Founded by Nii Ashai in the 17th century, Ashaiman is one of the oldest towns in Ghana, and it is on the path to becoming a major commercial hub in the entire West African sub-region. This is as a result of continuous steady infrastructural investments being made by both the Municipal Assembly and the private sector.
With an annual population growth rate of 4.6 percent and a projected population of over three hundred and eight thousand (308,000) residents occupying an area of 19.5 kilometres square, Ashaiman is undoubtedly a sprawling community located in the heart of the Greater Accra Region of Ghana.
The Ashaiman Municipality shares borders with Tema to the South, Kpone-Katamanso to the North-East, and to the West by the Tema West Municipal Assemblies. By its geographical location and its proximity to Ghana’s foremost and only planned industrial city, Tema, Ashaiman municipality is strategically placed for hyper-commercial activity.
In spite of its enviable status as one of the most vibrant municipalities in terms of economic activities with the potential of attracting business interests from as far as Nigeria, Niger, Burkina Faso among others, the town, unfortunately, has for years been perceived by many as a community full of crime, filth and low-class residents with open defecation as the norm.
However, for the past two decades, those who hold that perception are beginning to shirk their stands. Hitherto, insanitary conditions and insecurity were major challenges faced by residents and visitors to the municipality.
Indeed, individual accounts had it that crime rates were so high in Ashaiman in the early 90s that whenever anyone mentioned that they hailed from Ashaiman, those close by instantly felt unsecured!
This article, consequently, seeks to provide an in-depth account of Ashaiman, and will touch on key sectors that are leading in its transformational agenda.
The new Ashaiman
A visit to the municipality tells an optimistic story. The town has for the past few years witnessed a major transformation in almost all sectors of its economy. Indeed, according to revelations made by the Municipal Chief Executive, Albert Boakye Okyere, in spite of all the challenges, the Ashaiman municipality has chalked significant successes in many areas in the last few years. He cited improvements in areas such as security, environment, education, road network, entertainment, and improved standards of living among others.
“Security has improved as the municipality, which hitherto had only one bank (the Ghana Commercial Bank) in the 90s due to widespread insecurity, can now boast of a number of world-class banks. Insurance companies are fast catching their market shares in this busy municipality, while standard healthcare services including the hospitality industries etc., are competing to outdo one another. Clearly, Ashaiman is making strides in all sectors. Continuing on this path would lead us to the dream-land of becoming the number one commercial center in West Africa,” Mr. Okyere said.
The security situation in new Ashaiman
Statistics from security officials in Ashaiman are indeed encouraging. For instance, 2019/2020 municipal crime statistics depict a tremendous improvement over that of previous years. High-profile crime-related cases recorded for 2020, for instance, including murder, robbery, assault, theft, defilement, rape, kidnapping, and other social vices like prostitution reduced.
The breakdown revealed that assault dominated the list of crimes with 115 cases, compared to the 210 registered in 2019. Similarly, whereas seven cases of robbery were recorded in 2020, a total of 20 cases were dealt with in 2019. Indeed in 2020, only nine cases of theft were reported to the District Police Headquarters as against 17 in 2019.
Defilement cases, however, surged from nine in 2019 to 13 in 2020, while only two cases of murder were recorded as against eight registered in 2019. This feat has been made possible through the sterling leadership of the District Police Command following its ability to beef up security across the municipality especially at noted flashpoints.
Additionally, in the past, Ashaiman had only one police station which adversely affected effective policing. Today, that has changed. There are about three new police stations located within the municipally with increased personnel.
The ripple effects of such impressive improvements of the security situation in the municipality include the conducive environment that has been created for businesses to flourish without fear of being attacked. This has also made the municipality attractive to corporate organizations such as banks, insurance companies, and telecommunication companies among others which have opened branches in Ashaiman, leading to improved economic activities.
Indeed, a few decades ago, this was impossible. Undoubtedly, the improved security situation continues to serve as the bedrock for major transformations taking place in Ashaiman and the authorities deserve commendations for such a feat.
Sanitation in the new Asahaiman
It is an open secret that sanitation used to be a major challenge in Ashaiman. Many homes did not have toilet facilities, and so open defecation was an entrenched norm where residents, both children, and adults, engaged in it arbitrarily.
Furthermore, poor drainage and improper disposal of solid waste were perennial challenges causing annual flooding, leading to loss of lives and property. These and many others were the reasons behind the various adverse perspectives people held against the town and its dwellers.
Apart from that, a suburb known as Fitter Line, dominated by auto mechanics and scrap metal dealers, was notorious for all kinds of pollution including noise. An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report shows that the average noise levels in Ashaiman in 2017 exceeded the EPA’s permissible level of 48 dB (A) for nighttime (2200–0600 h).
However, the picture appears to be improving as open defecation figures continue to drop following the Ashaiman Municipal Assembly’s intensified efforts aimed at getting low-cost toilet facilities built in every home.
In the past, only 18 percent of households in Ashaiman had latrines. Indeed, a 2016 report by the Urban Water Sanitation and Hygiene revealed that as much as 83.9 percent of the over three hundred thousand population in Ashaiman depended on shared public toilets.
Today, according to statistics from the Municipal Environmental Health Officer (MEHO), Patrick Tsigbey, that figure has changed following the construction of over eight thousand, two hundred and eight (8,208) household toilets across homes in the municipality within the last three years alone, benefiting some 65,664 residents under an initiative known as the GAMA project. This, without doubt, has had a huge impact on the open defecation menace in the municipality.
Apart from that, a total of 18 institutional toilets have been provided in all schools across the municipality to curb the open defecation menace among pupils. Solid waste disposal which was another major challenge a few years ago in Ashaiman, has improved tremendously. Hitherto, piles of uncollected solid waste could be seen on all major streets, accompanied by a foul smell and houseflies. Interestingly, in the mid-90s, a popular refuse dump at Taifa was Ashaiman’s own version of the Eiffel Tower.
Open drains were so heavily choked that it had to take the personal intervention of the then President of the Republic, Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings to de-silt open drains in Ashaiman and to get the ‘Eiffel Tower’ dump site cleared. Indeed, during those days, cases of cholera and other insanitary-related diseases were rampant in Ashaiman.
However, through years of concerted efforts on the part of city authorities and the traditional leaders in Ashaiman, the narrative has changed for the better indeed! According to the Municipal Environmental Health Officer, effective management of the challenge has brought the canker to an end, saying, “Not even a single dumpsite is left unattended to in the municipality currently.
“Daily, we ensure that every solid waste is lifted from the centers across the municipality so that we don’t have spillovers. As a result, if you walk through Ashaiman especially around the market areas, it will be difficult for you to notice any uncollected solid waste.”
Enforcement of environmental by-laws is also playing a part in the new Ashaiman as part of moves by the Assembly to rid the municipality of filth. According to the Ashaiman Municipal Prosecutor, George Kartey, the past few years have seen a number of persons, who flouted environmental by-laws in the municipality, prosecuted.
He added that strict enforcement of environmental by-laws in Ashaiman is part of the reason why Ashaiman has become one of the cleanest towns in the country.
“Today in Ashaiman, you cannot flout environmental by-laws and go scot-free. Anyone apprehended for flouting environmental rules is prosecuted and fined heftily. In some cases, offenders serve jail terms because we want to have a filth-free town,” Mr. Kartey explained.
Indeed, one can see clearly the manifestations of these efforts being put in place by the authorities. However, there still remain areas in the municipality that need attention. Sanitary conditions along the Gbemi Stream, which spans over three kilometers, leave much to be desired. Residents living close to the stream have turned it into a dumping site. Similarly, residents living close to the Ashaiman Irrigation Dam are also engaging in unsanitary activities. Some have directed their liquid waste pipelines into the dam while others practically wash their livestock in the water body.
Another key challenge in the area of environment is the management of public toilets in the municipality. Albeit public toilet facilities exist, their management leaves much to be desired. These facilities are currently being managed by political party loyalists whose interests appear to be only in the revenue being generated but not in the maintenance of the facilities. Interacting with some of them revealed that most of them do not have any professional training in managing public places of convenience.
Clearly, these are challenges if not well managed could send the municipality back to the dark days.
It is, therefore, strongly recommended that the MEHO, as a matter of urgency, takes a second look at the management of public toilets in the municipality. Secondly, the Assembly should review the cost of using the public toilet facilities as some residents claim that they are charged between GHS 1.00 to GHS 2.00, which they say is costly. These challenges, notwithstanding, Ashaiman is clearly on the path to becoming a commercial hub in West Africa.
The informal sector in the new Ashaiman
The informal sector, the main driver of economic activities in the municipality, continues to see huge transformational investments. New markets and shops are being erected throughout the municipality as part of the economic transformational agenda. Markets such as the Ashaiman Central Market, the Mandela Market among others are being expanded. Apart from traditional market complexes, the municipality continues to be attractive to international retail outlets like Melcom and China Mall.
It is indeed important to note that today, the very site housing the China Mall used to be a major dumping site in Ashaiman some few years ago. Interestingly, that swampy area has been transformed into a world-class mall with ancillary facilities where people from all walks of life travel for commerce.
Additionally, the Municipal Assembly is heavily investing in shop complexes across the municipality. As part of its long-term goal to provide decent places of doing business to its dwellers and to transform the physical outlook of the city, the Municipal Assembly has created a policy to give permits to only high-rise buildings along streets in Ashaiman. Indeed, this policy is already yielding positive results by changing the skylines of the municipality.
It is also interesting to note that the Ashaiman Municipality is now the destination for low-cost food items attracting buyers and sellers from other surrounding municipalities such as Tema West, Tema, and Kpone-Katamanso.
Nightlife in the new Ashaiman
Another significant progress made in the municipality is the drastic transformation of its ‘Night Life’. Nightlife, which in the past was a death license in Ashaiman due to insecurity, has improved tremendously as a number of entertainment centers, nightclubs, pubs, and eatery joints have all sprung up in no time.
Nightlife in places such as the Signature Lounge, Wasty’s Pub, MS Pub, and Ropongi Gardens, are just a few centers that are leading the transformational agenda of Ashaiman when it comes to entertainment and relaxation at night.
Education in the new Ashaiman
Educational facilities are also seeing a lot of improvement as standard institutions are either relocating or being established in the municipality. Among such educational facilities are the Tema International School, Tema Ridge School, Martin Luther King School, Solidarity International School, and Agape International School. These schools attract students from all walks of life with diverse backgrounds.
The 2018-2019 Ghana Education Service’s national rankings of Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) performance table places the municipality at 15th and 34th positions respectively, while scoring it 2nd and 3rd for the same periods respectively at the Greater Accra Regional level. Definitely, these are encouraging statistics.
Tourism in the new Ashaiman
Another key aspect where the Ashaiman Municipality is making strides is in the tourism sector. Exquisite hotels keep springing up every now and then. Of course, these hotels that come with huge conferencing facilities are lifting the image of Ashaiman and making it the preferred destination for small and medium businesses, as well as international organizations within the Greater Accra Region. Indeed, this is a result of the competitive pricing regimes and the municipality’s proximity to the Tema Industrial enclave.
The annual ‘Ashaiman to the World Concert’ by Stonebwoy, one of Ghana’s finest dancehall artistes and resident of Ashaiman, is arguably one of the biggest entertainment ‘rituals’ on the calendar of Ashaiman. It even attracts foreign tourists to the municipality. Business activities boom during this period. Apart from that, the municipality has produced notable national icons including Abraham Attah, Thomas Partey, Awudu Issaka, and Abu iddrisu.
Housing in the new Ashaiman
In addition, housing, which used to be a major challenge in the municipality, is also experiencing great transformation. Hitherto, Ashaiman, which could not boast of any planned housing apart from the New Quarters near Roman Down, is currently home to a number of planned and gated estates including the Tema Communities 21 and 22 and Afariwa. Also, many suburbs such as Lebanon, Jericho, Roman Down, New, and Official Towns continue to see relatively good housing.
Besides, the cost of decent accommodation, comparatively, it is the cheapest in the Greater Accra Region. This has led to the influx of all manner of persons to the municipality.
In conclusion, I dare say if handlers continue with the pace and energy with which interventions are being made, Ashaiman, named after its founder, Nii Ashai, would, in no time, become the best in the country.
The Author, Carlos Lorlornyo Atsu Calony, is a resident of Ashaiman, and a student of the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ).