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Nation's auto hub losing lustre - Floods 'push' dealers out

BY: Maclean Kwofi
A view of the automobile hub at the South Industrial Area in Accra
A view of the automobile hub at the South Industrial Area in Accra

The country’s traditional automobile hub, the South Industrial Area, in the Greater Accra Region, is fast losing its shine and relevance.

This is due to the annual flooding that often causes damage to offices and showrooms, especially when the Odaw drain bursts its banks.

The businesses operating in that enclave, which borders the Graphic Road and its surroundings, estimate that over the past 10 years, property worth billions of Ghana cedis has been destroyed— new and old vehicles, vehicle spare parts, office equipment and accessories, and electrical appliances are destroyed by the floods each year, after just few hours of rain in the capital.

The perennial disaster has forced many of the automobile companies to either close down or find alternative and safer locations to keep their businesses.

Aside from companies such as Vodi Technics (VW and Skoda), PHC Motors (Land Rover.Range Rover, Tata etc.) and Mechanical Lloyd (BMW etc.), which have been edged out of their main business, other giants such as Silver Star and Toyota Ghana have relocated some of their operations, while new entrants rather prefer to set up on the Spintex Road, the North Industrial Area and parts of North Kaneshie.

The hub also used to have GNTC Motors, RT Briscoe, Yellow Cab and SCOA, which have either folded up or metamorphosed into other businesses.

Visit

When the Daily Graphic team visited the area last Thursday, May 31, this year, workers were still clearing debris from the downpour six days after the last torrential rain that hit the capital on Tuesday, May 24 night which lasted to the early hours of Wednesday, May 25.

There were also visible marks of the rainwater either at knee or shoulder level on the office buildings and walls in the area.

The team witnessed some workers clearing debris of sand and garbage that had taken over the gutters and working space of the Old Rana Motors building along the Kaneshie bound section of the Graphic Road.

Hyundai, STC Yard

The Daily Graphic gathered that the Hyundai Motors showroom, near the Obetsebi Lamptey interchange which is under construction, was submerged by floodwater.

The story was not different from the building which used to house Mechanical Lloyd opposite the entrance to the STC Yard at South Industrial Area, after its fence was totally toppled by the recent floods.

Its neighbour, Intercity STC Coaches Limited, was also not spared as other businesses in the enclave are still counting their losses after nearly a week of the disaster.

A new GOIL Filling Station adjacent STC was also flooded, leading to its temporary closure.

Silver Star

At Silver Star, a source who preferred to remain anonymous, said the destruction caused by the last rain was devastating, as the firm’s showroom and workshop were flooded.

That, the source said, was because the drain that connected the Kaneshie bound side of the Graphic Road overflowed its banks.

“You can still see the rainwater taking part of the road in front of our showroom several days after the last rain,” the source said.

The source added there was the need for an immediate action to help resolve the situation in order not to lose all the automobile firms in the industrial enclave.

Customer dissatisfaction

The National Sales & Marketing Manager at Toyota Ghana, Jerry Mensah, in an interview, stated that the floods impacted the company’s operations negatively every year.

“Even during and after the flood situations, our general operations are negatively impacted since we halt operations to clean and repair some equipment,” he said.

Mr Mensah added that the break in operations affected the company’s intake for servicing and showroom activities.

“We also experience significant customer dissatisfaction due to the operational downtime. Ultimately, this situation results in revenue losses,” he explained.

To mitigate the situation, Mr Mensah said Toyota Ghana was currently undertaking constructional works to redirect the excess water out of its facility into the main drainage.

He called on the government and city authorities to provide adequate drains to help accommodate the floodwater which destroys property in the area.

“There should also be a prohibition of activities of squatters along the Odaw River, the implementation of an effective waste management system and enhanced enforcement of town and country bye-laws on waste generation,” Mr Mensah added.

Japan Motors to move

The Marketing Manager of Japan Motors, Harriet Mensah, said due to the annual disaster which was gradually becoming unbearable, Japan Motors had started developing a new office away from the South Industrial Area.

“In 2015, when the June 3 disaster occurred, a committee was set up by the government to resolve the issue, yet until date nothing much has happened and every year we go through the same ritual,” she said.

Ms Mensah said the annual ritual had become a challenge that negatively impacted the operations of the company with showrooms flooded very often, causing damage to new and old vehicles.

“With the way things are going, I doubt this area could be sustained for so long as an automobile dealership hub in the capital and that is the reason we are developing a new office at the Spintex Road to relocate our operations,” she said.

The Marketing Manager of Japan Motors added that instead of waiting for the next flood, the government should collaborate with firms in the zone to find lasting solutions that would reduce the impact of the annual disaster.

Devastating impact

The Public Relations Manager of Rana Motors, Kojo Demanya, noted that due to the devastating situation, Rana Motors moved its showroom to the Accra bound end of the Graphic Road and yet it was still receiving the impact of the floods.

“We have moved to higher space on the Graphic Road but we are still experiencing the impact of the floods. Some of our colleagues, during the last rain, spent more than one hour driving from the Obetsebi Lamptey interchange to the office, just a few distance away.

“And so, now as soon as it starts raining everyone in the enclave gets scared because there is a disaster looming,” he stated.

As a known commercial area for general automobile activities, Mr Demanya said Rana Motors considered the enclave as an appropriate location for automobile business.

He added that the area was situated within the central business district of the metropolis with infrastructure and road networks that linked most of the government and private institutions that supported auto firms.

Govt response

The Minister of Works and Housing, Francis Asenso-Boakye, said the flooding in the South Industrial Area was caused largely by backflows from the Odaw drain.

He said the Greater Accra Resilient and Integrated Development (GARID) project had adopted the performance-based dredging to constantly keep the drains silted.

That, he said, would help mitigate the annual flooding in the enclave.

The minister said the project would remove the non-functioning flap gate which would facilitate storm water flow and reduce the incidents of backflow of water from storm drains.

“Moreover, some bridges have low decking that impedes flow of water and causes backflow. These include the Abossey Okai and South Kaneshie bridges, and subject to additional funding, those bridges will be reconstructed,” Mr Asenso-Boakye added.