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The Insider Guide to Accra

An ambitious reform programme, combined with a growing middle class and rapid economic expansion, has raised Ghana’s profile internationally, with opportunities in sectors as varied as tourism and telecoms, banking and beauty. And in the World Bank’s 2018 Doing Business report, the country ranked first among West African nations for its ease of doing business.

Ahead of October’s UK Ghana Investment Summit in Accra, THE STAND speaks to Dentaa Amoateng MBE, an entrepreneur who is founder and CEO of GUBA Enterprise, a non-profit organisation that works to recognise achievement within the British-Ghanaian community. She opens up her Accra address book to show what this energetic capital city has to offer.

Accra still feels like home to me. I lived in the city for several years before making the move to the UK. I travel frequently between my two ‘homes’ and often travel around Ghana on business. Change is evident not just in the mix of detached houses and designer apartments in suburbs such as Osu and the new Airport City, but also in the growing popularity of sushi restaurants and a rooftop bar scene – try Sky Bar 25; it’s very LA.

Villa Monticello is one of the city’s original luxury boutique hotels. Its 16 suites are beautifully designed and it’s an ideal place for a quiet meeting. Even if you’re not staying at the hotel, try its restaurant, Chapter One, headed up by executive chef Ruby Paintsil. I love her dish of grouper fillet and giant prawn with chilli, ginger, lime and coriander.

There’s a growing business breakfast and brunch scene in Accra. The iconic Golden Tulip Hotel is renowned for its sumptuous breakfast feasts. And check out AM&PM for its coffee, smoothies, giant waffles and a mean full English.

Popular South African coffee chain Vida e Caffè is gaining a following in Accra. Its coffee is excellent, and the signature ‘frios’ (blended ice drinks) are cooling on warm days. Staff are knowledgeable, and there’s always a great buzz inside the stores.

If you’re after fine dining, consider La Chaumiere. Located in Airport Residential, it serves a sophisticated French menu with a smattering of North African dishes served amid soft lighting and charming classical music.

For more casual dining, try Coco Lounge in Stanbic Heights. A favourite among Accra’s art crowd, it was created by Lebanese entrepreneur Nada Moukarzel, who recently opened nightclub Carbon (just upstairs from Coco) with Mahiki founder Nick House. Coco Lounge is light, airy and super-cool. For authentic Ghanaian fare, Azmera Restaurant is a favourite for soups, stews and plantain dishes, jollof rice and the doughy-textured fufu, a dumpling-like mix of pounded cassava and plantain. Make sure to leave room for the caramel peanut cake and tiger nut milk for dessert.

Enjoy chilled vibes over cocktails at Bloom Bar or in the intimate setting of Tea Baa, a cute hangout in Osu that specialises in alcoholic and non-alcoholic iced teas. Bella Roma has long been a popular night spot thanks to its excellent cocktails and music – and it boasts a partially open-air dance floor. Or why not party late into the night at the ultra-trendy Carbon. Along with a dramatic interior, it features good DJs, great drinks and a wonderful view over the city.

There’s a growing trend towards co-working spaces in Accra –  a report last year by mobile industry trade body GSMA showed there were 16 tech hubs in Ghana. Established hubs including iSpace and Impact Hub have been joined by newer co-working spaces like Workshed on Spintex Road.

Accra's skyline

The view over Accra, Ghana’s capital.

Networking is very important in Accra. One place where people gather is the Accra Polo Club, which was founded in 1902. It has a truly international membership, and it’s a great place to meet businesspeople. It’s open to non-members, and there’s the opportunity to take riding lessons and enjoy the squash courts.

For an exhilarating morning run, the Aburi mountain area north-east of Accra is popular for hikers and joggers, especially at weekends. Alternatively, the steep, winding road makes it a challenging but rewarding cycling route, with temperatures here noticeably cooler than the capital.

If you’re planning a day trip, head to the Volta region. Set in a tropical forest near Hohoe, north-east of Accra, the Wli waterfalls within the Wli Natural Reserve are among my favourite spots to visit. They’re also among the highest falls in West Africa.

There’s no mistaking the vibrancy of Jamestown and the Fishermen’s Village. Depleted stock means fishermen now have to go to sea for weeks rather than days, but when they return, the buzz is palpable, with people bartering over squid, mackerel and flounder. Also make a visit to Makola Market, a bustling, usually packed, city-centre market, featuring predominantly women traders. It’s not an exaggeration to suggest the market sells everything – from shoes to snails, tools to toothpaste, fresh produce to pots and pans.

Finally, you can’t return home from Accra without a pair of traditional Ghanaian sandals. We know them as ‘ahenema’, and they usually come in colourful and intricate designs. You’ll see people wearing them during traditional events and church functions. And look out for stalls selling shea butter, moringa (a plant leaf high in vitamins) and African black soap, which is made from plantain skin and other natural African ingredients.

Akosua Dentaa Amoateng MBE is the founder and CEO of GUBA Enterprise. The UK Ghana Investment Summit, organised by the UK Ghana Chamber of Commerce, takes place in Accra on 15–17 October, with the country’s president, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, set to deliver the keynote address.