Tema, located on the Bight of Benin along Ghana’s Atlantic coast, is a thriving city in the Greater Accra Region, situated just 25 kilometres east of the capital, Accra. It serves as the capital of the Tema Metropolitan District and is renowned as the “Harbour City” due to its status as Ghana’s largest seaport.
Originally a modest fishing village, Tema’s transformation into a bustling urban centre began under Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah. In 1961, the city saw significant growth with the construction of a major harbour. This expansion was meticulously planned by Theodore S. Clerk, Ghana’s first architect, and his team of architects trained in London. The city now stands as a pivotal trading hub, boasting an oil refinery, various factories, and vital transport links to Accra via highway and railway.
Tema’s importance extends to its status as one of Ghana’s two deep seaports, alongside Sekondi-Takoradi. It gained autonomy in 1974 and became a Metropolitan Assembly in December 1990. The city shares boundaries with neighbouring municipalities and districts, forming a critical part of the Greater Accra Region. Tema’s growth reflects Ghana’s economic development and its vital role in regional trade and commerce.
Tema, originally a small fishing village called Torman, was transformed into a thriving city in Ghana. Its name, “Tema,” is derived from “Torman.” The government acquired land in 1952, north of the harbour, for industrial and residential development. The original villagers of Torman relocated to Newtown, a new fishing ground. In 1962, Tema Township and the Tema Harbour were established, and the city rapidly grew into Ghana’s industrial centre, boasting modern infrastructure and social amenities uncommon in African cities at the time.
However, a significant population influx in the 1960s strained resources, and the Tema Development Corporation struggled to provide housing and services to migrants. This resulted in inequality between Tema Township and Tema Newtown. Additionally, a chieftain dispute hindered the use of royalties paid by companies in Tema Newtown, limiting the area’s fishing potential.
Tema, situated in southern Ghana, is distinguished by its hot semi-arid climate, falling under the Köppen classification BSh. This region is positioned in the driest section of southern Ghana, where annual rainfall averages around 750 millimetres (30 inches). The temperatures in Tema are consistently high, creating a warm-to-hot environment throughout the year. Daily temperatures often surpass 28°C or 82.4°F, making it a perpetually warm destination.
Even during the coolest nights, temperatures rarely dip below 23°C or 73.4°F. This climate profile reflects the arid nature of Tema, with its limited precipitation and consistently warm temperatures, making it essential for residents and visitors to adapt to the region’s distinct weather patterns.
Tema is a significant industrial hub in southern Ghana, known for its production of various key commodities. These include aluminium, steel, processed fish, refined petroleum, textiles, chemicals, food products, and cement. Several major companies operate in the region, such as Volta Aluminium (VALCO), Tema Oil Refinery (TOR), Nestlé Ghana Ltd., Wahome Steel Ltd, and Tema Shipyard. Additionally, there is a free zone enclave in Tema, promoting economic activities and international trade. Overall, Tema’s industrial sector is diverse and robust, contributing significantly to the economic development and trade within the region.
Tema Port in Ghana, established in 1962, underwent a $1.5 billion expansion in 2020, increasing its container handling capacity to 3 million TEUs. It is now one of Africa’s largest container ports, with a vast area encompassing 1.7 square kilometres of water and 3.9 square kilometres of land. The port handles 80% of Ghana’s import and export cargo, including the country’s main export, cacao.
The port is equipped with extensive infrastructure, including breakwaters, deepwater berths, an oil tanker berth, warehouses, and storage areas. The container yard can hold over 8,000 TEUs, and the closed storage area has six sheds with a total capacity of 50,000 tonnes. Additionally, the port features a dry dock and slipway facility capable of servicing vessels up to 100,000 deadweight tons.
Operated by the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority, Tema Port serves as a critical trade hub for Ghana and facilitates transit cargo for neighbouring landlocked countries such as Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger.
Ghana’s rich fishing history is centred around the Tema fishing harbour, situated at the eastern end of the town’s commercial harbour. This complex comprises the Inner Fishing Harbor, Canoe Basin, Outer Fishing Harbor, and a commercial area with vital marketing and cold storage facilities. The Inner Fishing Harbor, established in 1962, supports semi-industrial and industrial fishing vessels, promoting local fishing industry growth.
In 1965, the Outer Fishing Harbor was added, catering to larger industrial vessels like trawlers and tuna boats. The artisanal fishermen find their place in the Canoe Basin, where about 400 canoes operate, contributing to around 70% of the catch. Overall, Ghana’s fishing industry has maintained stable catch levels, with significant contributions from various vessel types.
Tema, Ghana, boasts a diverse educational landscape with a range of schools to cater to different needs. SOS-Hermann Gmeiner International College (SOS-HGIC) is a prominent private mixed boarding school, offering education from the 10th to 13th grades, now exclusively offering the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. Tema International School (TIS) is another notable international institution, while Tema Secondary School (TSS or Temasco) serves as a senior high school established in 1961.
Several public secondary schools such as Chemu Senior High School and private preparatory schools like Creator Schools, St Paul Methodist Primary and JHS, and many others contribute to Tema’s vibrant educational community, ensuring accessible learning options for its residents.