The City of Tema

Tema is a city on Ghana’s Atlantic coast and the Benin Bight. It is located 25 kilometers (16 miles) east of Accra, in the Greater Accra region, and serves as the capital of the Tema Metropolitan District. Tema is Ghana’s eleventh most populous settlement, with a population of approximately 161,612 people in 2013 – a significant decrease from 209,000 in 2005. The city is bisected by the Greenwich Meridian (00 Longitude).  Tema is known locally as “Harbour City” because it is Ghana’s largest seaport. It is made up of 25 distinct communities, each of which is labelled and has easy access to basic amenities.

Tema was built on the site of Torman, a small fishing hamlet named after the local name of the calabash plant, Tor, which was grown there. The name “Tema” is a corruption of the word “Torman.” Before independence, the government designated the location and in 1952 bought 166 square kilometres (64 square miles) of land north of the port, which was given to the Tema Development Corporation for future industrial and residential development. The Torman residents relocated to a new fishing field about 3 kilometres (1.9 miles) away, which they named Newtown.

How City of Tema and the Seaport Was Developed

 The construction of the Tema Port began in the 1950s after Ghana gained independence from British control.Though the idea of its construction was initially proposed by the British colony, its planning and implementation began after Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, took over the helm of affairs as Ghana’s first President.

The project was led by award-winning city planner and first Ghanaian architect, Theodore S. Clerk.

After Ghana’s independence, under the leadership of Ghana’s first president Kwame Nkrumah, the construction of the Tema harbour began in the 1950s and was commissioned in 1962.

Construction of Tema Port began in 1954 by Sir William Halcrow and partners.

The general port plan originally comprised of two breakwaters enclosing an area of 500 acres of water with twelve berths, eight of which were situated on two quays, four transit sheds, offices, two cocoa sheds and sites for a dry dock, a slipway and a workshop.

Stones for the construction of the port were quarried from the hills at the Shai Hills Forest Reserve. By 1958, construction was advanced enough to enable a cargo vessel the “Oti River” to berth.

Watched by a crowd of cheering, singing people, President Kwame Nkrumah formally opened Tema port, Ghana’s GBP18-million harbour about 18-miles east of Accra.

After unveiling the memorial plaque, the president made a speech outlining Tema’s history.

Kwame Nkrumah said the independent states of Africa should now be thinking seriously of ways and means of building up a common market of a united Africa, “rather than allow ourselves to be lured by the dubious advantages of the European common market”.

He paid tribute to the British consulting engineers and contractors responsible for the port’s construction.

Regular traffic, however, started after the commissioning in 1962

The harbour is situated along the Gulf of Guinea, and it serves both as a loading and unloading port for goods, both for Ghana and other land-locked countries to the north.

Tema services a wide range of industrial and commercial companies, producing or handling everything from petroleum products, cement and food items, to iron, steel and aluminum products and textiles.

Most of the country’s main export, cocoa, is also shipped from Tema Port.

The Tema harbour covers a total land area of 3.9 million square meters with the water-enclosed area being 1.7 million square meters.

It has 5 kilometres of breakwaters, 12 deep-water berths, one oil-tanker berth, one dockyard, warehouses and transit sheds. Nearby is also a fishing harbour with facilities that handles fish processing.

The Growth Of Tema

The main Tema Township was constructed, and the Tema Harbor officially opened, in 1962. Over the following decades, Tema grew into the industrial hub of Ghana, with a carefully constructed road layout featuring landscaping and street lights. It boasted modern recreational centres and other social amenities rare among African cities at the time.[8] President Nkrumah appointed Theophilus Asiaw Mills as the first District Commissioner. 

A large population influx began in the 1960s owing to the town’s employment opportunities, but the Tema Development Corporation was unable to construct housing and provide other services to meet the needs of the migrants.] The Tema Newtown district was overwhelmed by the sudden population growth, and became the poor cousin of Tema Township, receiving none of the latter’s improved housing, geometrically laid roads, or social amenities. Moreover, royalties paid by Tema Newtown’s companies to evicted villagers have not been used due to a chieftain dispute. The area’s fishing potential was thus not fully exploited.

Tema is characterised by a hot semi-arid climate (BSh under the Köppen climate classification). It lies in the driest part of southern Ghana, experiencing average annual rainfall of about 750 millimetres (30 in). Average temperatures are very warm to hot year-round, typically exceeding 28 °C or 82.4 °F every day of the year,

Economy of Tema



The town’s chief industrial products include aluminium, steel, processed fish, refined petroleum, textile, chemicals, food products, and cement. Major companies operating in Tema include Wahome Steel, Volta Aluminium (VALCO), Tema Oil Refinery (TOR), Nestlé Ghana Ltd., Tema Shipyard. There is also a Free zone enclave in Tema.


Tema Seaport

Tema Port, which opened in 1962, is Ghana’s larger of the two seaports. A $1.5 billion expansion project to boost container output to 3 million TEU was completed in 2020. The port is currently one of Africa’s largest container ports. [12] It has a total land area of 3.9 square kilometres and a water-enclosed area of 1.7 square kilometres (0.66 sq mi) (1.5 sq mi). Apart from handling Ghanaian imports and exports, it also serves as a traffic hub for transit cargo bound for the landlocked countries of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger. Tema’s port handles 80% of Ghana’s import and export cargo, including cacao, the country’s main export.

The port has 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) of breakwaters, 12 deep water berths, an outsize oil tanker berth, a dockyard, warehouses, and transit sheds. The port has open and covered areas for the storage of cargo, including a 77,200-m2 (7.72-hectare) paved area for the storage of containers, steel products and other conventional cargo. The port’s container yard is capable of holding over 8,000 TEUs at any given time. The closed storage area, which is about 25,049 m2 (2.51 hectares) in area, consists of six sheds with a total storage capacity of 50,000 tonnes of cargo. The port also includes a 100,000-dwt dry dock and slipway facility.The harbour is operated by the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA).

Tema Fishing harbour

Tema’s fishing port is located at the eastern end of the town’s commercial harbour. The Inner Fishing Harbour, the Canoe Basin, the Outer Fishing Harbour, and a commercial area with marketing and cold storage facilities are all part of it.

The Inner Fishing Harbour was constructed along the Tema Main Port in 1962 to provide a handling facility for semi-industrial and industrial fishing vessels, and to encourage the development of the local fishing industry. In 1965, the Outer Fishing Harbour was constructed for bigger industrial vessels such as trawlers, tuna vessels, and deep-sea carriers. The trawlers operating in the area are 30–45 m long and are able to land 55–65 tonnes of fish (usually redfish and club and scad mackerel) per fishing trip. The tuna vessels range from smaller boats around 45–50 m in length, able to land 200–250 tonnes of catch, to larger versions with a length of 50–65 m and the ability to land up to 650 tonnes per fishing trip. The largest fishing vessels, the deep-sea carriers (with lengths of 90–105 m), are mostly chartered vessels. Since 1984, the national catch has averaged about 200,000 to 300,000 metric tonnes per annum. Ghana’s tuna catch has maintained a stable level of 30,000 tonnes per annum since 1981.

The Canoe Basin serves artisanal fishermen. Approximately 400 canoes normally occupy the basin. There are two types: wooden vessels, known locally as “Legelege,” and metallic vessels. The wooden canoes range in length from 30 to 70 metres and are mostly owned and operated by indigenous Ghanaians. Their busiest months are June through September. Artisanal canoe fishing accounts for roughly 70% of the catch.


Development of Tema

The Tema Development Corporation (TDC) is a public entity tasked with the planning and development of the entire city of Tema. Affordable public housing was developed by the government in conjunction with TDC and the State Housing Corporation.[16] The corporation has been instrumental in developing the harbour area of Tema in particular, with modern housing.[17] The corporation was set up in 1952 with the sole aim to develop and manage the township of Tema.[18] In 1963, the Tema Development Corporation Act was passed. In recent years the corporation has had much investment from Korea, including plans, as of 2013, to build a new stadium, an idea which proved unpopular with squatters. The first chief executive officer of the corporation was Theodore S. Clerk, the first Ghanaian architect and award-winning urban planner who served in the CEO position from 1963 after the enactment of the statute, until 1965.

Transportation in Tema

There are Public Transports from Tema to major citie such as Kumasi; Accra; Mim, Ahafo ; Cape Coast, Sunyani; Takoradi; Tamale; Ho; Wa; Bolgatanga; Elubo; Aflao, Techiman.

Education in Tema


SOS-Hermann Gmeiner International College (SOS-HGIC), a private mixed boarding school catering to the 10th to 13th grades, is located in Tema. It previously used the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) for the 10th and 11th grades and the International Baccalaureate (IB) for the 12th and 13th grades but currently runs the full IB Diploma program for all four grades. The school was headed by Margaret Nkrumah for over 15 years, and is now headed by Mr Israel Titi Ofei and Nii Amaa Akita. Tema also has an international schoolTema International School (TIS), which is second to HGIC, and a senior high school, Tema Secondary School (TSS or Temasco), which was built in 22 September 1961. Tema has a number of public Secondary schools such as Chemu Senior High School in Community 4Tema Methodist Day School, Mahean Senior High School, Our Lady of Mercy Senior High School and Tema Technical Institute. Private Preparatory Schools like Creator Schools, St Paul Methodist Primary and JHS, Marbs Preparatory School, Datus School Complex, Deks Educational Institute, Angel School Complex, Naylor SDA School, Tema Christian Centre, Tema Parents Association, First Baptist School, Tema Regular Baptist School, Queen Esther School, Dorsons School, Adwen Memorial, Creator Montessori, New Covenant School, St Alban’s School, Lorenz Wolf School, Bexhill School Complex, Life International School, Mazon Grace Academy, Santabarbera School, Angels Specialist School, First Star Academy, Pentecost School, Star School Complex, Tema Ridge, St John Bosco School and Rosharon School. Public primary and Junior High schools exist in Tema. Twedaase Primary School, Star School, Aggrey Road School, Republic Road School, Padmore School, Mante Din Drive, Amen Basic, Manhean SDA, School among others.

Security in Tema

Tema is well secured community with police stations in almost every other community . The Regional Commander is Mr. Daniel Kwame Afriye, who is deputised by ACP Mr. Laar Baman. Tema’s Police Regional Headquarters are located in Main Harbour and the adjacent Long Room. The Command is organised into five (5) Police Divisions, fourteen (14) Districts, and thirty (30) Police Stations. LOCATION: GH-GT059-8616 DIGITAL ADDRESS , There is police presence in Tema Community 1, Tema Community  4, Tema Community 13, Lashibi Police Station Tema Community 25, Tema Community 8,  Heavy industrial area -Lube Oil PostTema Community 2, Tema Community 11, Tema Community 12, Tema Main Harbour and Tema Fishing Harbour


The culture of the people of Tema is seen in their way of life. These include their inherited ideas, beliefs, values and knowledge. Since culture is dynamic in nature it must be noted that some practices of the people have undergone major changes over the years.

Traditional Set Up

Tema was created out of a cluster of small fishing villages. History has it that “Torman”, as it was originally called was founded by migrating people called the ‘Kpeshie’s’ who were Gas. They brought along seeds of the gourd plant, which they planted at their new-found site. The seeds thrived very well producing lots of gourds and the area was referred to as “Torman”, meaning a town of gourds, which stood at where the defunct Meridian Hotel is located. The traditional people were later relocated to their present location at Tema Manhean in 1961 when the Tema Habour was constructed.

Currently, there are two major traditional areas in the Tema Metropolitan Area, namely Tema (Newtown) and Nungua. The traditional festivals celebrated by the people are namely Kpledzoo and Homowo. “Kpledzoo” is celebrated between March and April whiles “Homowo”, which literally means Hooting at hunger is celebrated from August to September every year. During these festivals people from all walks of life in the traditional area are brought together for the celebration. The indigenous occupation of the people is fishing and it is forbidden for fishermen to go to sea on Tuesdays. This deprives fishmongers and others engaged in fishing activities of their income for the day, and as such some form of revenue is lost to the Assembly.

Ethnic Diversity

The original settlers of Tema are the Ga-Dangmes. However, because it is a popular destination of migrants, several ethnic groups can be found here. The dominant ethnic groups are the Akan, Ga-Dangme and Ewe. Other fairly well represented groups are the Mole-Dagbani and the Guans. The diverse nature of the inhabitants fosters interethnic tolerance and social solidarity that has promoted peace and harmony in the district. This has also reduced ethnocentrism.

Communal Spirit

The communal spirit of the people in Tema depends on one’s location. Settlers in the township find it difficult to respond to calls for community mobilization especially those living in the various communities because of the more formal relationships that exist there. However, for those in the rural communities they respond on the average to calls from their chiefs, elders and Assembly members to participate in communal labour. They also pay up levies for purposes of development in their respective communities.

Religious Groups

The religious composition of the Metropolis is diverse in nature since the inhabitants are of varied backgrounds. The prominent amongst them are Christians, Moslems and Traditional religion. Against this background, the churches and mosques are known to be a good mobilization grounds for information dissemination for development. For instance, occasionally, the Assembly distributes its bye-laws and flyers through the churches.

Tema Newton

In 1952, a year after Kwame Nkrumah became the first Prime Minister of what was then the British colony of the Gold Coast (now Ghana), the decision was made to build a brandnew harbour as part of the ambitious Volta River Project.  For the relocation of Tema, a small fishing village that stood in the way of the new development, the English office of Maxwell Fry, Jane Drew and Denys Lasdun was engaged.

Tema Fishing Village

Although there was a plan to build an entirely new city on the site of the demolished village, it was decided that the villagers would not be included in this new city. Instead, a separate settlement (Tema Manhean) was designed so that the villagers could retain their identity while improving their living conditions. This decision created a serious quandary: because of its authenticity, the tribe was condemned to remain an enclave of traditional living, while modern progress unfolded in all its attractiveness next door in the new Tema.

Fry and Drew collaborated with African chiefs to develop a social and participatory hands-on approach. They began mapping the existing fishing village spatially and socially in Old Tema, and they investigated cultural traditions and social structure. The process initiated for the villagers’ resettlement was remarkable, as it involved residents’ participation to an extent uncommon at the time, even in Europe. The main issues the architects encountered involved the village’s power structure and conflicting interests of residents, as well as discussions about identity, respect, individual versus collective interests, social structure, and, of course, money. It took seven years and some bulldozers to persuade the entire community to relocate.

Following the rejection of an initial plan by the villagers, Fry and Drew designed the new village based on the hierarchical organisation model of an English New Town. It was divided into four neighbourhoods and one central area, with functions zoned. All of the institutions of the’modern welfare state,’ including schools, shops, and a marketplace, as well as the chief’s palace and a fish smoking area, were located in the centre. Traditional compound-style living with extended families was accommodated by the houses. Their layout was adaptable, allowing families to increase the number of rooms as needed. The houses were made up of a series of standard types of circular, rectangular, diamond, and star shaped compounds that were repeated.

The Planned Tema New Town

A sanitary block with toilets, centrally located in the neighbourhood, was shared by two or three compounds (160-600 people). The original design of the houses, of which a prototype had been built, contained a flat roof. Since the villagers deemed this to be ‘only fit for pigeons’ and not dignified enough, the design was changed into pitched roofs.

Keith Jopp, Tema. Ghana’s new town and harbour (Accra: Ministry of Information, 1961), p.43
While improving the basic conditions of water supply, washing, cooking, storage, latrines and hygiene, Fry and Drew also respected the traditional family structures and dwelling habits by including social elements like the veranda. In vain they tried to maintain the indigenous building traditions; the houses were constructed in sandcrete blocks and corrugated steel roofs. However sensitive, the rather formal design of the village was not suited to all Ghanaian habits: for instance, the running of a small shop out of one’s home. Fry and Drew basically designed four living quarters, but local culture could not be denied: small shops popped up everywhere, right from the start. The inhabitants were also disappointed by their ‘authentic’ living – the houses in Tema Manhean were just as expensive as those built in Tema, but as in traditional African villages, they lacked electricity and in-house bathrooms and running water.
By now, Fry and Drew’s creation has become a slum. The choice to respect Tema village as an autonomous entity to safeguard the identity of the villagers has made the area into a ghetto: living circumstances are worse, housing and amenities are cheaper and less attractive than in Tema. The original houses are hardly recognizable between the many extensions and ‘illegal’ buildings erected between, above and around them. It is a poor, polluted area, surrounded by industry, that looks longingly at its next-door neighbour Tema, where everything seems better and more hopeful.

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