Accra is a seaside city where the prime property on the shore isn’t occupied by expensive hotels and restaurants but by the shanty towns of fishermen.
I was in Accra in August, happy to finally see the city that I’ve been intrigued by since coming across Jonathan Dotse’s Afrocyberpunk blog in 2010. From the top of the red Jamestown lighthouse I could see 40 canoes, just beyond a densely populated fishing port. Since I come from Cape Town where Hangberg residents resist eviction from a ‘million dollar view’, it was strange and heartening to see fishermen who are allowed to live where they work.
On the next day I had six hours to spare before I had to leave for the airport. So I made a plan to get to a fort 55 kilometres away that is the namesake of a castle back home: Goede Hoop. To get there, I needed to take a tro-tro minibus taxi.
The taxi rank was not like those in South Africa. Enterprising hawkers treated me and my fellow passengers like a captive audience. These are four of the stranger sales pitches we had to listen to:
- A young passionate preacher, selling portable DVD players. He showed off the fast forward function over a montage depicting the Rapture.
- A man selling large electronic back massagers, saying that it’s a brain massager. He had a microphone attached to his face which was attached to a speaker on his back. I assume this was supposed to amplify his voice, but instead just made it very echoey.
- A man selling de-worming medicine, holding up graphic imagery of a woman’s face with worms coming out of all orifices. He kept saying South Africa, but it was not clear to me if this was where the pills or the worms came from.
- A woman who targeted me as a potential lozenge customer. She pointed at her throat and all the passengers burst out laughing at me.
When I got to the fort after two hours of traffic, I only had 15 minutes to walk around before I had to go back to Accra again to make a flight. The Fort Goede Hoop, now run as a B&B, is built on a cliff with its curtain wall overlooking a beautiful beach below. A long canoe had just come in to land on the beach and children ran into the sea to dive into the waves. I could see colourful fishing canoes stacked along the beach and behind these were not vacant holiday houses, just homes.
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