From the port, you pass by such a variety of dwellings, shops and streets of all qualities – from walled communities of upmarket villas and western style shopping malls, to run down shacks, informal market stalls and dirt roads that make you question whether you’re really in a capital city.
It was the contrasts between the haves and the have-nots that struck me most here – driving through Jamestown (one of Accra’s oldest district) showed us probably the poorest living standards we’ve seen on this World Cruise. The guides wouldn’t let the ship’s tours off at the scheduled stop at the Jamestown Lighthouse, because according to him, “the people aren’t friendly here”. Whether he was being over-cautious or not, it was difficult to say from looking out of a coach window, but there it did seem to be a fairly deprived area.
Elsewhere, we got a very warm welcome – particularly at the rather bizarre coffin maker’s workshop, where we saw how the Ghanaians like to be buried in colourful coffins carved into shapes that reflected their lives and interests. So, you could be buried in anything from a bic biro, an aeroplane, a cocoa bean or a beer bottle (my own personal choice).
We visited the impressive Kwame Nkrumah Memorial, where I pondered on what Nkrumah would have made on the progress made since independence in 1957. His country has enormous potential – oil and mineral wealth, a decent infrastructure, and a well-educated people – it just needs a chance to turn potential into reality.