The air was thick with smoke, filling the congested bar with the smell of cigarettes butts and beer. The majority of the crowd was made up of balding middle aged men, filling their bellies with beer and scanning the room for available ‘companions’ for the evening.
The Champs Sports bar in Takoradi was built in July 2009, following the discovery of the jubilee oil field in 2007. According to a bulky man who sat alone watching the crowd, most of the clientele that evening were “oil men”.
Champs Sports Bar, the crowd of oil men and the prostitutes are not the only additions Takoradi has seen since the construction of the jubilee oil field commenced.
“It was never like this before. The traffic is really bad here now and people are being driven out of the city because they can’t afford the rent prices anymore,” says Justice Baidoo, who is a local of Takoradi but now lives in Accra. “Every time I come back I see more changes.”
The traffic into Takoradi has increased dramatically over the past few years. The road network was not built to support to the number of cars and trucks now rolling in and out of the Western Region port city everyday.
The Ghanaian government has implemented plans to re-build the road network and improve transport conditions, however, this will involve evicting residents and destroying some homes in order to make room for the new roads.
Most of the traffic now flowing through Takoradi is being generated by all the new residents to the city. Peter Abitty, the Managing Partner at Takoradi Real Estate Ltd. says that business is going well because more foreigners are moving into the city. He says that land value is going up and people are re-modeling already existing homes to accommodate the new crowd.
“Three of four years ago you could rent a 3 bedroom house for 200 USD, but now the same house is going for 1000 to 1,500 USD,” says Abitty, “Accommodation is becoming astronomical.”
Beyond the real estate firms that are benefiting from the oil boom, the local population is being pushed to the outskirts of the city because they can’t afford the rent or are being evicted so that landlords can remodel homes to “international standards” according to Abitty.
“My mother moved out of Takoradi a year ago because they wanted to increase the rent. It just didn’t make sense for her to stay.” Says Baidoo, who doesn’t like seeing what is happening to his hometown.
Abitty sees the development of Takoradi as a good thing for the city and even better for anyone with money to invest in building or construction because the demand for more homes and luxury flats is increasing steadily. “Right now is the best time to build here, it’s wise for people to start investing now because it’s only the beginning.”
The prices for basic goods is also going up and the business’s that have started in the last few years, such as Champs Sports Bar, are marketing themselves towards the more affluent oil workers.
Residents of Takoradi who should be benefiting from the boom are finding it increasingly difficult to go about daily life, they are not the ones enjoying the new restaurants, hotels and roads being built.
The majority of high paying jobs on the jubilee field are not going to the local population, and according to Abitty it’s the people who already have large amounts of money to invest in businesses that will actually benefit from the new oil discovery.
“It makes me sad because the culture is being lost,” says Baidoo, “I just don’t think it’s the same city anymore.” Baidoo believes people who are not able to keep up with the high prices or are going to continue escaping the city.