Construction of a Harbor in Jamestown – A Classic Case of Industrialization without Developing people. A contradiction?
There are ten locations named Jamestown in the entire world. From Jamestown in California, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Australia and others.
Today’s focus on Jamestown which is located in Ghana, the center of hospitality and historical sites. Occupying in the east of Korle Lagoon, Jamestown is one of the ancient districts in the hearts of Accra, Ghana. It is known as a community on the Gulf of Guinea coast.
Today, Jamestown continues to exist as a predominantly fishing community inhabited mostly by the Ga people, full of colonial buildings which are popular tourist destinations for people to observe and site seeing.
In December 2018, Jamestown was thrown into the media limelight in the event of a sod cutting for the construction of a new Harbor.
According to Ghana Web and DredgingToday.com, during the sod cutting event, the President of Ghana made mention of the fact that the construction of the harbor is made possible by a $60 million grant from the Chinese government.
Another news story shared via the Ghana News Agency website further highlighted that Ghana and China signed agreements totaling $66 million to support the Jamestown Fishing Port Complex and the implementation of projects, including the second phase of the University of Health and Allied Sciences.
The Chinese government’s grants to construct a port in Jamestown is a step that has multiple implications. I am of the view that, the construction of the Harbor will destroy the traditional livelihoods, as well as damage the historic architecture of the environment. It will drastically change not only the tangible fabric of this historic town, but also impact the fishing methods, market traders and community that depend on the sea.
Earlier this year, a billboard was suddenly erected on the beach displaying an “artist’s impression” of how the beach is to be developed. The image show’s the beach completely cleared of its inhabitants. There’s also a large car park and a series of somewhat bland sheds or factories. There is not one single canoe in sight. This will have implications, some of which are not difficult to guess. It’s a business venture for the rich and disaster to the indigenous community.
The harbor at Accra’s district of Jamestown was built to provide shelter from the heavy surf that pounds this part of the coast. The breakwater and pier were equipped with railway tracks, gantries and cranes to handle the large produce exports following the cocoa boom of the early 1900s. The wealth created from this trade saw some fine buildings being built. An array of warehouses, stores and villas survive (some very precariously) in Jamestown to this day.
The fundamental question arising from this – what are the underlying motives behind the Chinese government funding these projects and what are the consequences for the working community of James Town?
These were the views from people when asked to share their concern on the issue:
“The Chinese government is finding ways and means to divide and control the world as a way of challenging United States hegemony. They have a strong agenda of taking over Africa which was road mapped a decade ago, they are not helping us but trapping us.”
“For me I think because they want to control some movement of the government through this financial support”
“We all know why they do that but then we should be clear about why they gave that and how they intend to indirectly get the money back”
“Apart from France, UK and US, the fourth nation dominating African continent is China. The kind gesture of foreigners should not be taken as kind but a way to expand their economies.”
“This new harbor they are funding represents the international trade relationship we have with China but there might be some strings attached or China is trying to win us over (Africa) so it’s a strategy they are using and the effects will be seen later.”
Looking beyond this issue, I realized that probably the end of the project will benefit the few rich individuals in the country looking at the emerging issue of gentrification in the country – existing communities are targets of the capitalist development model, which is basically development at the top. This could be the case of the construction of a harbor in Jamestown.
Gentrification is when a neighborhood cosmetically improves so that it creates better opportunities for the middle class – in the case of Ghana, the few rich individuals.
Already, some parts of Jamestown has been demolished due to the construction of the harbor, causing destruction but however, the people are under the false impression that the new harbor if completed will create a thousand jobs for them which will improve their living conditions.
With regards to the fact that the community is tagged as a low income residence, the harbor project sounds positive but there is a thin line that makes the beneficiaries unclear. The harbor after it completion will shift the low income community into a sophisticated community with increasing cost of living: expensive housing, businesses will take advantage of the development at the expense of the community.
Improved resources which will increase the economic value of Jamestown but can force out the people due to a perceived cost of rent and higher cost of goods.
In the last six months eviction processes have started to clear the beach. My recommendation will be an earnest plea for this proposal to be rethought – and for this fascinating part of the city to be regenerated in a way that celebrates and respects the history and people of Jamestown.