In Ghana’s capital, cars, motorbikes and minibuses jostle for road space during a daily descent on the city centre. With air pollution killing thousands every year and Accra’s population set to double within 20 years, can the city find a solution?
Brennan Weiss in Accra
Friday 11 November 2016 07.00 GMT
Every morning before the sun rises, Stella Ampofo, a 25-year-old single mother of two boys, frantically gathers her belongings and sets off for work to beat the morning traffic in Ghana’s capital, Accra. If she doesn’t leave before daybreak, congestion during rush hour could extend her 40-minute journey from Accra’s suburbs towards downtown to three or four hours.
“I’m in trouble if I leave my house around 6 or 6.30am,” Ampofo says. “I then won’t arrive at work until nine or 10am, and that creates a lot of problems with my manager because I’m supposed to get there by eight. If the government doesn’t do anything about the traffic, it’s not going to get any easier …”
To ensure a punctual arrival, Ampofo, a seamstress at a manufacturing centre that converts plastic waste into reusable products, leaves her home at 4am every day and begins work an hour later – just as the road traffic starts to build up, as roughly 2 million daily commuters converge on the central business district in downtown Accra.
Clouds of black exhaust fumes hover over the heads of impatient motorists. Cab drivers blast their horns, while pedestrians scurry on to rickety commercialised minibuses – referred to as “tro tros” by locals – that carry up to two-dozen passengers squeezed tightly together. Only motorcyclists who can skilfully manoeuvre between lanes are able to bypass the congestion.