City of Gold

It is not everyday that one gets an invite to spend a weekend somewhere you’ve always wanted to be or to a place you’ve always heard about but never truly been. Such a place for me is Ghana’s and Africa’s foremost gold mining town of Obuasi.

So when the invite was thrown I didn’t hesitate but showed my interest to my potential host and impressed on him the reason why I had to be there.

Furthermore our little Founders Day project was being finally handed over just close by at Apagya and it will be a delight to see the looks on the faces of my friends when I showed up all the way from Tamale to be part of the ceremony.

Getting from Tamale to Obuasi I first had to get to Kumasi before could catch another bus there. The first leg of the journey from Tamale to Kumasi is approximately 6 hours and I won’t describe how torturing it was with the bus sputtering along slowly and threatening to conk out any minute. But thank God finally made it to Kumasi took a taxi to my brother’s residence to rest a bit and charge my gadgets and even before his household would wake up I was already on my way.

The second leg of my journey, Kumasi to Obuasi much to my delight took slightly over an hour and when I called my host to say I was on my way he just said I should let him know after I had crossed the Welcome to Obuasi sign. He just said I wouldn’t miss it. True to his word there was on way I was going to miss this sign.

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Obuasi Entrance

The first noticeable thing is the vigilance of the police at this entry. They randomly search cars passing by and it was quite obvious the reason why or maybe here I am thinking that some people will take some gold out of Obuasi. The other striking thing I noticed as we entered the town is it’s striking layout resemblance to that of the dam township of Akosombo. Could that be a coincidence.

I have been to Obuasi before but it was so long ago that I didn’t remember that much of the town.  All I remember is the monster trucks that were used in mining whose tyres were so big some were even bigger that saloon cars. Yes I remember that and I remembered the black cobbled roads of stone from the mine that was all over the town.

This new Obuasi I was seeing,  though not most of it, looked like a well mapped out town with businesses and estate housing either belonging to the mining company AngloGold Ashanti popularly called AGA in Obuasi.

Being and acting like a tourist, I wanted to chronicle my arrival in the town but I realized unlike in other places the Barclays bank and UT bank opposite it, had no branch names on their sign posts by the street. Not even the petrol filling station had so I didn’t get to take a selfie with a sign post tagged location in the background. Only succeeded in getting a few curious people wondering where I was coming from looking all dirty with my bag slung over my shoulder trying to take pictures around with my tablet.

By the time my host came for me I had formed a fair idea of what the town was like – even the little I’d seen in the few short minutes upon arrival. This was later confirmed by my gracious host who gave me a cursory tour of the AGA estates for staff.

The whole town revolves around AGA.

When there is any business venture the target is workers of AGA: when a pub is built the target market is workers of AGA,
when a supermarket starts operation the target is AGA workers,
when a car dealership comes to town, same target,
from the big enterprises to the small, all target workers and staff of AGA, even bakeries and pure water producers. 

What this means is that like we see in parts of the world especially mining towns the company takes care of everything and its effect is that the township is heavily dependent on the mining company for its sustenance. Now feature into it a situation where the company is folding up and has to lay off its workers en masse. What happens to the Gold City.

There are so many empty houses in the company estates. Their occupants have had to move out of these houses due to redundancy. 

This is a town where one could just walk into any commercial entity and get anything you wanted and all you had to do was sign off with your staff number and your credit was good. At the end of the month the businesses knew that your credit was good as long as you were a staff of AGA.

All the townsfolk know is a life centred around the mining company and now that they were being laid off in redundancy they had to find alternate lifestyles. It is true that the compensation package was overly adequate but how are these people going to readjust into a life they have lived for some people as long as they were alive. Honestly I wish them well.

My host and some of his colleagues regaled me with stories of some of the issues they had in operations especially the age old issue of illegal mining operators known as “galamsey” and how they put themselves at risk trying to mine the ore sometimes even in the same pit as company workers. There were interesting stories of how company workers were threatened underground by gun wielding galamsey operators and they had to leave them be.

Sometimes these illegal miners, mostly youth, were successful and they came out as very rich young men who spent money lavishly on girlfriends in town and living opulently for the short duration until the money run out and they had to go back into the pits. It was pretty obvious from these stories why they lived the sort of life they did because they stared death in the face every time they went into the pits.

Every time they went down could be their last. 

Life in the Gold City could be monotonous and boring because it’s a daily routine of work and home and very few recreational activities especially for senior staff of AGA as my host. It is rather unfortunate that I noticed that even though they were colleagues they hardly been to each other’s residences or spent time together apart from being at work and sharing a few drinks after office hours and then they all drove home to their various residences.

That’s the life of living in Obuasi he said to me.  Friends and colleagues only meet outside or at work or talk to each other on phone. Every one can be independent and and self dependent. There is virtually no social cohesion and it’s a life suitable for a recluse.

The issues with the Gold City are many and varied but like everywhere else one has to be circumspect about how one lives in a society. Whether it will be fun for an inhabitant depends on one’s self.

However it was fun being in the Gold City over the weekend and our host left no holds barred in making sure we were comfortable. Thank you Kofi Hayford for the hospitality.

And lest I forget, that Founders Day project at Apagya which we handed over at the weekend is all over the newspapers and trending on radio. Check out the Daily Graphic http://www.graphic.com.gh November 12 2014.  Proud to be in the thick of it from the beginning to the end.

Well, the Graphic editorial pointed out something I’ve been preaching since I started blogging. It pointed out that “it is time we, as a people, stopped looking up to government to provide all our needs, even when we have the power to mobilize forces and resources to provide them.”

BAM! The editor couldn’t have put it better.

Weekend at the Gold City was a blast and this post is dedicated to my host for a lovely time shared. Sometimes we have to get out of our known areas of interest and travel around the country to get a perspective of what life is like in other areas. Imagine spending time in a town where almost everybody is considerably “rich”. This will definitely help shape our perceptions of life and living it elsewhere.

It still begins with YOU!!

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One Response to “City of Gold”

  1. Interesting read.
    Very vivid and detailed recount… makes it almost as though one was with you this whole time;

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