Part 1 looked at Sekondi-Takoradi in Ghana’s Western Region and how the oil industry is transforming the twin city as new hotels spring up. But that’s not the only sector of real estate that is changing. There is also an explosion in land and housing developments, the demand created by an influx of people from different professions and multiple locations. Expatriate upstream and downstream petroleum industry personnel are now in Takoradi in abundance. Many of them do a “hitch” of one month on and one month off. In the off period, they return to their home countries for some rest and recreation and to be reunited with their families, but they all need somewhere comfortable to stay while in Takoradi.
In addition, some Ghanaian oil workers with experience in the Niger Delta, Angola and even the US are moving back to Takoradi as well. Ghanaian skilled workers like welders and pipe-fitters from other cities, particularly Accra-Tema, are also beating a track. Ghanaian unskilled workers from rural and urban areas come to Takoradi hoping to find better jobs.
Along with oil companies come several other types of businesses. Twelve or more new banks and several insurance companies have been established in Takoradi in a short space of time, and demand of more supermarkets, electronic and appliance stores, and cell phone companies (Vodafone maintains one of the heaviest presences) is increasing all the time.
Finally, there’s one group of skilled workers that must be mentioned: prostitutes. Expatriates and other Takoradi visitors have needs too, and the number of prostitutes – streetwalkers or otherwise – has reportedly increased with the advent of oil. Vienna City, shown below, is a popular nightclub hangout for prostitutes, but many expatriates will prefer call girls, who are usually quite obvious at hotel bars and restaurants.
Like all cities, Takoradi has its posh areas, and they are developing fast.
This is a well-established area and a very desirable address in Takoradi. As the name implies, the houses are not far from the beach.
The above two buildings with the distinctive flat roofs and parallel trim are said to belong to a mysterious Ghanaian developer whose name I’m yet to discover and who is reputed to be one of the richest men in the Western Region, if not Ghana. Below is another of his buildings, complete with tennis courts and a “Keep Out” fence that kept me out. The Atlantic Ocean, not seen, is on the other side. I am told that it’s being rented by one of the oil companies.
This is an up-and-coming suburb of Takoradi with “newer” money than the more established Beach Road. Here, the houses spring up on often untended land as fast as the weeds grow. If there’s such a thing as urban sprawl, this must be it.
Roads leading to the house are not a priority. Roadways are technically owned by the government and private individuals are not inclined to pave them.
But as shown in the pictures below, the immediate driveway into a hotel or restaurant will almost certainly be paved, and in the older parts of Anaji, at some point the roads were done and systematically named. There’s no predicting when that will happen to the new roadways.
Online classifieds for residential and business properties are numerous, but it is immediately apparent that there is more land for sale (at some astoundingly low prices) than there are houses for sale, and more houses for rent than for sale. This is because the building boom in the Sekondi-Takoradi is more of a land grab than simply an acquisition of housing. You buy the land, you build on it, and then you rent it out. Some of the seven-bedroom “homes” are in fact rented by businesses as offices.
The big winners in this boom are mostly well-heeled foreigners and some Ghanaians in the diaspora. They have the money to bring, and Ghana’s real estate is a cash and not a credit market, unlike in the US. The Ghanaian economic boom is driving the real estate boom and not the other way around, and as one Ghanaian columnist has pointed out, until an active secondary mortgage market develops in Ghana, there won’t be the kind of housing crash there that has taken place in the US. Although the situation may change in the future, bank mortgage loans in Ghana are still a minority, and banks are in no hurry to grant long-term home loans. They would rather give short-term, “safe” loans to the import-export market. Terms for home loans and even personal loans in Ghana are scary, with interest rates of 12% up to as high as 18-20%.
If the oil rush, land grab and lovely life that you can have as an expatriate in Ghana sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because it’s happened before in another era when gold was the mouth-watering lure. Africa is once again the new frontier, with land, rare minerals and physical beauty. Although many Europeans and Americans living in Ghana say they still miss aspects of their birthplaces (one French couple told me how they sometimes long for the variety of cheeses in France), there are a number of them who at present have no desire to repatriate.
In my next blog, we’ll see how the oil rush has affected ordinary Ghanaians in Takoradi.
Takoradi and the Western Region in general continues to fascinate me, and I’m thrilled that it’s the background for my present novel Murder at Cape Three Points. I can’t wait to get it out, but although the first draft is complete, I’m only on the first of many revisions to come.