One Half of Ghana’s Twin Cities
The other half is called Sekondi and together form Ghana’s fourth largest city, Sekondi-Takoradi. The official alliance came in 1946. Sekondi, the older twin, thrived due to a railroad built in 1903 that tied it to the interior where timber harvesting and mining flourished. Truth be told, probably few of us have actually visited Ghana before. Just know there’s a lot of history to review to understand why we’re here. So, quicker than we can say, ”Find some shade” we’ll get started.
In The Beginning
Man has lived within Ghana’s borders, now defined by Togo, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, and the Gulf of Guinea, since 4,000 B.C., give or take a few pages on the calendar. Bands of people made their way here, arriving from the east and the north. Over time, powerful kings expanded their base down the banks of the Volta River to where it flows into the Gulf of Guinea, amassing wealth from the gold they discovered. In the 1500s, the Ashanti people solidified their stronghold, seized control over lucrative trade, and built the notable city Kumasi. Europeans took notice while sailing the African coastline on their voyages of discovery. Among them, Portuguese sailors followed by vessels flying the flags of Britain, France, Holland, Denmark and Sweden. They all left their mark by erecting powerful forts before sailing away with gold, even slaves … terrified, torn from their families, fates unknown but feared. Their tragic stories are written in Ghana’s history books with that sad chapter ending in the 19th century.
Conflicts continued between the British and the Ashanti with the British consolidating their power over the Gold Coast, as it was known, after an important 1874 battle in Kumasi. Within a quarter century, the Gold Coast was a British crown colony. During WWII, British forces flew from Takoradi bound for Egypt and the Atlantic assisting convoys and searching for submarines.
Independence Comes to Ghana
The date, March 1957. Ghana was the first sub-Saharan country in colonial Africa to gain its independence. The former political activist Kwame Nkrumah became the country’s first president. Despite many challenges, he focused on the future by spearheading projects like the Akosombo Dam. Nkrumah was stripped of his power during a 1966 coup. Difficult times prevailed with political instability looming. Ultimately, things stabilized to the point that Ghana was recognized as realizing the biggest economic growth rate in the 1980s. And, while Ghana still enjoys a solid economic base, compared to many African nations, her people struggle with sub-standard conditions and challenges, even for basic needs. For the record, today President John Evans Atta Mills leads this constitutional democracy and its nearly 25 million people whose 2010 GDP per capita was $1,600. All this, mind you, with 100 ethnic groups each speaking its unique tongue though English is the official language.
Ghana’s economic base is built on oil with significant reserves found in the Gulf of Guinea’s Jubilee Field in 2007. Hence, the term “Oil City” is bandied about when referring to this area. Many believe Ghana will become West Africa’s third largest oil producer.
Agriculture also plays a role, employing around 50% of the work force … in cocoa (Ghana is one of the world’s largest exporters), lumber, gold mining, even fishing. Takoradi Harbor, built in 1928, was the country’s first deep-sea port.
Lake Volta, a body of water covering nearly half Ghana’s total landmass, was formed by the Akosombo Dam that was commissioned in 1966. In addition to generating electricity for much of the nation, the lake also serves as a viable transportation route where roads fall short. It also gives farmers reliable irrigation where once there was none. Fishing is simply an added bonus.
What To Do With Your Day
Beaching, eco-tourism, historical insight, none of the above? The latter seems unfair for there is much to see. The first, beachies, could be quite a challenge considering Busua is 30 kilometers west of Takoradi with modest accommodations, so maybe save beaching for another day. But, consider this factoid – Takoradi is touted as the largest city closest to the Equator AND the Prime Meridian. Screams sunscreen even if you don’t go to the beach.
Eco-tourism? Ahah! You’ve got Kakum National Forest, a rainforest with a canopy walkway 100 feet above ground. More modest sites include the Twin Cities Wetlands area, considered a welcomed respite in town, with its collection of birds. The Mona monkeys hang out at, you guessed it, Monkey Hill. And the Fijai Green Bank is home to silk cotton trees, important to this area.
History your cup of tea? A must is European Town where the Brits and Dutch settled. Here, you’ll find the Old Railway Station, Fort Orange (1670), the High Court and the Light House. Consider, also, a look at Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Cathedral, from the early 20th century. Or, Elmina Castle, Portuguese from 1482, it’s here the slave dungeons are found. Cape Coast Castle is a must. Built in 1652 by the Swedes, it served as West Africa’s largest slave-trading center.
Back home, you’ll hear more about Ghana on the evening news with its oil revenues creating a place in the African history books. Then you can say, “I was there!”. And, so you are.