ore said...

@David: Wow! "Activist" seems like such a heavy title and I'm not sure that I really deserve that yet. I read your post on the new female leaders and enjoyed it. I made a brief comment, but will try and write something lengthier on my site or as a comment on yours.

I read your write-up on Ghana too and liked how you wove in other bloggers' perceptions of the country.

I am still waiting to hear about the not-so-great things about Ghana though. ;-)

@Everchange: It's good to see you back. Are you in Ghana now? If so, I'd certainly love to hear all about your experiences there.

I was not aware that Ghana is regarded as a middle-income country. That certainly puts her in a VERY different league from us then.

Everchange said...

Hey. I'm still in the States. IF I do end up going to Ghana, it would be in March. I'm returning to Naija first and taking it from there. I got the 'internship' in Ghana but there are still issues with funding.

Ore said...

Okay! Good luck with everything. What will you be doing for your internship btw?

Everchange said...

My mistake: Ghana is ranked in the Medium Human Development index, and not Middle Income Countries in the UN HDR.

My internship is really vague to be honest and is still being sorted out. All I know is I may have a place to stay, I'll be in the Northern part of Ghana, possibly close to Tamale and will be helping out with research on a water project (something I know little about) concerning gender.

ngozi said...

i love accra. was there last when i was 12. glad to hear it's still a beautiful place. even then i was just so impressed with how unlike lagos it was. ghanaians have a lot to be proud of.

aquababie said...

i have always wanted to visit both nigeria and ghana. i plan to make it in my lifetime.

Ore said...

@Everchange: You're so right:

@Ngozi and Aquababie: Ghana, at least Accra where I stayed, is still so beautiful. I definitely plan on visiting again.

Rabbi said...

I'm in Gahana and want to hire a car to drive me to Lagos, is the road trip safe?

Anonymous said...

Accra is the capital; it only makes sense that it's as it is. I was in Abuja recently, and hardly and African city can compare to it in terms of aesthetics, space, orderliness, spirit, architecture... I was also in Lagos, and boy that place is amazing. It actually has the character of a city. It's only natural that you get awestruck by a new environment. I just don't subscribe to highlighting the positives for reason of comparison. (oh this article is quite old... anyway)