Touching down in Accra? Akwaaba, (“You are welcome”), is a word you are likely to hear often, and is one that will ring true for the length of your stay, be it long or short. The Ashante people of Ghana are renowned for their hospitality and warmth, and Accra is one of Africa’s safer cities. The capital is centered loosely around European coastal forts, built for trade dating back to the 15th century. For the most part an unplanned city, Accra sprawls across an area of roughly 200km squared. The old quarters of Usher Town juxtaposes with modern Accra’s hip Oxford District, which bustles with shops selling handicrafts and fabrics, hotels, restaurants, and clubs. Victoriaborg, once an exclusive European neighborhood, has in recent decades merged with the central business district. This area contrasts starkly with the city’s notorious shanties, such as Nima and Accra New Town. Housing for expats range from serviced apartments, to houses with gardens, pools and domestic staff quarters, to gated communities with residents’ clubs. Those foregoing the house with a pool can easily procure club membership with the more upmarket hotels, giving you access to swimming pool and gym facilities.
Expats are advised to buy a car here (despite the overwhelming traffic), given the infamous public transport. Trotros (buses) in particular are notorious for frequent collisions. Being so close to the equator, the weather in Accra is fantastic all year round. When the hustle and bustle of city living becomes too much, head for one of the region’s many breathtaking resorts to recharge your batteries.
What is special or unique about your city?
Ghana, which means “Warrior King” in English, was inhabited in pre-colonial times by ancient, predominantly Akan, kingdoms. The British declared Ghana a Crown colony in 1873. Accra was captured in 1874 and later declared the capital of the Gold Coast colony. The Gold Coast established independence in 1957, the first Sub-Saharan African nation to do so. Ghana is the second-largest producer of cocoa in the world. It is home to Lake Volta, the largest artificial lake in the world. Ghana is also very rich in agriculture, as well as minerals. Ghanaians are very friendly, giving people.
What are a newcomer's first impressions of your city?
If arriving by air, newcomers will initially be greeted by huge beautiful buildings surrounding the international airport in Accra, the capital of Ghana. Once off the plane, one can immediately feel the humidity in the air. The roads around the airport are all in good condition; those farther away might need work. If you are traveling into the industrial areas of Accra, the road conditions get worse. Most of the international hotels are located near the airport and maintain very high standards. As with moving to any other country, you will have to acquire a taste for the food.
Are these impressions likely to change?
Yes, the government recently awarded a contract to revamp all the roads in and out of the city and the work has already begun. There are a lot of foreign investors in Ghana, mostly from India and the United States of America. When driving in the city, one can see numerous new buildings being built, including shopping malls, five-star hotels and huge office towers.
What is the local language?
The official language is English and is spoken and understood by more than 90 percent of the people, but there are also about 90 other local languages that are spoken. All Ghanaians speak at least one other language apart from English.
How easily could I live in this city without knowing this language?
A person can function quite easily without knowing any of the local languages, but must be able to speak and understand English.
What are good things to remember in order to avoid offending the other residents of this city?
When in public, you'll be greeted by almost everyone who passes you. It is very important to greet them in return. Ghanaians do not show affection in public and find it quite offensive when they see couples doing so in public. Try to avoid such displays.
How might the local weather affect my daily life?
Ghana is very hot all year round with temperatures between 25 and 30 degrees, with the humidity constantly around the 97 percent mark. You should have a good air conditioning system both at the office and at home. During the rainy season, there are floods in the city because it rains heavily for an extended period of time.
Is there anything else I should know about the overall character of your city or its people?
Accra is a very busy, lively city. While sitting in traffic, one can purchase almost anything from vendors who come right to the vehicle’s windows. The roads are almost impassable during peak hours in the mornings and afternoons.