Tema is the crystallisation of one of the dreams of Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, the nation’s First President, to transform a small fishing village into one of the busiest industrial and port cities on the continent.
To set in motion this ambitious project, the state acquired large tracts of land mostly from the chiefs and people of Nungua Traditional Area, which were to be developed into industrial, commercial and residential estates.
The new Tema Township was, therefore, demarcated into well-planned residential communities with their unique features and facilities such as schools, markets, police stations, recreational and shopping facilities, essentially with the objective of making the city neat, beautiful and accessible. With the completion of Tema Harbour in 1962 and the Volta Dam at Akosombo becoming operational in 1963, Tema started to take shape, giving hope to a newly-independent African nation that was determined to make its mark on the international scene.
Major industrial establishments, including the Volta Aluminum Company (VALCO), which came as a package with the construction of the dam, started to spring up. To facilitate movement between the emerging industrial and port city of Tema and the national capital of Accra, our first President thought of an expressway which became the Accra-Tema Motorway, a project that was vehemently resisted by some politicians at the time, because they thought it was more of grandiose than a necessity in nature.
Tema, with its well-developed roads, industrial, commercial and residential estates, became the pride of the nation. It became the destination of young school leavers who sought a living at the sprawling main harbour, the adjoining fishing harbour and the numerous factories the city could boast of.
Those were the days Tema was vibrating with activity throughout the day and night, with big buses of the various companies ferrying their workers to and from work on their shifts. You could see the buses belonging to VALCO, Tema Shipyard and Drydock Corporation, Ghana Textiles and Printing (GTP), Ghana Textiles Manufacturing Company (GTMC), Tema Steel Works, Sanyo Electronics, Akasanoma Electronics, Tema Food Complex Company (TFCC) and of course the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority and many others on the streets of Tema moving in all directions for 24 hours.
These were vibrant companies that provided thousands of Ghanaian workers and their dependents with livelihood. Ghana was really heading towards industrialisation. Forty-seven years after coming into existence, Tema should have matured by now and blossomed into a major industrial centre comparable to similar cities in other parts of the world. But that was not to be. Decay set in and Tema started to lose its glory. The textile industry collapsed, thanks to an overzealous implementation of a trade liberalisation policy and with that, the collapse of GTP, GTMC and the rest.
A cruel divestiture policy witnessed the state losing interest in many of its major enterprises including the Ghana Steel Works, the Tema Food Complex Corporation, the Tema Shipyard and Drydock Corporation and the Tema Cold Stores Company. Some of these companies have collapsed entirely, while others are struggling for survival in private hands.
You do not need to enter Tema before coming face-to-face with its decay and past glory. When coming from the direction of Nungua, using the beach road, one could sense the gloom of Tema. The road does not give any indication that one was entering the nation’s biggest industrial and seaport city. I doubt if the situation will be the same in other major port cities like Manchester, Liverpool, Rotterdam or Hamburg, to name a few. No matter how poor we claim to be as a country that beach road leading to the harbour should have been developed into a dual-carriageway, well-asphalted, to give meaning to our boast that we are the gate-way to the West Africa sub-region.
Driving on that stretch of road in the night can be a nightmare and there had been reports of armed robberies and car snatches on several occasions. Incidentally, along this road is the multi-million dollar Cocobod warehouse complex, which is to serve as a transit point for cocoa brought from the hinterland before shipment to foreign lands. The Accra-Tema Motorway, which was not only criticised but condemned in the past, has remained the main artery linking the port city to Accra and any mishap on that route, such as accident, means Accra is cut off from its junior sister. Tema looks like an orphaned city even though two state institutions — the Tema Development Corporation (TDC) and the Tema Municipal Authority (TMA) — are competing for the revenues it can bring into their coffers.
The TDC sells Tema lands, while the TMA collects the market tolls and property rates and others. Some officials of the two state institutions are far better off than Tema itself. While the two institutions know where to make their monies, none could worry about its state of roads and other infrastructure. For its strategic national importance and for its small size, Tema roads are some of the worst in the country and constitute a big blot on our values as a nation. How come that a city that brings so much to the country in terms of revenue, a city where most of our exports and imports are channeled through be so neglected. Those who do not know may visit Tema one of these days, especially after a heavy downpour.
It is an undeniable fact that TDC lands had benefited some of its officials more than the city and the original landowners of Nungua Traditional Area. That was why the Nungua people started to agitate for the return of their lands when they realised that those at TDC were only interested in selling the lands for personal profit instead of the projects they were originally acquired for. Dr Nkrumah, according to reports, felt nostalgic about Tema, while in exile in Conakry, in the Republic of Guinea after his overthrow, because he could see a dream fading away. Tema had never reached its full bloom before the gloom set in. Tema has become a fragmented city with most of its settlements or communities having nothing in common with one another. There are no road networks connecting these settlements. Take communities 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20.
They are supposed to be part of Tema. However, residents of these communities have to force their way onto the motorway through unapproved routes or use the circuitous beach road before reaching Tema city centre. A road over the Sakumo Lagoon to link main Tema and the Sakumono area and another linking Community 11 to the Klagon and the Sakumono areas have remained on the drawing board. Could it be that Tema’s problems are partly because there is no clear definition of the roles of the TDC and TMA? Then one must go, and TDC, having finished selling the lands has exhausted its stay. Be as it may, the Tema story cannot be isolated from the decay that has engulfed this nation of ours. It is our wish that the change will reflect in the fortunes of our once proud port city of Tema.
Source: Daily Graphic
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