The beautiful and the ugly side of the growing skylines of Kumasi
Perhaps, the current spate of rapidly developing skylines amidst continuous attempts by local authorities to re-green the Ashanti regional capital, Kumasi, signals that the City is on its way to regaining it enviable tagline of being the ‘Garden City’ of West Africa.
One key side attraction, and spotlight, that tote up to the glittering beauty of the emerging skylines and the go-to family destination of the moment, the Rattary Park, is the recently commissioned Kumasi City Mall.
The US$95 million semi-closed shopping facility, which occupies a total land size of 18,500 square metres with an extra 10,000 square metres for expansion, is specially designed to reflect the Kumasi environment and its way of life.
It features a highly innovative and cutting-edge technology and has unique design principles incorporated in its architecture. All of these firms up the beauty of the edifice that illuminates the sprawling beauty of Kumasi’s skylines.
Looking at the commercial district of Adum from a bird’s eye view, now, it portrays a dotted line of high-rise buildings steadily rising into the skies, with every new construction, of office complexes and multi-million-dollar apartments which are the latest trend in town.
It is evident from the aerial view that as the gaping spaces are filled with similar structures it will become a breath-taking scenery which sooner than later walking through will seem like anything close to the magnificent street views often seen on television from Dubai or anywhere from the Western world.
What makes these developments in the City something to anticipate is also the ultra-modern Kejetia Market which is taking shape gradually.
Adum, which hitherto had spots of residential houses occupied by some traders, many of which looked more as firetraps, antique and many other fitting descriptions, is now fully choked with iconic and baronial architectures. Many of the old buildings have given away to new structures which are hugely patronised by financial institutions and other corporate organisations.
The sad aspect, however, is that previous occupant of these buildings, many of whom, deal in smallwares, consumables, and sale of other domestic products have had to seek shelter at the Central Market or on the street or foldup, unable to match the new rent charges.
But as Ghana’s second largest and entrepreneurship hub, Kumasi, sees this much infrastructural development, lately, it appears that city authorities have deliberately given a blind eye to some critical issues that must be addressed or that these issues are yet to come to their attention.
These issues, no matter how beautiful places like Adum, or Kumasi as a whole will develop to become, will make it one of the worse places to live in Ghana. And this is so evident even as modern constructions largely progress in the City now.
One critical flaw to this beaming beauty of the City is congestion which until sometime now been largely attributed to the over concentration of trading activities at the City center. But I beg to define that the source of this congestion is the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly (KMA).
For years, the city authorities have failed to ensure that people who put up buildings in the commercial areas include in their designs parking spaces for offices or would be occupants. The norm has been that ground floors of many of these high-rise buildings, whether fully completed or partly, are rented to the highest bidder after which the person or landlord approaches the KMA to demarcate part of the already busy streets as parking spaces for offices.
This dangerous trend, which the Assembly is bountifully benefitting from, has been the number one cause of congestion in Kumasi, apart from the fact that nature of most of the town roads is also another issue.
The irony of the situation is that customers of these newly acquired offices struggle to identify parking spaces in order to easily assess the offices and their services and hence are left with no choice but to join in unauthorized parking menace, which creates greater human and vehicular inconvenience.
That aside, the Assembly has also identified many spots on the Adum town roads and commercialized it. This means one may have to pay a fee to park in these areas, and wherever the money goes to and used for is another subject for future discussions. And this to a large extent has encouraged many commercial vehicle operators, locally referred to as ‘waa waa drivers’ who do not belong to any transport group or stations to also flout traffic regulations resulting in many chaotic scenes with city guards on the streets of Adum, almost on an hourly basis.
At the collapse of the Melcom branch in Accra, measures were instituted to ensure that all commercial and private buildings will be ensured and made fire proof. This brought about the setting up of a taskforce which undertook some nationwide exercise to ensure the compliance of this latest directive.
Building owners are thus required to have fire certificate and install fire extinguishers and smoke detectors at vantage points in their buildings. But given that the local assembly has failed to ensure convenience of the general public by ensuring that every new building will have its own parking space as part of the structure I doubt if questioning the enforcement this regulation, an added responsibility of local authorities is appropriate.
Ghana ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability (UNCRPD) in August 2012.
But five years on, it is still struggling to make it workable, with the latest development being that the Persons with Disability Act, Act 715 (2006) is undergoing an overhaul to ensure it is compatible with the UNCRPD.
Among the many developments it is expected that public buildings are made easily accessible and disability friendly, but as we watch the ‘space’ and the latest constructions, all over, it doesn’t appear anyone is ready to comply to make their buildings disability-friendly.