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Tamale, Ghana

Tamale (Akan: [ˈtamalɛ]),[needs tone markings] officially called Tamale Metropolitan Area, is the capital town of the Northern Region of Ghana. Tamale is Ghana’s fourth-largest city. It has a 2013 projected population of 360,579 according to the 2010 census and is the fastest-growing city in West Africa. The town is located 600 km (370 mi) north of Accra. Most residents of Tamale are Muslims, as reflected by the multitude of mosques in Tamale, most notably the Central Mosque. The Sunnis and the Ahmadiyyans also have their own central mosques, north of the town centre along Bolgatanga Road.

Tamale is located in the Northern region and more precisely in the Kingdom of Dagbon. The local (neighbourhood) chiefs and the district chief of Tamale are subservient to the Dagomba Paramount Chief (King) in Yendi.

Due to its central location, Tamale serves as a hub for all administrative and commercial activities in the Northern region, doubling as the political, economic and financial capital of the Northern region. The centre of Tamale hosts regional branches of financial institutions and a considerable number of international nongovernmental organisations.

Tamale has developed and transformed significantly in the last few years. The new dimension of Tamale’s development is the rush by various companies to open branches in Tamale. The hospitality industry has grown significantly, with new hotels and guest houses built around Tamale. Tamale grew from a conglomeration of towns where one could find an architectural blend of traditional mud houses and more modern buildings. Tamale’s new and modern facilities include the newly constructed Tamale Stadium, replacing the town’s former principal football pitch, Kaladan Park, with a world-class venue. Indeed, many improvements to Tamale’s infrastructure occurred in the period leading up to the 2008 African Cup of Nations tournament. Further improvements were made, particularly to Tamale’s road system. Upon arriving in the city, one will be quick to notice that the roads of the city are occupied with motorcycles with mapukas being the most patronised. This, however, does not interfere with the steady smooth flow of traffic on the major roads of the city.


Aerial view: Tamale native town and police barracks (1929)

Tamale is located on the crossing of three ancient trade routes; it started to grow as a commercial centre for the Northern region centuries ago. The north-south road from Paga and Bolgatanga to Salaga had raiders passing, whilst other merchants brought their goods into Tamale. Salt came from Daboya, to the north-west of Tamale, and followed a road that continued to Yendi. A third road linked Gushegu to the capital of the Gonja kingdom, Damongo. The present locations of the central market and the palace of the Gulkpe naa, opposite Barclays Bank and near the library, mark the junctions of the ancient roads.

Around this palace, a residential neighbourhood began to grow. It is now known as Dagbangdabi-Fong (the name means “Traditional men area”). This was followed by Changli, Belipiela, and BuglanaFong (“Fetish Priest’s area”) further to the south. Each neighbourhood got its own local chief. As the distances to the market place grew, people

Highway in Tamale

started to settle elsewhere around the crossing, so the quarters of Tishigu and Abu-Abu came up. An influx of northerners from present-day Burkina Faso led to the building of Moshi Zongo. In the same time, the remote village of Vitteng came into existence.


Garden cities were brought to Tamale and at the back of Sakasaka grew Kalpohin Estates, even now a pleasant neighbourhood with plenty trees, big gardens, and small houses. In the 1970s, urban extensions such as Zogbeli, Lamakara, and Lamashegu were built, neighbourhoods characterised by checkboard planning of square house plots and orthogonal streets and alleys. Since 2000, Tamale seems to have grown more rapidly, so the whole district of Tamale is now urban agglomeration.

Tamale features a tropical wet and dry climate under the Köppen’s climate classification. The metropolis experiences one rainy season from April to September or October, with a peak in July and August. The mean annual rainfall is 1100 mm within 95 days of rainfall in the form of tropical showers. Consequently, staple crop farming is highly restricted by the short rainy season.

The dry season is usually from November to early April. It is influenced by the dry north-easterly (Harmattan) winds, while the rainy season is influenced by the moist south-westerly winds. The mean daytime temperatures range from 28 (December and mid-April) to 43 (March, early April) degrees Celsius, while mean nighttime temperatures range from 18 (December) to 25 (February, March) degrees Celsius. The mean annual daily sunshine is about 7.5 hours.


Tamale Metropolitan District Mayor–Council Government Office and Secretary

Tamale has a mayor–council government system in which the mayor is vested with extensive executive powers. The mayor is appointed by the Ghana president and approved by the town council, the Tamale Metropolitan Assembly, although suggestions have been made by the residents of Tamale to increase accountability of the office by having the mayor elected. The current mayor of Tamale is Hon. Abdul Rahaman Abdul Hanan Gundaadow. The name Tamale Metropolitan Assembly serves both for the local parliament and for the local executive. Local policies are always executed in this name, so for example, illegal constructions often show the command “remove by TMA” (meaning that the Tamale Metropolitan Assembly or its executive has ordered to remove the building as it is contrary to current urban land-use planning). As the local executive, Tamale Metropolitan Assembly is the strong arm of the mayor, his or her civil service. If mention is made of assembly women or men, however, the reference is to the elected representatives of the inhabitants of Tamale. They form the assembly properly speaking, and must decide about local by-laws before they can come into force. The name “Tamale Metropolitan District” is used in the geographical sense, to refer to the area within its borders.


The new University for Development Studies (UDS)

Tamale is the principal centre of education in North Ghana. Currently, a total of 742 basic schools are within the metropolis. This comprises 94 kindergartens, 304 primary, 112 junior high, and 10 senior high schools. The rest are technical/vocational institutions, two colleges of education, a polytechnic, and two universities – one public and the other private.

In the Education Ridge neighbourhood in the north-western part of the town and covering an area around 3 km2, 20 schools ranging from kindergartens through junior high and senior high schools, teachers’ training colleges, the Tamale Polytechnic, and a university are located. The numerous trees lining the streets in this part of the town give it a tropical rainforest outlook. The University for Development Studies (UDS) has two campuses located in Tamale and one in nearby Nyankpala. The headquarters of the UDS is also located in Tamale.

List of senior high schools

  • Tamale Senior High School
  • Ghana Senior High School
  • Northern School of Business
  • Business Senior High School
  • Tamale Girls Senior High School
  • Viting Senior High School
  • Kalpohin Senior High School
  • Tamale Islamic Senior High School
  • St Charles Senior High School
  • Adventist Senior High School
  • Presbyterian Senior High School
  • Business College International
  • Tamale Girls International School
  • Anbariya Senior High School


Tamale is served by Tamale Airport. Located about 11 km (6 nmi; 7 mi) from downtown Tamale, the airport is mainly used by commercial airlines such as Citylink, Starbow Airlines, and Antrak Air, which run regular flights between Tamale and Accra’s Kotoka International Airport, along with other regional capitals.

Bus rapid transit in Tamale

Public transportation in the form of taxis is the most convenient means of getting around Tamale for visitors to the town. The popular means of travel for the locals, however, is by bike and motorbike. This phenomenon is helped by the existence of bike paths in the town, making it one of the most bike-friendly settlements in the Northern region. Transportation out of town is facilitated by the Tamale’s bus rapid transit system, tro-tro private mini-bus system, MetroMass Bus-Based Mass Transit system, and STC Bus Lines, along with a host of charter bus companies, all of which provide transport to connect Tamale with the many other surrounding towns and cities.


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