Demolition of  the James Town fishing community in Accra makes way for the construction of a new, Chinese-built fishing harbor, May 27, 2020. (Stacey Knott/VOA)
Demolition of the James Town fishing community in Accra makes way for the construction of a new, Chinese-built fishing harbor, May 27, 2020. (Stacey Knott/VOA)

ACCRA - Demolition of Accra’s iconic James Town fishing community began late last month, to construct a China-funded multi-million-dollar fishing harbor.  Local authorities pulled down over 300 temporary and permanent structures, including businesses, a school, and places of worship in the largely poor, densely populated area.  While many are excited about the prospect of development, the demolition has also raised fears for already precarious livelihoods.

Rubble is all that’s left of a brightly colored playground in Accra’s James Town fishing community that children once enjoyed before it was demolished in May.

Naa Borkor and Emmanuel Quartey stand where their JayNii Streetwise Foundation once was, in James Town, May 29, 2020. (Stacey Knott/VOA)

The demolition by a Chinese government-funded project fulfills years of promises by authorities to upgrade the harbor.

Through their NGO, Naa Borkor Quartey and her husband Emmanuel fed and supported local children in sports, education, arts and child rights. They also offered skills training and housed about 50 children.

The JayNii Streetwise Foundation had previously been told it would be excluded from demolition. However, with very short notice, its buildings and playground disappeared.

“These are children, for some of them, their parents, it’s hard for them because in this community we don't have any work or a job for these women.  They come here; they hustle to get food.  Some of these kids, they stay the whole day without even food. So, we are here supporting the community,” she said.

The fishing community has been a tourist attraction for years. People came to see the local fishing culture, brightly colored canoes, and women smoking fresh catch at the waterfront.

Tour guide Collins Seymah Smith, who also runs a community theater, worries about the future and for those who have lived here for generations and have nowhere to go.

“This is the biggest development happening in Ga-Mashie or James Town to be precise, so for me it's good.  But how they went about it, that is the issue, or, that is the problem,” said Smith.

Abdul Razak Allotey’s home was among those demolished. So, he’s set up a makeshift home in the rubble. Out of work because of the coronavirus pandemic, he hopes he can get a job at the new harbor project.

“I think it will help me with my family so if they said they are coming to do it, we like it.  But I don’t think they have anything to do here - they just came to demolish our buildings,” he said.

Seth Raymond Tetteh, Ashiedu Keteke Sub Metro Chairman, says the fishing harbor project will bring much-needed development to James Town, May 27, 2020. (Stacey Knott/VOA)

Ghana authorities say they will compensate those with legal claims to lost property and are temporarily relocating fishermen along the coast as the harbor is built, said Seth Raymond Tetteh a chairman for the local assembly.

“When the fishing harbor is constructed it is going to boost the economic life of this community and that is what will change the lives of a lot of people in the community. So, we are looking at something that is going to benefit a lot of people, than looking at one or two people that it has affected them today,” he said.

The project is expected to take about 32 months to complete and will include a school, fish processing facilities, offices, a market and cold storage.