On Friday December 15, 2017, the President Nana Akufo Addo cut sod for the commencement of work on the Marine Drive Project in Accra at a ceremony attended by chiefs, political leaders and the business community.
The project, which is estimated to cost about US$1.5billion, is a Public-Private Partnership project expected to transform the beach front stretch from the Osu Christianborg Castle to the Arts Centre into a vibrant business and commercial enclave that will transform the city’s skyline, create jobs, spur tourism growth and boost the national economy.
The project, covering an area of over 240 acres, is located within the ministerial enclave that serves multiple functions. Given the already congested environment among other militating factors, this report presents issues that planning authorities might want to consider in the siting of this massive project in order to preserve the functions of the earmarked area.
Under developed tourism sector
Ghana’s tourism sector is grossly underdeveloped, although the country possesses great potential for tourism development and the implementation of this project will therefore give the needed boost to the sector.
On completion, the Marine Drive project will have facilities such as hotels, malls, offices, casinos and parking spaces. Other planned facilities include conference and exhibition centres, a beach football pitch, a mini golf course, an office complex for the Ministry of Tourism, etc.
This level of investment will transform the earmarked area into a business, commercial and tourism hub that could improve the country’s competitiveness within the West African sub-region. The potential of a project of such magnitude is enormous and cannot be downplayed.
Again, Ghana’s coastline has been experiencing storm surges which have gradually eroded significant amounts of land,thus the project is needed to control the effects of the sea action.
Among the areas in Accra that are very vulnerable to tidal erosion are the Accra Central, Independence Square and Osu stretch of coastline of which the earmarked area for the project forms a part.
Given the magnitude of the project and the vulnerability of the selected location, the project will embank the shoreline for the successful preservation of the land.
The foregoing points notwithstanding, there are other development planning contexts that also need to be considered. The ministerial enclave where the project will be situated, serves multiple functions.
First, it serves as the seat of government administration, accommodating the Osu Castle, which hosts about three ministries and other government institutions.
Other government ministries and a number of government departments and agencies such as the Volta River Authority,the Electricity Company of Ghana, the Ghana Water Company Ltd, etc., are also found within the enclave. The Parliament House, offices of the members of parliament and the law courts complex are also within the vicinity.
Second, the environs of the enclave serve as a commercial area and economic hub.The World Trade Centre is located there, along with the presence of many banks.
Lastly, with the presence of recreational and hospitality facilities, as well as national monuments including the Supreme Court Complex, the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum, the Independence Square, the Accra Sports Stadium,the Osu Cemetery, the Accra International Conference Centre, the Kempinski Hotel, the Mövenpick Ambassador Hotel, the Accra City Hotel, the Octagon, the National Theatre, the Efua Sutherland Children’s Park, the World Trade Centre,etc., the ministerial zone serves as a tourism and hospitality enclave in its own right.
Impact of Marine drive project
In spite of its multi-functional purpose, the general layout of the ministerial zone presents an increasingly congested and haphazard arrangement which must be redesigned.On a typical day, there is heavy flow of traffic towards the city centre, of which the ministerial zone forms a major part.
While it is conventional to ensure that the central business district has mixed uses, situating the Marine Drive Project there will surely draw an additional amount of traffic to the city centre each day, made up of workers and constant visitors to the city centre, in addition to the tourists, suppliers etc. of the Marine Drive facility, which could defeat the idea of creating a balanced redistribution of the urban population as proposed in the National Urban Policy Framework.
A traffic impact assessment must have been carried out, although it is not clear the number of vehicles expected at the city centre on a daily basis and how these could affect the work of the ministries.
The World Bank’s extraordinary report, “Where Is The Wealth Of Nations? Measuring Capital for the 21st Century” states that a large part of the world's total capital is intangible; mainly human capital and the value of institutions are measured by the efficiency of the judicial, legislative and administrative systems of the State.
However, these same institutions can be rendered ineffective and inefficient because of the heavy traffic, prolonged construction activities, pedestrian movement and excessive commercialisation of the environs.
Another issue to be pondered is the large number of government buildings to be demolished—more than three dozen buildings—that previously accommodated several government agencies, including the Ministry of Agriculture and its agencies, the agencies of the Ministry of Health, the regional offices of the Land Use and Spatial Planning Authority (LUSPA),formerly Town and Country Planning Department (TCPD), the Management Development and Productivity Institute, the Ghana Irrigation Development Authority, the Factories Inspectorate, the Births and Deaths Registry, etc.
There is the proposition of a high-rise building to be constructed within the vicinity of the Customs head office to accommodate these agencies and this must be diligently done bearing in mind the already congested area. How do we balance the movement of heavy equipment, construction materials and workers to and from the site along the logistics corridor now created through the Castle Drive, the Castle Roundabout and into the built-up Osu Township?
The project is anticipated to generate about 150,000 jobs which is a very laudable outcome.However, the overbearing effect that this will have on the approximately 8,000 public sector workers in the area should not be underrated.
The size of the public sector has doubled since 1995, and this is evident not only in the numbers of people employed in the sector, but also in the physical structures occupied by the sector.
What looked like a quite serene ministerial zone in the 90’s has now become a congested environment with several ministerial annexes, new facilities and structures constructed, with vehicles, hawkers, lotto vendors, chop bar operators and food vendors choking up the place.
Some ministries such as the local government are now erecting multi-storey steel containers as additional office space but this will not solve the increasing overcrowding.