Accra was founded in the fifteenth century by Ga settlers and became a magnet for the economically active, including local and foreign industry owners, manufacturers, and workers. Accra became the seat of the British Colonial administration in 1877. Its status and location as a good natural port and fishing centre and as the nucleus for local trading industries made it the primary destination for Ghana’s internal migration. This rapid expansion has transformed this once-sleepy coastal fishing village into one of Africa’s largest cities.
Environment and Health
The high population density has resulted in congestion, overcrowding, substandard housing, inadequate education and health facilities, poor sanitation, and a generally degraded environment. In poor communities and cities like Accra, the worst problems tend to be associated with a lack of adequate water, sanitation and waste disposal services. The 1991 Annual Report on health for GAMA emphasized the twin role of poor environmental conditions and the lack of health knowledge in causing hygiene-related diseases.
Solid waste collection is a problem around the home where, according to a recent survey, at least 42% of people practice open storage. The 300,000 tons of solid waste collected per year in Accra alone represent only 60% of waste generated.
Urban poverty is a fact in Accra, where about 48% of the metropolitan population have income levels below the World Bank‘s absolute poverty threshold of $307 per capita per annum. A 1992 report on housing needs in the metropolitan area revealed that 95% of the population earn below the International Labour Organization‘s stipulated poverty line of $4.00 per day. Accra’s poor tend to be concentrated in high-density residential areas and represent 43% of the total population.
Awareness of the nexus between urban poverty and the environment has become a primary concern in Accra. Many of the worst features of urban poverty are environmental, such as inadequate access to safe water, poor waste management practices, contaminated food, and insect infestation. Another of Accra’s critical problems is the management of waste water and drainage throughout the city; industrial, commercial, and residential waste water often discharge into open drains and flood channels. Responsibility for maintaining waste water disposal and drainage lies with a number of local and metropolitan authorities. Due to inadequate financial resources, weak management capability and the lack of well-trained and motivated personnel, however, the resultant health and environmental hazards are severe.
The number of people in Accra is also a problem, as the urban centre does not possess the employment base, the infrastructure, or the social services to support sustained mass migration. The high population density has already resulted in congestion, overcrowding, substandard housing, inadequate education and health facilities, poor sanitation and a generally degraded environment.