For many whose perspective about the state of Ghana is obtained from a far distance, the West African country is placed to be swiftly developing–as some of the biggest brand names in the hospitality business have made giant entries into the capital, Accra, albeit, swimming in a comforting lack of competition pool.
There’s a huge non-befitting buzz about some of the places that somewhat are used to validate the assumption that Ghana has “arrived” or is truly developing and two of such places are the famous MovenPick and Kempinski Hotels, situated not far from each other at the heart of Accra.
Local conversations about these two places are extensively flattering but to me, the architectures are short of the elegance the words compliment. They are just modern hotels, just as you would find on the streets of Paris, Barcelona, New York, Copenhagen and several of the world’s developing capitals.
However, in Accra, these hotels are not ordinary; they separate the new class of elites from the huge ordinary masses. They separate the upper echelon business tycoons from those crawling the business landscape. These hotels are the playgrounds for mainly the expats, while most Ghanaians’ taste of them are the “beautiful” views they serve when you drive past them.
For this reason, when someone erects an argument that Ghana has successfully transformed into a contemporary well-placed country on the back of these huge infrastructure, I quickly point it out that, less than 2 percent of the population would ever “enjoy” any of these things being used as the measure of the country’s status.
And a few days ago, I sat at MovenPick Hotel for dinner amongst a large number of white foreigners who completely “shaded” just the handful of Ghanaians present–affirming my position that, the upscale lifestyle may have arrived in Ghana but it still remains millions of light years away from the “true” Ghanaian.
It was not just the disproportionate representation of “black” and “white” that clearly confirms the sort of economically growing ‘apartheid’ which has become entrenched by the direction Ghana is taking with its mode of development and wealth distribution.
The prices of accommodations and ordinary consumables like a plastic bottle of water at these ‘upscale places’ are such that, a huge gap has been formally and cunningly placed between the Ghanaian masses and the few super-rich, mostly expats with a stash of foreign currencies sitting in their foreign bank accounts.
With unending ‘cajolery’ flying around town about the likes of MovenPick, a quick visit to any of these places and taking a selfie while seated with a bottle of water would instantly grab you a social media attention. You may think this should be comforting for the ordinary Ghanaian who cannot afford a trip to Dubai–to put together some coins and manage to make a grand appearance one afternoon just to pick up the aroma of the upscale lifestyle.
But that’s not something a reasonable Ghanaian within the large set of the masses would ever do. Despite the “upscale lifestyle” being just at the backyard, it’s far from reach.
At MovenPick, a 1.5 liters bottle of water which usually sells for about 2.50 GHS at the market is sold for 20 GHS–and the story wouldn’t be different at any of the “plush” hotel restaurants in Accra.
The raw truth is, Ghanaians can have a glance at Canaan but the majority cannot step a foot down there–the upscale lifestyle is far from anything they can comfortably and uncomfortably afford.
Of course, I am not expecting the posh restaurants to sell at the average market prices but when prices are so unreasonable that indigenes cannot even have an occasional taste of the so called good life that’s at their door, it becomes pitiful–especially when the non-reachable good life is to an extent the world’s definition of how far Ghana has come.
The story perhaps would have been different to me if prices at these “upscale joints” are not so exorbitant, capable of deepening the unhealthy class segregation. And were such that, even if the ordinary Ghanaian cannot make regular trips, could once a year have a taste of the supposed contemporary developments perched on their shoulders.
It’s not just the hotels, literally all the lounges and fine joints scattered around the capital are mostly “white” packed. And it is not that Ghanaians wouldn’t appreciate the chilling goodness of their powerful air-condition units. They just can’t pay 150 GHS for a small plate of waakye.
Though the “upscale lifestyle” remains a dream of most Ghanaians, the fact that you can grab whatever that is being served at these upscale places by the road side for close to nothing is what’s kept most going. Except that, the ambience wouldn’t ever be the same.
The greatest relief is, foods sold by the low-scale joints are authentic and taste far better.