Tamale, situated in the Northern Region of Ghana, is a vibrant city that serves as a crucial political, economic, and financial hub for the region. As Ghana’s third-largest city, it boasts a rapidly growing population of approximately 730,000, making it the fastest-growing city in West Africa. Located about 600 kilometres north of the country’s capital, Accra, Tamale plays a pivotal role in the development of the Northern Region.
The city’s cultural landscape is dominated by its predominantly Muslim and Dagomba population, as evident from the numerous mosques scattered throughout Tamale, including the Central Mosque, Afa Ajura Mosque (Anbariya Mosque), Afa Basha Mosque (Nuuria Mosque), and The Ahmadiyya Muslim Mission Mosque. The primary language spoken by residents is Dagbani.
Tamale’s importance extends beyond its cultural significance. It serves as a centre for both regional and international financial institutions, as well as a focal point for various non-governmental organizations. The hospitality industry has also seen significant growth, with the construction of new hotels and guesthouses to accommodate the city’s increasing number of visitors.
The city’s infrastructure has seen improvements, including the construction of the Tamale Stadium, now named the Aliu Mahama Sports Stadium in honour of the late Vice President of Ghana. Motorcycles are a common mode of transportation in Tamale, facilitating mobility within the city.
Tamale’s unique blend of traditional mud houses and modern buildings reflects its rich history and rapid urbanization, making it a fascinating and dynamic city in the heart of Ghana’s Northern Region.
Tamale’s historical significance as a commercial hub can be traced back to its strategic location at the crossroads of three ancient trade routes. Over centuries, it evolved into a thriving centre for trade and commerce in the Northern region of Ghana. One of these routes connected Paga and Bolgatanga to Salaga, attracting both merchants and raiders.
Another route brought salt from Daboya to the northwest, continuing to Yendi. The third route linked Gushegu to the capital and extended to the Gonja kingdom in Damongo. The central market and the Gulkpe naa’s palace marked the intersections of these historic roads.
The city’s growth began with the establishment of residential neighbourhoods around the palace, including Dagbangdabi-Fong, Changli, Belipiela, and BuglanaFong. As the market area expanded, Tishigu and Abu-Abu neighbourhoods emerged. Tamale saw an influx of people from Burkina Faso, leading to the development of Moshi Zongo.
Garden cities like Kalpohin Estates and urban extensions such as Zogbeli, Lamakara, and Lamashegu followed. Today, Tamale has experienced rapid urbanization, encompassing the entire Tamale district, making it a significant urban agglomeration in the region.
Tamale, situated in a tropical wet and dry climate zone per Köppen’s classification, experiences distinct seasons throughout the year. The city’s weather patterns are characterized by a single rainy season spanning from April to September or October, peaking in July and August. During this period, Tamale receives an average annual rainfall of 1100 mm, delivered in the form of tropical showers over approximately 95 days. This limited rainy season imposes constraints on staple crop farming.
Conversely, the dry season prevails from November to early April, marked by the influence of dry north-easterly Harmattan winds. Daytime temperatures range from 28°C in December and mid-April to a scorching 43°C in March and early April, while nighttime temperatures vary between 18°C in December and 25°C in February and March. Tamale enjoys an average of about 7.5 hours of daily sunshine throughout the year. These climate characteristics significantly impact the city’s agriculture and daily life, with residents adapting to the challenging seasonal variations.
Tamale operates under a mayor-council government system, with the mayor holding substantial executive authority. The mayor’s appointment was made by the President of Ghana and subsequently confirmed by the Tamale Metropolitan Assembly, although there have been calls from Tamale residents to introduce an elected mayor system for enhanced accountability. Currently, the city is led by Hon. Sule Salifu.
The term “Tamale Metropolitan Assembly” serves a dual purpose, encompassing both the local legislative and executive branches. Local policies are executed under this name, often displayed in commands like “remove by TMA” when addressing issues such as illegal constructions, indicating actions taken by the Tamale Metropolitan Assembly or its executive in line with urban land-use planning.
While the assembly’s civil service supports the mayor as the local executive, the assembly itself comprises elected representatives of Tamale’s inhabitants. These assembly members are responsible for deliberating and deciding on local by-laws before they can be enforced. Geographically, the term “Tamale Metropolitan District” refers to the area within its administrative borders.
Tamale, in Northern Ghana, is the central education hub with 742 schools, including kindergartens, primary, junior high, and senior high schools, as well as technical and vocational institutions, colleges of education, and universities. The Education Ridge area houses 20 schools, including higher education institutions like Tamale Technical University and a university. The town’s greenery gives it a tropical rainforest vibe.
The University for Development Studies (UDS) has a significant presence in Tamale, with campuses in the city and nearby Nyankpala, along with its headquarters. This underscores Tamale’s crucial role in education and development in Northern Ghana.
Tamale, Ghana’s third-largest city and the fastest-growing in West Africa is a dynamic urban center in the Northern Region. It’s characterized by a predominantly Muslim and Dagomba population, evident from its numerous mosques. The city serves as a crucial political, economic, and financial hub for the region, hosting regional branches of financial institutions and numerous non-governmental organizations.
Tamale Airport, located 11 kilometres from downtown, provides connectivity with commercial airlines like Africa World Airlines and Passion Air, offering regular flights to Accra and other regional capitals. Local transportation options include taxis, the popular “Mahama-Cambuu” tri-cycles (named after former President John Dramani Mahama), and motorbikes, with the city boasting bike-friendly paths.
For travel to neighbouring towns and cities, a variety of transportation options are available, including bus rapid transit, private mini-buses, and charter bus companies. Tamale’s infrastructure has seen improvements, including the construction of the Aliu Mahama Sports Stadium. The city’s unique blend of traditional and modern architecture reflects its rich history and rapid urbanization.