Future Capital City? Changing Face of Ganta in Nimba County
Ganta, Nimba County – Ganta is fast becoming Liberia’s busiest city. With over 50 stores, the city now appears to be offering more shops than any other capital cities in the country.
Even though there is a lot of development planned, multiple high streets in the commercial city are developing to cater to the desire that many Liberians have to spend, easily demonstrating that the retail sector in the city waits for no man.
Establishing itself as a key prime residential city around 10 years ago, Ganta was and still is a node that is home to often young and affluent middle and upper middle class Liberians. Ganta’s centrally-located position with a stone throw to Guinea means that it can pull from a wide city area to thrive.
Starting from a single pharmacy or pharmacies on the main road around 8 years ago, developers, landlords, investors and homeowners woke up to the opportunity that the high traffic road had within this large gated affluent community.
By 2014, the main streets in Ganta had over 30 stores, 3 banks, 4 filling stations with many more developments in the pipeline. Among these stores the most dominant category are ‘Food and Drinks’ and ‘Fashion and Accessories’, together they account for 55% of all retail on the streets in the city.
Seeing as Ganta is not a shopping mall, there is little regulation on tenant mix and type of shops that can open on the road, so there are large amounts of duplication. This however, means more options for consumers who often come from communities in the city for food, grocery shopping as well as entertainment and leisure.
The real question here however is why and how has it grown so rapidly? To begin with, the stock of retail available in the city is insufficient to cater to the huge population. While the Guinea border is just a stone’s throw away, even visible from the entrance of Gbarnga, inconvenient access and parking means that it isn’t always the first choice for most consumers, leaving them with limited options.
The amount of foot and car traffic that passes through the city is also too large to ignore. Many commuters use Ganta on a daily basis to commute either to Guinea or Grand Gedeh County with the pavement of the Ganta-Guinea border road, a larger amount of people are now using the route than ever. The volumes of people seen allow retailers tap into a large pool of impulsive buyers that can drive foot traffic and revenue.
Limited options for entertainment and leisure also means that ‘spots’ like Planet 44 and Jackies can cater to the residents and non-residents desire to take a break and relax after hours.
Ganta as a transit city has grown in status and is increasingly attractive to individuals who are either commuting or are seeking larger and more affordable homes. The supply of houses and apartments is increasing within the city as demand for property steadily rises.
Unfortunately, there are still looming vacancies in the region and landlords have seen the lucrative opportunity in breaking up the space and putting it into commercial use. A FrontPageAfrica recent visit to the county established that the asking price for land in Ganta has grown 500 United States dollars to 700 United States dollars.
Competition among business elites
The new status can be seen from new and renovated buildings that spring up by the day. These buildings house expansive hotel premises, banks, eateries, and other businesses. As if a subtle completion runs among property owners, construction or reconstruction work has become a regular feature in Ganta.
This has resulted on both sides of the busy Ganta broad street road and Monrovia parking, which are linked to two major round-about areas in the vicinity, being busy on a daily basis.
Two popular communities, People street and Gbatu quarter, which are in close proximity to Ganta, have regained their lost glory and are beginning to bubble again, despite the dilapidated outlook of most of their out-fashioned buildings.
With two petrol stations in strategic locations, reputable hotels, prominent church buildings, hospitals, schools, club houses, DSTV and GSM network provider offices among other places of prominent commercial activities, Ganta is changing rapidly.
It is also undergoing rapid transformation the league of high-brow locations that would in the near future sift the ‘chaff’ residents from the ‘substance’, as the former Assistant Superintendent for Nimba, Teeko Yorlay said to FrontPageAfrica recently.
Rental fees on the rise
Investigation by this reporter shows that rent is rising “outrageously” in Ganta which, as Yorlay noted, may signal a shift from the city “in the scheme of things” as developers take advantage of the rapid urbanization and population pressure to hike rent in the area.
For instance, a landlord whose property lies on the busy Ganta broad street has increased his property rent three times in four years. A three bed-room flat which attracted a rent of 1000 per annum in 2010 now costs between USD 2,500 and USD 3,000. Yorlay explained that the bust of the 2008/2009 property boom is largely responsible for the development explosion in Ganta.
He told FrontPageAfrica that Ganta and its environs have become too expensive for a moderate income earner to live in. “Developers and property owners who borrowed from the banks during the boom period are finding it difficult to meet up with their commitment with the banks”, he said.
The result is that they keep increasing the rents to meet up with their debt obligations, while the poor economic outlook makes it increasingly difficult for tenants to remain their too,” Yorlay said.