Ghana, particularly its capital city, Accra, is multifaceted. It embodies the characteristics of a trendy middle class metropolis but at the same time struggles with substantive urban development problems. Despite these challenges, Ghana is culturally rich and its capital city is rapidly modernising with a distinctly Ghanaian flair. Accra is becoming exciting and you could say, downright sexy. Here is why:
1. It is a city with swag and all that jazz
Accra is evolving and doing so quickly. The country’s relatively recent discovery of oil and other FDI opportunities have resulted in a sizeable influx of expats who, together with the growing middle class, have driven up the demand for yuppie social hangouts. The Coco lounge is worth highlighting for its swanky decor, wood-fired pizza, home-made ice-cream, burgers on brioche… and oh yes, the ipad/tablet menus that are handed out to customers. Live music, particularly jazz and high-life, have always been a Ghanaian favourite pastime but these have been taken up a notch with the onset of trailblazing clubs and bars like +233 and Republic.
2. It provides great lifestyle options for the health-conscious
The healthy lifestyle is trending worldwide and therefore big business. Ghana is no exception as reflected in the springing up juice bars and bootcamps in its capital city. A few years ago, it would have been news to hear about hiking and mountain biking activities in Ghana. But it is now common to find business executives driving an hour out of city to hike in the scenic Aburi mountains. Through the Ghana Hike and Bike Tours Company, one could take a guided bike tour ranging from 1 hour to 10 days to explore towns and villages and experience different landscapes.
I have friends who are fanatic about following a healthy eating plan and have informed me that options like kale and tofu are on offer in Accra if you try really hard to find them. Equally exciting are the vegetarian restaurants cropping up. While I am not vegetarian, my father is and has discovered Accra’s best kept secret: an amazing and highly affordable vegetarian restaurant in Accra by the sports stadium that offers local dishes with a modern twist e.g. spicy tofu kebabs. The Accra Goods Market (another exciting initiative) is also a great place to find organic foods including goji berries and quinoa.
3. It has a vibrant arts and music scene
I dont mean to name drop but I went to high school with the award winning rapper, M.anifest who has worked with Erykah Badu amongst others. Ghana continues to churn out great talent for the continent and beyond. I learned about Wiyaala, a young Afro pop artist from Northern Ghana, when she was profiled on CNN. A cross between Angelique Kidjo and Grace Jones, Wiyaala exudes power and grace. She is pure talent with a voice and movement that commands awe and respect.
Ghana’s film and TV industry has suffered for many years and still is struggling to break through on the continent although I was proud to see Chris Attoh (Ghana’s Morris Chestnut.. but better looking) recently on the silver screen in South Africa. Feeling the frustration of the film industry and the parochial portrayal of Africans, Nicole Amarteifio (Ghana’s Shonda Rhimes… ok a little exaggeration here) created a TV series called An African City, modeled after the US hit series, Sex and the City. The provocative series about 5 young Diasporan African women relocating to Ghana and adjusting to cultural norms, dating, careers, etc., is a hit with some and a miss with others. But, numbers do not lie: It says a lot when a product is talked about on BBC, CNN, Huffington Post etc and carried on multiple TV networks.
4. It is producing top notch Instagrammers
I have to confess my obsession with Instagram. What can I say? I LOVE photography and just blown away by the caliber of “professional” Ghanaian instagrammers. My favourite ones include: @ipostghana, @_accra, @steve.ababio, @chichomes_gh, @yaw_pare and @accracoffeeshops.
Their images capture the beauty and essence of Accra and other parts of Ghana. Photos span from a gorgeous sunset on the beach to a landscape shot of the vibrant city to a father playing with his little daughter to mouth watering local cuisine. These are the photos I would like to see in the publications of certain development organisations and not the same tired and one-sided images of children who are always on the streets and never in school.
5. It is a hub in the making for young entrepreneurs
A generation of problem solvers, the new crop of Ghanaian entrepreneurs are mainly recent university graduates with bold ideas and the discipline to see them through. Mable Suglo, for example, is an award winning 21 year old social entrepreneur whose company Ecoshoes employs people with disabilities to make fashionable shoes and bags from recycled materials. One initiative that I find particularly exciting is the introduction of the shared office space to Ghana courtesy of the Workshed Space. A couple of young Ghanaians have opened up a swanky open plan office for entrepreneurs who for a fee, can access a shared work space with the necessary amenities: wifi, coffee bar, meeting rooms etc. Best of all, it provides a networking opportunity for budding entrepreneurs who may gather around a corner Foosball table at the end of the working day before catching an uber ride home.
Ghana had a head start with independence and for many, the dream of prosperity and progress does not seem to be within reach. But there is beauty underneath the surface, on the surface and all around if we choose to see it. Let’s make a point to celebrate it… At least once in a while.
Peace and Love
Photo credits: wiyaala.com, ghanastar.com, pinterest.com, Instagram.com, anafricancity.tv, ourworkshed.com.