An Architect’s impression of the West Hills Mall Square View
In 21 months, the City of Accra will be listed as the home of West Africa’s biggest retail shopping mall, as the project site for the West Hills Mall is fervently being cleared for construction works to begin at the Dunkonah, Weija site in Western Accra. The mall is designed to be the destination of world-class retail shopping, business and quality recreation. The writer closely examines the antecedents of this astounding world class development project and the prospects it holds for transforming the character of retail shopping in Ghana and also for impacting progressively on the national economy.
The name ‘Dunkonah’ may hardly strike a chord in the topography of modern Accra; neither might it resonate in any special sense among the thousands of residents of the fast-developing residential commune of Western Accra. As a matter of fact, one is likely to encounter residents of Dunkonah who very probably do not know that they live in ‘Dunkonah’. Yet, it is the tranquil, unobtrusive nature of this suburb, which makes the arrival there of one of the country’s biggest private real estate development projects such a stimulating subject matter.
Over the past few months, residents and the thousands of commuters on the Accra-Kasoa- Cape Coast Highway have noticed with justifiable curiosity, the brisk clearing and fencing of the vast stretch of land adjacent the Weija ShopRite supermarket in Dunkonah; most people continue to wonder what kind of development could possibly require such a massive land area. Fact is that, the little known Dunkonah and the rest of Accra West are about to become home to West Africa’s biggest shopping mall yet – the capital’s top-of-the-range destination for world class retail shopping, business and recreation - the West Hills Mall.
West Africa’s Biggest Shopping Complex
Christened after the serene coastal hills of Aplaku in the environs of New Aplaku and Bortianor in the western part of Accra, the West Hills Mall project is envisioned to set an entirely new standard in comparative and one-stop destination shopping in Ghana by providing the city of Accra with world class infrastructure to deliver to Ghanaian shoppers a uniquely rewarding experience in modern retail shopping, while offering top-end business, social and recreational services to match.
Coming with exquisite architectural infrastructure, modern facilities and landscaping which sprawl over a 24-acre land size and a total development area of approximately 32,000 square metres, West Hills Mall’s blueprint has already been upheld by industry experts as the biggest single retail shopping facility, not only in Ghana, but along the entire West Coast of Africa.
Indeed, for a country in which there is so little to show for experience in top-flight retail shopping and in which the concept of modern shopping malls is still a fledgling novelty, the tendency for people who learn about the arrival in Accra of a new, world class Mall will be to take a quick reflective look at the pride of the moment – the Accra Mall and perhaps, the newest mall in town, Airport City’s Marina Mall. The Accra Mall in particular, has succeeded in taking retail shopping to an entirely new level and must therefore be acknowledged as the trail blazer in modern retail shopping in the country.
However, West Hills Mall is not simply Accra’s second world class Mall. The new Mall is about 30% bigger than its predecessor and comes with a string of innovative add-ons never before experienced in any retail shopping facility across the sub region. With an extended parking bay with capacity for as many as 1,400 cars, West Hills Mall provides for a strong tenant mix, such as would offer shoppers a much wider variety of shops, outlets and product choices to enable comparable shopping.
The mall will have two strong anchor tenants and will accommodate about sixty semi-anchor tenants and line shops, offering a wide melange of product categories which include lifestyle, beauty and wellness; electrical, electronics and telecommunications; banking, financial services and insurance; pharmaceuticals, pharmacies and consulting doctors; restaurants and coffee shops; budget as well as designer fashion and clothing stores; gifts and high value merchandise. Various international brands like Edgars, Foschini and Ocean Basket, which have hitherto shied away from trading in West Africa are said to be lined up for business at West Hills Mall.
A World Class Mall with Ghanaian Sensitivities
One of the most fascinating features of West Hills Mall is its massive entertainment and recreational arcade, which has a special square for open-air concerts and theatrical shows with a seating capacity for 1,500. It also has a number of ultra modern cinemas. But perhaps what many Ghanaians might find even more fascinating about this Mall is the length to which the developers have gone to ensure that its design rendition, its layout and even its operation are in absolute harmony with and complimentary of Ghanaian needs and attitudes.
Before designing West Hills Mall, a team of experts was commissioned to conduct extensive studies into technical expediencies and local shopping habits, as a result of which study, the exterior of West Hills Mall has a special bay dedicated to Taxis, Buses and even Trotro. This Mall will also have a functional health centre with a physician at post. But even more notable is the special traffic interchange and pedestrian underpass which will be constructed across the highway - a component which the developers describe as top priority because it is intended to preserve the free and uninterrupted flow of motor traffic and guarantee the safety of the thousands of pedestrians who will traverse the Accra-Cape Coast Highway to access West Hills Mall.
So fascinating is the prospect of an entirely new lease of commercial life in Accra and possibly the rest of the country that, a West Hills Mall Facebook Page opened just two weeks ago has been literally stampeded by excited Ghanaians. Within just 14 days, the West Hills Mall Facebook page had already registered some 4,701 ‘likes’.
Ownership & Execution
The West Hills Mall project is a joint venture between Delico Property Developments Limited of Mauritius and Social Security & National Investment Trust (SSNIT), with Delico holding a 60% stake in the project while SSNIT has 40%. Driven by a strong desire to facilitate skills transfer and optimize on the transmission of knowledge in this highly specialized area of top-end real estate development, West Hills Mall Limited has assembled a strong technical and professional team from South Africa which is collaborating and working closely with a corresponding team of Ghanaian technical and professional organisations to deliver the project in record time.
Delico is an investment company incorporated in Mauritius and controlled by Atterbury Africa. It is significant to note that the Atterbury Group has recently acquired a major stake in the Accra Mall. Atterbury Africa’s international credentials include some of Africa’s most impressive real estate developments, the most recent of which is the first modern shopping centre in Mauritius which opened in November 2011. Over the past 18 years, the Group has developed in excess of one million square metres of prime commercial, retail and residential property across South Africa and elsewhere on the continent. Some observers view Atterbury’s interests in Accra Mall as an indication of the Group’s intention to stay and do more business in Ghana for the long haul.
Delico, as a technical partner and investor, is poised to deliver the West Hills Mall in line with its strict performance benchmark within 21 months of commencement of works. WBHO of South Africa, a company whose speciality is in building construction, civil engineering, roads and earth works, has been appointed as the main contractor for the project. Based in Johannesburg, WHBO has worked extensively throughout Africa and has national footprints in Australia. The company has been operating in Ghana over the past few years with focus on the mining sector.
Ghana to gain in taxes and jobs
Clearing and excavation has already commenced at the project site at Dunkonah, Weija, in Accra West.
Some Ancillary Benefits
West Hills Mall is a multi-million dollar development project which will duly contribute to economic growth and increase gross domestic product of the country considerably. The project will result in a sizable foreign direct investment (FDI) inflow into the Ghanaian economy and upon completion of the Mall when the shops and retail outlets have been let out, will yield significant tax revenues to the state in the form of corporate income tax, VAT and PAYE payable respectively by the tenants, their employees and suppliers.
It is estimated that the construction phase alone will generate employment opportunities for close to a 1,000 local workers who will be engaged in a wide range of artisanal works and different construction modules. Many of these local employees will be trained in the operation and deployment of a variety of construction and earth-moving equipment, making for badly needed skills transfer to the Ghanaian construction industry. Additionally, among many obvious job openings, a completed West Hills Mall will require staff for property and facility management and the various tenants within the shopping centre will employ hundreds of Ghanaians. Although indirectly, demand by the mall’s grocery tenant for fresh farm foods will also provide an important market access for fresh farm produce and help improve farming techniques and quality control among local farmers.
The impact of a world class mall on popular culture and the social lifestyle of the city of Accra, and primarily, of the western sector of the capital and its catchment area are immeasurable. Additionally, an operational West Hills Mall will facilitate the rapid expansion and improvement of the service industry by introducing services like banking, telecommunication, entertainment and a variety of other social services - which are presently lacking in the western part of Accra.
So, like the biblical cornerstone that had been ignored by the builder, Accra West and the suburb of Dunkonah will, in so short a time as 21 months, transform into the home of one of Africa’s most celebrated modern retail shopping centres, delivering top notch business and shopping experience to the people of Accra; West Hills Mall is designed to be the capitals trendiest and most popular destination, not only for modern shopping, but also for quality recreation, social and business interactions and aesthetic relief.
In the light of such great prospect for Accra West and the capital city in general, the leadership of SSNIT deserve great commendation for the wisdom of identifying the West Hills Mall project as a viable enterprise and for supporting it to provide Ghana with one ‘shining’ example of a truly vibrant partnership between the private sector and the public sector.