Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Travel Log- Ghana: Accra

It's been almost a month since I traveled to visit Ghana. But I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had time to blog. Or I haven’t made time to blog, at least. So this week I’ll try to do a recap of some of my Ghana adventures.

The flight from Lagos to Accra is one hour. Super easy, and relatively cheap. I stayed in Accra with a friend and based my adventures from there. Within hours of arrival it was clear I was in a completely different country. Yes Ghana and Nigeria are both in West Africa, yes they are both countries in which English is spoken, and yes there is plenty of overlap in culture, food, and traditions. But they’re still different in many ways. 

Overall, Ghana is considerably more developed than Nigeria- the roads are better and have fewer potholes, there is near constant electricity and water, and infrastructure is generally better. For a variety of reasons, Ghana has also been able to commercialize its natural resources (second largest cocoa producer in the world and second largest gold miner in Africa) more effectively than Nigeria. That could be an entire post on it’s own, and I don’t understand either country well enough to fully explain why that is, but I think my assertion is an accurate one (feel free to correct me!). Furthermore, unlike Nigeria and many West African nations, elections and transfer of power have been done well, reasonably fairly, and without bloodshed since the early 90s. Though I’m sure there is corruption in the leadership, it pales in comparison to that of Nigerian leadership. So, Ghana is a reasonably different playing field.

In any event, I really enjoyed Accra. Here are some highlights.

My friend works at University of Ghana, so I walked around campus one day. And it’s so big! And beautiful! And clean! Did I mention beautiful? I have so many pictures from the University, but here are just two:

One day I went out exploring Accra with a friend (a few classmates are in Ghana for their Practicum), and we started by visiting the Jamestown lighthouse. We climbed the slightly sketchy stairs and then a seriously sketchy ladder and came out to see striking views: 

Then we descended and walked down into Jamestown, which is basically a little village within Accra that is almost entirely devoted to fishing. Everywhere I looked people were cleaning or preparing fish and mending fishing nets or boats. It was fascinating. It was one of those times I wished that I wasn’t white, and I could just walk around freely and observe people. Though I’m sure there’s nothing glamorous about fishing, and it’s in likely a hard life, everything about Jamestown had this mysteriously attraction for me. The colors of the boats, the bowls filled with fresh fish, the boys diving off the piers and swimming in the water. It was gritty, vibrant, and captivating.

After lunch it was off to Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park. Nkrumah was the leader of the Gold Coast (Ghana’s predecessor state) and Ghana from 1951-1966. This included overseeing the transition from British colonial rule in 1957. Interestingly (to me and my life path), he did one of his Masters degrees at my undergraduate University, preached at black Presbyterian churches in NYC, and died in Bucharest. The memorial tomb and park for him is in the heart of Accra and is very well done:

Finally, we visited Independence Square, where there is the Black Star Gate with FREEDOM AND JUSTICE written on it. Wikipedia taught me that it’s the second largest city square in the world, after Tiananmen Square:

Note: I meant to include a photo of the whole square so you could see its size, but Blogger is telling me I am out of photo space. And I'm not feeling like dealing with that right now.  
There is (of course) so much more to Accra, some of which I saw, much of which I did not. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the city and am thankful for the opportunity to visit!

1 comment:

Adesegun said...

i finally made it to the blog. Fascinating write-up. Having visited Accra several times - sometimes 3 times a year, I believe that the statement that Ghana is more developed that Nigeria is a mistake. Accra, the Ghana, capital cannot compare with Abuja, Nigeria's capital, by any stretch of imagination in terms of infrastructural development. Neither can it compare with Lagos Island or with most of Nigeria's big cities like Kano, Port-Harcourt.