Will the Marine Drive Project see the light of day?

Omicron will obstruct all the gains made towards tourism recovery…who bears the blame?
Philip GEBU

I drove pass the project site for the Marine Drive Project earlier this week. I was excited to realize that the metallic walls contractors erect around project sites were being erected. This will be a sigh of relief to many who have long been anticipating the beginning of this project. There were building still erected on the site tough as well as the artisans at the Art Centre still on site.

A lot of people still don’t know what this project is about and the economic transformation it will bring to our tourism industry and the national economy as a whole. Others have never heard about this project. Media should be educating the public on some of these life changing projects and those yet to be implemented.

Media is to inform educate and entertain many a time we are left uninformed. I hope they take it upon themselves to educate and inform the masses. For those who may not know the details of this project below is the concept paper and project objectives as outlined by The Ghana Tourism Development Company.

Project Concept

The Marine Drive Tourism Project is the single largest tourism investment project to be initiated by the Government of Ghana since Independence. The 241-acre prime beachfront tourism enclave project is envisaged to position Ghana as the most sought-after tourist destination and the destination of choice within the West African sub-region as well as provide job opportunities for many young people in Ghana within the hospitality industry. The project is basically:

  • Plan and develop the entire parcel of land, stretching from the Osu Klottey Lagoon (behind the Christianborg Castle) to the Accra Community Centre, covering an area of 241 acres and
  • Re-zone stretch of land into a Tourism Enclave.

The enclave will focus on 4 key categories of tourism in the broad locations (as indicated below):

Business Tourism – Along the Accra High Street.

Leisure Tourism    – Along the sea front.

Cultural Tourism   – Existing Osu Castle, Black Star Square, Asomdwe Park, Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum, Arts Centre and new performing arts facilities.

Eco Tourism – Traditional Fishing and related economic activities, including cottage industries and small scale sub-urban

The expected beachfront development will include:

  • Christiansburg Castle Museum, Casino with corporate facilities, 7 hotels (average 400 keys, each), 6 Restaurants/Nightclubs/Casinos, Health Clinic, Food Court, 3 Sports Clubs, Amusement Park, Spa/Beauty Clinic & Massage Parlour , Shopping Mall, Jetty / Water Sports, Cultural Village, Memorial Park, 5 Corporate offices/Banking Offices, Conference Centre, Amphitheatre/ Music Studio/, Police post and security facilities, Management and maintenance facilities, Transport management facilities.

The core development objectives of the project are to:

  • Decongest the city centre of non-conforming uses and re-instate a new land use structure befitting the capital city.
  • Intensify the use of land to be consistent with the high values of land and also counteract the apparent scarcity of land in Accra.
  • Create an environment to attract high levels of tourism-related investment in the city centre.
  • Promote investment in tourism and tourism-related facilities.
  • Create jobs and income opportunities, particularly in the local communities.
  • Create revenue streams for Chiefs and People of Osu and Ga Traditional Councils.
  • Tackle waste and sewerage challenges along the coast.

The project will be executed in phases through a Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement in the form of a Joint Venture Partnerships (JVPs) or Single Purpose Vehicles (SPVs). The project finance models will include Build Own Operate and Transfer (BOOT) and Build Operate and Transfer (BOT).

The rest include but not limited to loan or suppliers’ credits using the land as collateral. Government has acquired the land size of 241 acres through a compulsory acquisition via an Executive Instrument. The land will not be sold to the prospective investor but used as part of equity for the project.

The project has been designated as a Free Zones enclave which means that the project will enjoy tax free, breaks and holidays.  So, all the building materials, machinery and equipment and services imported for the construction of the project will be tax free and duty free. The value of these tax free and duty-free materials and services will be converted to equity.

The concept paper and objectives say it all. There is no doubt this project is needed in Ghana. As we were all anticipating seeing the beginning of this project, last week, the Auditor-General’s report for the period ended 31 December 2020, states that an amount of GH¢387,196.00 meant for the Marine Drive project was misapplied.

This report comes at a time when this project is expected to begin. This is because funds meant for this project shouldn’t have ben used for any other purpose.  The diversion of these funds will mean a deprivation of some 15000 young Ghanaians from employment, prevention of investments into the tourism industry, stampede on high level tourism investment in the capital, prevention to increase our tourism arrivals, among many others.

As recommended by the Auditor General’s these funds must be refunded. Many tourists have been waiting since 2017 when the sod was cut for this project and we cannot continue waiting whiles the economic benefit we can derive from this project keep being delayed dues to some of the aforementioned reasons.

The Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA) had assured that effective construction work on the Marine Drive project would have begun in June 2019. Reasons for the delay had been attributed to the slow evacuation of Ministries, Department and Agencies from the proposed site. Speaking to JoyBusiness, Chief Executive Officer of the Authority, Akwasi Agyemang said the evacuation process was 70% complete and that work was to commence in June of last two years.

The $1.2 billion project which is funded by the World Bank cannot be allowed to fail especially when the funds have been allocated for this project. All concerned Ghanaians who wish to see this project being a reality must support the Auditor General’s call for a refund of the funds meant for this project. If this is not achieved, we can be assured this project will be a reality on paper.

Countries like the United Arab Emirate, the Caribbean Islands, Hawaii and so on, have all seen the economic benefit of beaches and have invested heavily in similar projects.

According to World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), tourism is expected to contribute around US 96 billion to the United Arab Emirates economy by 2021 and the figure is expected to double over the next 10 years. They achieved this feat through massive investments within their tourism industry. We can get there if this project and other similar ones in Cape Coast and other cities along the beaches of Ghana are developed into a similar project.

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