Tema was an initiative of Dr Kwame Nkrumah shortly after Independence. You can liken the city to the old industrial towns up the North of England where the miners (or engineers as told by an old British lady trying to come across as a socialite on American TV). Most of the countries factories are based in Tema, Ghana Cement Company (GHACEM), Unilever Ghana, Nestlé Ghana, Irani brothers (flour) etc… Tema is made up of little villages or communities and back in the day, most people worked and lived around here so you would hardly find much traffic in town and going to and from Accra wasn’t such as daunting a task as living and travelling around there.
But with the computer era and with Accra being so choked, the Southerners have moved back into the rural areas and joining the communities. Plus, those of us in Accra are being employed by the Industrialites making Tema just as part of Accra as Labadi. Unfortunately though, the infrastructure has not changed so much causing at times a huge traffic jam.
There is a motorway that takes you from Accra to Tema, at 100kpm it takes 20 minutes, at 120 – 150kpm, you are looking at between 7 – 12 minutes. There is a toll booth which takes 50Ghp for Saloon cars, 1GHS for 4×4’s and it goes up for Trucks and Long Vehicles. The government makes thousands of cedis a day in revenue, but I am not sure what they do with the money.
This motorway is nowhere near the length of the M25 or even the A406, but just imagine this, you are going down the A406, there are no junctions to turn off from, your only option is to start at Woodford and end at Hanger Lane, the only way you can turn back on yourself is to get to hanger lane and turn back around. That is the route from Accra to Tema. Ok, so now there are some turn offs, a dirt road which was forced into becoming a real road takes you off the motorway to the Spintex Road and there are a few dirt roads on the other side of the road which will take you to the back of East Legon. However, say from my house to Tema, if you go the “legal route”, you can cut through to the motorway, then you have to go all the way into Accra, round the Tetteh Quarshie Roundabout and come back around. If you don’t leave in time you could end up an hour at the roundabout stuck with those going to Accra. There are some illegal U-turns for one to turn around, but it is kind of dangerous when there are cars speeding at down. I have found one just before the toll booth which cuts about 5 minutes off of my time but sometimes you find a broken down vehicle parked there meaning I have to go around.
On a bad day when a broken down vehicle or an accident has occurred on the motorway, it is a nightmare. One morning I left at 6, was about ¾ of the way down when we discovered a long vehicle had not only broken down but had managed to block the breadth of the lane. It took 1 hour to move from my spot to the end of the road, a colleague of mine who left a mere hour later got to the office 4 hours later (I can’t even tell you why it took so long to get the truck out of the way as it arrived at somewhere around 6.30 but that is another story).
When you get to Tema itself, there are two ways out, the main roundabout and the roundabout on the way to Ashaiman. At the main roundabout there are several exits but once you exit, that is basically it, your only way is down to the end. There are about 3 roundabouts that I pass on the way to work and going it is not so bad, but coming back, that’s when it gets tricky.
On the way back, if you take a chance and go to the main roundabout, you are competing with the commercial vehicles heading to Accra plus the transporters and the private cars. The police control that roundabout during the rush hour and I have been known to switch off my car and literally sleep for 30 minutes because we are not moving. There is a kind of cut through that people use to jump the queue but the road is rough, I have done it a few times because I am like, well if you can’t beat them, join them, but sometimes there is a long queue to get there so you have to go with your gut. But once you make that decision, you just have to stick with it. You cannot take a u-turn and use the other way, you can’t turn off on a side road to the other side, you just have to sit and wait.
Turning off to motorway number two is no walk in the park either. It really shouldn’t be a route for commercial vehicles but for some reason one or two trailers feel that they should avoid the traffic and so travel at a very slow pace down a very narrow road causing all amounts of traffic, really they should be banned from driving down that road because already the roads are bad and they create not even potholes but craters.
The traffic is not great but it moves, so 9 times out of 10, I usually take that route home.
I am sure back in the day Tema would have been a nice place to live in, and I guess when you live there, you know the best routes to move around, but I pick Accra any time.
With the current state of the economy and all the other issues we are facing I think Tema’s infrastructure is the last on the list of priorities, therefore, so until I am fortunate enough to find my way back to Accra (or afford a driver so I can sleep while he does all the work), it is just something I have to live with.