Focal Cities: Activities and Outcomes in Accra

Market vendors in Accra, Ghana
Photo: Juan Arredondo/Getty Images Reportage

WIEGO’s work in Accra began with a mapping exercise of the informal economy – including spatial, political and financial elements. In the process, 16 hawking streets, 29 formal and 37 informal markets were identified, and it was found that no single public department is responsible for the informal economy.

At the same time, WIEGO’s Informal Economy Budget Analysis found that in 2012, although informal workers generated  a significant share of the city’s revenue, the city was spending almost nothing from its budget on informal workers (for more read WIEGO Budget Brief Number 5).

Since then, WIEGO has been working with a local network of membership-based organizations (MBOs) of informal workers – primarily street and market vendors and head porters and an increasing number of waste pickers. WIEGO’s efforts in Accra are coordinated by Dorcas Ansah, who works to build the advocacy capacity of informal workers’ membership-based organizations (MBOs), and to support them in demanding accountability from authorities through:

  • Capacity-building with workers in areas such as: policy advocacy, communications, leadership, governance, regulatory and legal frameworks and occupational health and safety.
  • Supporting MBOs in engaging in dialogue and negotiations with city and national public officials to provide input on laws, regulations and social policy.
  • Supporting MBOs in raising the visibility of their sectors and demands, including through creation of collective platforms of demands for political advocacy and engagement with the media.

Notable Gains

Negotiating for improved working conditions and social benefits - In 2011, through a multi-stakeholder workshop, informal workers engaged in negotiation with city and national government representatives for improved occupational health and safety (OHS) in informal markets. Negotiations focused on the provision of fire extinguishers in publicly owned markets, improving waste management, and on the clearing of clogged drains in and around market areas. Concessions from government included: fire extinguishers for public markets, clearing of a clogged drain, and the establishment of a monitoring committee to evaluate the effectiveness of private waste management companies. 

Read more about the gains made at the multi-stakeholder workshop.

Subsequently, in 2012 WIEGO facilitated a health policy dialogue between head porters, (known as kayayei in Ghana) and representatives from the National Health Insurance Authority and the Ghanian Ministry of Health. At the dialogue the kayayei shared their frustrations at the difficulty they faced in accessing health services due to high premiums and lack of clear information. Two important commitments emerged from the discussions: the NHIS agreed to a negotiated reduction in the annual premium (down to $2.50), and the NHIS agreed to hold a designated registration for the kayayei. During the registration over 1000 kayayei were registered.

Read more about the health policy dialogue.

Dialogue between municipal authorities and street traders - In 2013, WIEGO facilitated a policy dialogue between informal street traders and officials from the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) and the Ga East Municipal Assembly.

Read more about how street traders made their concerns heard by municipal officials.

Political advocacy during national elections - In 2016, MBOs mobilized to influence the political manifestos of the major Ghanaian political parties. In this process, MBOs met with representatives from four of the major political parties in a town hall policy meeting facilitated by Dorcas Ansah. At the meeting the political parties presented their proposals for policies and programs supportive of the informal economy. The MBOs responded by outlining their own proposals and concerns: chief among them, a toll imposed on kayayei, by the Accra municipality. The toll assumes they are self-employed, when they are actually wage workers hired by market traders and customers. The newly elected party - the New Patriotic Party (NPP) - committed to abolishing the toll. During the meeting, the NPP also outlined additional proposals meant to benefit informal workers, which included a capacity-building project for market porters, development of funds for delivery of credit to market vendors, upgrades and improvements to market infrastructure, and the development of insurance policy schemes.

After election results were announced in December 2016, market porters initiated a process of engaging with the new government to remind them to make good on their promise to abolish the toll. One of their first actions was to organize a victory march (in video below). The efforts of the market porters paid off when the new Finance Minister announced on March 2, 2017 that the toll would be abolished.

Resources and Publications

Accra, Ghana was chosen as one of ten cities for  WIEGO’s Informal Economy Monitoring Study (IEMS), an action research initiative that aimed to evaluate the realities, constraints and contributions of informal workers.

Learn more about whether and how the budget of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) provides for informal economy workers and, in particular, for traders: Read WIEGO Budget Brief No. 5. Budgeting and the Informal Economy in Accra, Ghana (2015) by Debbie Budlender.

Learn more about informal workers’ access to social protections in Ghana: Read WIEGO Working Paper (Social Protection) No. 30. The Ghana National Health Insurance Scheme: Barriers to Access for Informal Workers (2013) by Laura Alfers.

Read WIEGO Working Paper No. 35. Perceptions of Costs and Benefits of Informal-Formal Linkages: Market and Street Vendors in Accra, Ghana (2016) by Nana Akua Anyidoho and William F. Steel.

Read WIEGO Working Paper No. 33. Informal Economy Budget Analysis: Accra Metropolis (2014) by Nicholas Adamtey.