Spatial and social transformations in a secondary city: the role of mobility in Sekondi-Takoradi, Ghana

Existing research on urban Ghana mainly focuses on processes occurring within the country’s major cities, thereby reproducing a trend within the social sciences to overlook the role of intermediate and secondary cities. This paper aims to address this shortcoming by exploring spatial and social transformations in Sekondi-Takoradi, one of Ghana’s secondary cities and the metropolitan area serving the region’s emerging rubber industries as well as the country’s oil and gas economy. Using qualitative interviews conducted with residents in five of the city’s neighbourhoods, and a modified version of Kaufmann’s typology of mobility, we examine migration into Sekondi-Takoradi, residential mobility within the city, and the daily mobility of the city’s residents. The paper highlights how these diverse forms of mobility interact with processes taking place both within and outside Sekondi-Takoradi, most notably influencing and being influenced by livelihood strategies. It is argued that the city and its hinterlands can best be envisaged as a mobile networked whole, rather than consisting of disconnected and compartmentalised locales. The paper thus contributes to broader debates on how mobility shapes urbanisation by providing new empirical data on events unfolding in Africa’s secondary cities, and extends existing research by providing a counter narrative to literature that examines the city and its surrounding rural areas separately.