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Accra Can Never Be Decongested.....

Sat, 18 Jul 2009 Source: Boadi-Danquah, Eugene

In that way!

Dear Mr.Vanderpuije,

You may not know me, just as I didn’t you until your nomination as Mayor of Accra. Though I do not share in your party’s ideologies and dislike its approach to governance, I am one of the few people who supported your appointment as Mayor of Accra for two reasons. One being the dark mythical thought of us Ghanaians having to unfoundedly reject every Ghanaian appointee from outside Ghana, yet enjoy licking the honey that the remittances and investments of diasporan Ghanaians bring. The second is my curiosity revealed that you are an Adventist, bearing in mind the level of self-discipline, honesty and time consciousness of TRUE Adventists.

The first I heard your voice was on your interview on Joy fm’s super morning show and sadly, this is what I thought of you after that; ‘A man approaching his duty with guns blazing, yet has no idea which angle to fire his shots.’ I am sorry to put this damper on what started seemingly as a praise hymn, but as is the thought shared by many young Ghanaians today, we stand by our country always and with Government, only when it deserves it. Patriotism is the name for that. Your approach to decongesting the capital city is best described as appalling, lacking creativity and bound for failure at conception! It is beginning to be unbearably agonising when we keep on having the same people, doing the same thing, with the same approach, time and again...yet expecting a different result. Yet, unlike many people who do not side with you politically, I refuse to critique without offering a counter solution.

You have undoubtedly achieved a lot in your specialty; I congratulate you for that, but kindly pay heed to these words of advice.

LESSON 1:

No individual has the right to stifle another’s effort to genuinely make a living. While Individuals in Cars deserve to get home early, retire to bed early enough to get up for work so their bills can be paid and their kids can stay in school, Hawkers have bills to pay as well and some have kids in school too.

LESSON 2:

Whenever your predecessor attempts a task and fails miserably, all it calls for is to adopt a new strategy, work with a fresh set of ideas and embrace a more tactical approach. This approach is what I am going to try to articulate, and as the elders have always said; save it ‘in your knees’!

Accra has two major problems, both solvable and are what has given rise to Hawking and unwarranted traffic congestion. The first of these problems is lack of properly decentralized infrastructure(I include private amenities too). This seems a bit jargonised so I will break it down in simple terms.

When all men, women, boys and girls of Accra wake up, they all head in one direction. Not because they have nowhere else to go, but they have to go to the one place where everything else is and everyone else goes. Ministries, Offices, Entertainment and food, amusement, Hotels, relaxation, Worship and lately schools are all located within a 3km radius of the centre of Accra. Traders need to target customers on their way to and fro these locations, so is it surprising that they intercept them? Does it surprise you that there is an endless spring up of trading activities in the centre of the capital? Lesson learnt; you do not rush off to build Market places for traders when there is no one plying that route, how are they going to make any sale from there?

My advice is, engage these stakeholders in serious talk as you read this letter. The PWD, TUC, Ghana Post, Registrar General’s department, GREDA and the Government of Ghana.

Advise the Registrar General to put a hold on all new businesses registering say 5km Radius within the Central Business Area of the Capital. While that is on Hold, engage businesses in the Central Business Area in talks to start considering relocating, to other Areas of the Capital. This can only be effective if Government leads the way; by relocating the Ministries, and most Public Building to as far close to the oust skirts of Accra. Discuss this with Prof., he will be amazed at your ingenuity and maybe give you a medal for that. You do not need money for this, so do not start considering a budget for that. Engage private developers in a serious negotiation to convert some existing CBA buildings into Multi-storey rental flats in the centre on exchange terms. The interim result from this will be a similar rush hour morning traffic outflow from the CBA to the inflow. You will encounter the problem that businesses will be lost in competing when they move out of the CBA, but that is as a result of the second biggest problem that everyone takes for granted.

The capital has no comprehensive address system. With such a system, consisting of proper identification of streets and all properties, you are bound to be found wherever in Accra your business is hiding; by engaging the services of efficient advertisers. Once again, you do not need to start thinking about tax money, if I were you; I would start considering selling Street Names to raise money or launching the ‘Sponsor a Street’ programme. This has not yet made mention of how many new advertising jobs, print journals, business directories etc that will compulsorily have to be created because of this activity. Oh! And you can confidently place a ban on prolific disgusting signboard erections which makes the capital very unattractive.

How many more people will have to site Basic Schools by a major Highway, or create shopping malls on junctions of High Speed Highways, or monumental structures in the centre of the city before we realise we have lost control over planning .People are just competing to attract consumer attention by hook or crook whereas they could attract the same attention wherever they are sited if they are properly identified while creating relevant advertising jobs. As you have lived in the USA, you should know better that businesses there do not have to chase land beside the New Jersey Turnpike, to succeed in the world of commerce or small businesses have to cram in Times Square, to be able to attract one customer.

I will end by advising you of the countless secondary jobs that CAN be created by supervising the success of a proper property identification system (PIS). You can engage Ghana Post in talks to move off P.O.Boxes to proper PIS numbers with well defined postcodes. That means 2000+ new jobs created in mail sorters, mail handlers, mail distributers as well as private couriers. Young entrepreneurs can trade on the internet and work from home, trade online. The catering industrialists will not cram spaces in the CBD. They can reach anywhere in the capital with their services, delivery drivers will be employed, telephone usage will increase, telecom competition will be heightened, telecom profits will go up, they will reinvest, sales jobs will be created, there will be less usage of private transport, petrol usage will go down, banks can identify their customers to a fixed abode, credit referencing will be more credible, flow of credit will be enhanced, people’s dreams of starting businesses will be realised, unwarranted inflation of land prices around the CBD will be curbed.

I will discuss how that will improve security in terms of Police response time wise and strategy wise in terms of barricading certain outlet roads depending on where a crime is reported when I write to you again.

The ball is in your court, from this time on I will be following up on how things are going. I understand this option is a harder one so you might take the easier option of putting this piece in a paper shredder. That will be justified, after all I am only a quarter of a century old and as has been the case always, young people are good for nothing.

This should be enough evidence of that.

Thank you.

Boadi-Danquah (ebdanquah.blogspot.com) eb00026@surrey.ac.uk

Columnist: Boadi-Danquah, Eugene

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