Posted: Wednesday 6th August 2014 at 4:06 am

Osu: residential enclave now commercial hub

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The generally serene residential place of Osu, Oxford Street in Accra is gradually turning into a huge commercial hub with a lot of investors now targeting the area for business.

The area, which used to be a residential place for a number of indigenes and tourists due to its proximity to the then seat of government and also to the sea, is gradually transmogrifying from a residential hub to a business enclave.

Currently, some of the buildings that used to be residences are now being converted into either stores or shopping malls with some owners going into agreement with investors for relocation.

A sampling among some residents indicated that if care is not taken, in the coming days, Osu may lose its residential status because of the springing up of monumental stores which some contend forms part of development.

Arguably, the investments which are seen in the building of supermarkets, shopping malls, and many others, cannot be underestimated except that the residential status of the area is gradually being overshadowed by the cliché of development.

As such, the issue of “home” is gradually becoming extinct for the people of the Ga state of Osu, especially those along the Oxford Street, as well as others who prefer the place to other areas as their place of abode.

Foreign investors and business moguls from all over the world are coming to Ghana to invest and one place that seems to have caught their eyes is this town of fast foods and neon lights. However, it seems that another reason for their purchase is the ease with which natives of Osu are selling their lands for some “Chicken Change” that might not last with them.

These foreign investors tend to buy not only the lands, but the homes of these natives as well. This is because there are no more lands to sell in Osu, therefore, business people are now buying the homes of these natives and then they either evacuate the natives to another place or reconstruct the building, where the natives are given the top floor to stay, and the remaining rooms are used for commercial activities.

Commercially, Osu is flourishing as we have businesses like banks, fuel stations, hospitals, and branches of commercial interests such as Papaye Fast Foods, Barcelos, Samsung, the Mall, and the likes established in the area. There are also boutiques, restaurants, an African print market, top saloons and clubs among others. 

An elderly concerned native of the town, Mr. Andrews Ocquaye lamented about the current state of affairs in Osu. “Yes Osu now has a mall. But all these came into being thanks to the natives of Osu who seem to be selling their birthright for what they can get today.

According to him the state of affairs must be a source of concern to not just the Ga community but the entire nation as “we seem to be losing a vital part of our identity with each passing day through this indiscriminate act of commercialization.

The General Telegraph took a closer look at the situation:

The Inevitable Case of High Rise Buildings & Rent Payment

Shop owners and tenants on the Osu Oxford Street and its environs are currently in an incessant cry for help owing to the outrageous charged by their business-minded landlords.

In an interview with The General Telegraph last Friday some of the shop owners revealed that they are currently under treat of eviction if they cannot pay the new charges being demanded by their landlords. “Most of the small shops here including some houses are on plan to be demolished and high-rise buildings put up in their stead,” a tenant revealed on conditions of anonymity. He added that “We have been given three months to move out or pay rent “advance” of almost four times what we paid just last year. They say they will compensate us for the inconvenience but…that compensation fee is just meagre compared to how much we spent building and stocking our shops,” he lamented.

Another tenant who gave his name as Johnson; a boutique owner, described the situation as a ‘time bomb’. “We know we will soon be ejected; we are just waiting for when that time bomb will explode. Every shop around us has been asked to move. As of now I only know of one person on this lane who claims he has been asked to stay till next three years. The rest of us have up to December to evacuate,” he revealed.

In terms of rent charges a “single room structure” could cost up to GHȼ250.00 as against the likes of GHȼ50 to GHȼ100.00 in other vicinities. 

Management of the Oxford Street Mall also revealed that shop charges are calculated according to the size of the shop.

Depending on where a shop is located however, shop owners are to pay $50 or $80 per square metre. As such a 45 square metred shop which is the least size costs $2250.00 as rent every month. The biggest shop in mall cost a whopping $7500.00 per month.

Persons who own shops in the alley of the Mall pay close to Ghȼ1000.00 (or its dollar equivalent) every month for a four by four square metred space. This is way higher as compared to same sized shop spaces in other parts of Accra.

In terms of utilities, Osu is already handicapped as some parts of the town face an issue of constant water shortage. Unfortunately, the Oxford Street Mall falls into this category and the management have the task of supplying water to the shops via tankers.

Invariably, the shops suffer this fate as they have to pay extra for the tanker’s services. A worker at the shop stated “Last month, we paid GHȼ18,000.00 just for water and lights. Our neighbouring shop paid Ghȼ8000.00 for theirs. Meanwhile sales are very bad and all we seem to be incurring is loss. Our bosses can’t even pay us enough.” She lamented.

While wondering what factors could have contributed to the building of high rise buildings and their subsequent exorbitant prices in Osu, the paper sought the views of an Estate Developer who preferred to remain anonymous.

He revealed that “Osu is expensive, because it is Osu. It is just the address to be. The area started out with the high earned food shops and a lot of people were trooping in even in those times. Years down people want to be part of the address where everybody goes to and since there is no space the wisest thing is to build high rise facilities.”

He explained, further stating that “we will continue to have shops here, and I bet within the next five years, we might not even see residential apartments in this area- all because Ghana is a selling nation. Our premium is to sell because we think it is better to sell instead of producing. So the inhabitants are selling their homes just to makes some extra money on the side.”

Our expert finally made some projections to suggest that Osu might in a few years to come lose its residential essence to becoming a commercial hub. “Given five years from now we will have no residential areas in Osu, especially along the Oxford Street. Everything will be either up for sale or rent.”

He then recommended “more of underground parking spaces; everybody is just building and not thinking about parking space. Considering the limit in the area size underground parking spaces must be made a requirement.”

Demolition Exercise Verses Hope for Posterity

Indeed, upon a tour the paper discovered several shops and structures marked for demolition. Residents in these areas claimed that the structures are to be pulled down to give way to the construction of high-rise apartments, shops or a purported dual carriageway behind the recently built Oxford Street Mall so as to ease the flow of traffic on the street- evidence of our expert’s projections.

Considering the fast pace at which quite a number of indigenous buildings and homes of the natives of Osu are being sacrificed for the business hub that the town will be, one can just wonder what will be left of Osu to remind posterity of this indigenous Ga community, after all is built and done.

Again Mr. Ocquaye, who seemed not at all amused about the latest developments on the streets he had once played on, had this to say, “Indigenous life will soon be lost. Most of the people here are thinking of the money and turning their homes into shops. Shops are shops, they are meant to house products and they definitely cannot relay the spirit of Osu to posterity,” he lamented.

Indeed the original identity of Osu is being lost as the town seems to becoming highly synonymous with chilling, shopping and enjoyment, as people expect to get all that right from the popularly known “Oxford street” of Osu.

It seems disappointing to know that people claim that they know Osu, but when asked, the only place they can talk about is Papaye, Frankies and the Oxford street: evidence that the town is rapidly being detached from its roots.

Alas, there is still hope? All doesn’t seem lost yet. One side of the town has a commercial dwelling and the other consists of a few natives who have maintained their homes till now. Inclusive in this area is the Osu Stool House and the Chief’s Palace located around the Accra Sports Stadium. This area seems to be the only place in the town that reminds people that Osu is a community with traditional authorities.

There are also some residential areas which are to some extent disconnected from the new Osu with its state-of-the-art architectural designs and facilities. These areas are not that clean, and seem to lack proper ventilation as their low-lying semi-detached houses seem to be squeezed together.

If people in these areas, for the attractions of state-of-the-art buildings and neon lights, also decide to give out their abodes to be developed into what is currently being seen on the Oxford Street, then all hopes of ever calling Osu an indigenous Ga community will definitely be lost.

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