Ras Mubarak writes: New capital. To move or to stay?

Congestion in Accra is a ticking time bomb. The time has come for a serious discussion on decongesting Ghana’s capital.

During my visit to Malaysia’s administrative capital – Putrajaya, two years ago, I became even more convinced it is possible. Malaysia gained its independence in 1957, almost 6months after Ghana’s independence.

They made a bold decision to move the administrative capital 29 years ago, and they followed through on it. In spite of Kuala Lumpur’s advanced transport system and infrastructure, the city is still very congested. This is why the administrative capital was moved to Putrajaya.

Congestion is stifling in many capitals of the world. And to ease congestion, leaders have taken the bold decision to move the capitals and create new smart cities.

Egypt and Madagascar are all in the process of building and moving to new administrative capitals.

Indonesia is working to move its administrative capital from Jakarta to Nusantara by the end of this year. I was in Indonesia earlier last year and saw how choked the city of Jakarta is. During rush hour, a drive from the airport to the city center can take forever.

Anyone who’s been to South Korea feels how densely populated the city of Seoul is, despite its modern infrastructure and transport system.

Seoul has a population density of 27,000 people per square mile, which dwarfs Accra’s population density. Seoul has a population of ten million people according to world population review 2024.

The city of Accra is estimated at three million people. Accra has a population density of almost 14,000 people per square mile.

Moving the administrative capital (Government Ministries, Judiciary and Legislature) out of Accra would have enormous benefits. This move would generate new economic opportunities; ease the traffic in Accra; decongest Accra; improve governance; create new jobs, among other benefits.

While Accra is not as populous as Melbourne or Lagos, our city still faces significant congestion challenges.

Just like Kuala Lumpur, Seoul, Melbourne, Lagos or Rio De Janeiro, Accra would remain the commercial and financial hub even if the administrative capital is moved.

Two key questions arise: Where would we relocate the capital and how would we pay for it? It won’t come cheap. Let me answer the second question first.

Malaysia invested about $9billion dollars to build Putrajaya. The project was financed through a combination of Petronas equity, private investment and government funding.

Indonesia is investing about $40 billion in relocating its capital to Nusantara, which is approximately 1,300 kilometers away from Jakarta, the current capital.

Oman, with its significant oil resources (5.3billion barrels of proven oil reserves and ranked way higher than Ghana in terms of production capacity), partnered with China to build its new Industrial city.
Ghana could look at a partnership with Ghana Gas, GNPC, Saudi Arabia or Norway, China or Qatar.

In Ghana’s case, strong political will to make this vision a reality. Furthermore, a bipartisan consensus is crucial to ensure that future government changes do not jeopardize this project, as has happened with previous housing initiatives.

Through bipartisan dialogue, the costs and logistics of moving Ghana’s capital can be addressed, ensuring clarity and stakeholder support.

All well-meaning Ghanaians should support any efforts to relocate the administrative capital before Accra’s congestion reaches crisis proportions.

Potential locations for the new administrative capital include but not limited to Ahafo, Bono, Bono East, Volta, Oti, Northern or Eastern region.

I encourage those who may be skeptical to visit cities like – Putrajaya in Malaysia, Sejong in South Korea, Khorgos in China (an economic free zone city), or Nur-Sultan in Kazakhstan to see the benefits of relocation firsthand.

Here are some countries that have had new capital cities in the last 20 years ¹ ² ³:

Naypyidaw, Myanmar: The country moved its capital from Yangon to Naypyidaw in 2003.
Astana, Kazakhstan: The country moved its capital from Almaty to Astana in 1997. In 2019, the city was renamed Nur-Sultan.
Sejong, South Korea: The city was built in 2007 to reduce the overpopulation in Seoul.
Indonesia: The country is in the process of moving its capital from Jakarta to Nusantara by the end of 2024.

The author of this piece is Ras Mubarak. He is a Ghanaian journalist, farmer, freelance media publicist, and a politician.

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