The Forestry Commission has signed an agreement with a development partner, Aikan Capital Limited, to convert the Achimota Forest into an international ecotourism facility.
The agreement would see Aikan Capital Limited investing a total of US$1.2 billion into the development of the Accra Ecopark Project, which, when completed, would be the first of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa.
The project is also expected to substantially boost revenue generation from both domestic and foreign tourists and place Ghana on the list of ecotourist attractive countries in the world.
At the signing of the agreement in Accra Friday, the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Nii Osah Mills, said the Achimota Forest Reserve was the largest remaining urban green-belt in the country and like most government lands in Accra, it was under serious threat.
That, he said, was due to encroachment for settlements, the construction of roads and its use as dumping sites for various waste materials, leading to the initial coverage area of the forest of 500 hectares being reduced to 360 hectares.
At the moment, he said, apart from the Accra Zoo which was partly relocated to the Achimota Forest, the reserve was used by mainly religious groups for prayers and meditation.
“The conversion of the Achimota Forest into an ecotourism facility is, therefore, a timely intervention to save the forest from further destruction and also an opportunity to generate revenue for the government as well as providing a first-class recreational centre within the city of Accra,” he said.
Upon signing the agreement, he said, Aikan Capital Limited was expected to design, finance, develop and maintain the Ecopark and share the proceeds with the government.
Nii Osah expressed the hope that Aikan Capital would be fully committed to the tenets of the agreement and also provide the best services as required.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Forestry Commission, Mr Samuel Afari Dartey, said apart from the huge revenue fallouts, the project would create an initial 5,000 employment opportunities which was expected to increase to 20,000 by its completion.
He said the project would lead to an improvement of the ecosystem of Accra and would be modified to accommodate all species of animals, as well as other species that were alien to Ghana.
“The ecological integrity of the reserve would be maintained in the quest to change the face of Accra,” he stressed.
The Chief Executive Officer of Aikan Capital Limited, Mr Oheneba Otchere, said the company had brought in expert partners from the United States, the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates to help in the assessment and development of the design of the Ecopark.
He said the project was expected to start by the third quarter of this year.