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Well oiled— Accra


Ghana is drilling for oil. Apartments are going up, the educated diaspora is returning and the government has a plan to avoid the “resource curse” seen in places such as Nigeria. In Accra the mood is optimistic and the city’s new wealth looks set to revitalise an already culturally rich location.

Accra Mail, Ghana, Oil, Old Fadamah, Thomas Akabzaa

In the humid air of Ghana’s Department of Energy all eyes are on Norway. At his 1960s-era lacquer desk, the chief director of the ministry, professor Thomas Akabzaa, rolls out a large chart. “This is a plan. This is our national dream,” the former lecturer in geology explains, “Norway is our model. Norway stands up tall in terms of human development. One of the reasons for this is that they have been able to leverage their oil and gas wealth for the benefit of their population. This is what Ghana intends to do.”

It’s easy to see why the country’s…

From highlife to flip-flop

Ghana’s homegrown poly-rhythmical hybrid style, highlife, was popularised in the 1950s when western jazz fused with Afro beat percussion and became the soundtrack to the country’s independence in 1957. (The name goes back to the 1920s and refers to chic parties of the European elite.) Its successor, hiplife, throws US hip-hop into the mix.

Accra’s most famous hiplifer, Reggie Rockstone, has opened the modish watering hole The Office where local talent congregates for live sessions. (“Bless up,” he texted Monocle. “Hit me up tonight.” Which obviously we did.) This year Accra hosted its first music festival, Shalle Wotte (or “flip-flop”), in the historic Jamestown district where local musicians and Ghanaian performers from the diaspora (among them, Lady Waa and Sewor Okudzeto) came together for a public shindig.

Free press

Ghana’s daily rags have a turbulent history. The country’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah, founded The Accra Evening News in 1948 demanding “Self-government Now!” and then set about creating a Soviet-style state-run media model that was adopted by successive military governments.

Today, there are 40 newspapers published in the country – dominated by state-run Daily Graphic (a paper founded by the London Daily Mirror Group in 1950). The lively, fiercely partisan discourse is protected by the 1992 constitution, which guarantees the freedom of the media.

Harruna Attah, who founded the left-leaning Accra Mail 10 years ago, believes the press plays a crucial role in holding the government to account now oil is starting to flow. “We are the watchdogs,” he says, “but we need to be less bloody minded, less partisan. The Accra Mail is hoping to change the agenda.”


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