Accra is the political and economic capital of modern Ghana on the Gold Coast. Between 1500 and 1578, a fortress operated by the Portuguese stood at the site of modern Accra. This fort provided the Europeans with an outlet for trade, particularly in slaves, with the Ga people, themselves recent migrants from the inland hills of the region. While the Ga destroyed this fort in 1578, by the mid seventeenth century, a group of Ga, known as the Accra, had settled on the site. In 1642, the Dutch expelled the Portuguese from the Gold Coast and established a new trading post at Accra. In the early 1660s, the Company of Royal Adventurers of England Trading to Africa (later the Royal African Company) established a series of posts in the region sparking a war between the English and the Dutch over the Gold Coast trade monopoly. After the treaty of Breda in 1672, the victorious English established their own trading post at Accra which was eventually expanded into a fortress.
During the years 1873 through 1874, the British waged a war against the inland Asante Empire. British victory in the conflict confirmed their supremacy in the area and the Gold Coast Colony was officially established. In 1877, the colonial capital was moved from the traditional center of British power at Cape Coast to Accra. Throughout the colonial era, Accra maintained its importance as a center for trade. Even after the construction of a deep water port at Takoradi in 1928, Accra’s surf port remained economically important. During the Second World War, Accra became a crucial link in the Allied transportation network between the European and East Asian regions of conflict. To accommodate this transportation, the airport was significantly expanded to meet the needs of the increased air traffic. After the war, Accra became a flashpoint for anti-colonial sentiment when a group of veterans, unhappy with their treatment, marched on the seat of government at Christiansborg Castle. The protesters were fired upon by the police and three died. This triggered a wave of riots expressing dissatisfaction with colonial rule and further fostered nationalist sentiment.
After Ghana became the first sub-Saharan African colony to gain independence in 1957, nationalist leader and first Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah assured the local population that Accra would remain the capital. In 1966 a military and police coup removed Kwame Nkrumah’s government from power, ending what is known as the First Republic. Since this first coup, Accra has played stage to a succession of both military regimes and elected governments, until 1992 when a new constitution was approved by which the country has been governed since. Modern Accra does suffer the perennial problems of traffic congestion, housing shortages, and pollution that plague other African capitals such as Lagos or Nairobi, however, it remains relatively affluent and stable. Today, the Accra metropolis is home to over 1.5 million people.
Roger S. Gocking, The History of Ghana (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood, 2005); Steven J. Slam and Toyin Falola, Culture and Customs of Ghana (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood, 2002); W. E. F. Ward, A History of Ghana (London: Ruskin House, 1958).
Montana State University
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