Work has begun on clearing the site for Ghana’s "National Cathedral", which the government is promoting as a way of unifying the west African country. According to reports in the local press, the country’s Passport Office and houses occupied by 14 court of appeal judges in Accra are being demolished and relocated to create a 70,000 sq m plot for the project.
Mustapha Abdul-Hamid, the minister for inner cities, told the Ghanaian press that the cathedral would be something that the population could gather around, "especially in a country like ours that is sharply divided on so many things: ethnicity, politics, etc. A nation like Ghana needs a symbol like that which allows us to come together".
The cathedral, which would be sited next to the Ghanaian parliament building in the centre of the capital, was proposed by the government in March 2017 as part of the celebration of Ghana’s 60th anniversary of independence.
Efforts to raise finance began in 2018. President Nana Akufo-Addo said at the time: "The cathedral will address the missing link in our nation’s architecture by providing a church of national purpose.
"It will be an interdenominational house of worship and prayer, as well as serve as the venue for formal state occasions of a religious nature, such as presidential inaugurations, state funerals, and national thanksgiving services."
Ironically, the plan immediately divided Ghanaians, who questioned whether a cathedral was the best use of public money in a country with a per capita income below $2,000. Others wondered whether a religious symbol was the best way to unite a country that is only 70% Christian. Â
Yaw Nsarkoh, vice-president of Unilever for Ghana and Nigeria, commented in the Financial Times in November last year: "At a time when taxes are going up, banks have collapsed and you can’t pay for social programmes, is it really the thing to do to build a cathedral?"
A design for the project, which has been costed at around $100m, was produced by the British-Ghanaian architect David Adjaye last year (pictured).
That design envisaged a cathedral containing a number of chapels, a baptistery, a music school, a choir rehearsal, a grand central hall and an auditorium with 5,000 seats. There would also be an art gallery and Africa’s first Bible museum.
Image: Adjaye Associates’ design for Ghana’s National Cathedral