Accra Street Traders Make Their Concerns Heard by Municipal Officials

In March 2013, a Policy Dialogue was held in Accra, Ghana between informal street traders and officials from the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) and the Ga East Municipal Assembly. Facilitated by WIEGO, the policy dialogue centred on the theme Ensuring Optimal Involvement of the Urban Informal Sector in National Economic Development. It was deemed a success in bringing the traders’ concerns to the attention of the authorities and sparking opportunities to engage further.

“The enthusiasm and commitment was so great from both participants and officials,” notes Dorcas Ansah, WIEGO’s Coordinator in Accra, which has been made a focal city for WIEGO’s work.

The street traders—representatives from associations of Tema Station Traders, Makola Market Traders, Circle Pedestrian Mall and East Legon Traders—came armed with a their concerns (detailed below) and their well-honed presentations. For months, they had been working with Dorcas to prepare for this meeting with officials and to clearly, succinctly and strategically state their demands. Through a workshop and practice sessions, they built confidence and strengthened their presentations.

Two officials from the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) were on hand. From the Ga East Municipal, sector heads from the departments responsible for social protection, planning, and market development attended. Visitors from the South African Government and the head and programme managers of the African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET) also participated.

The programme was chaired by Dr. Akua Britwum, a member of the WIEGO Reference Group for Accra and Senior Research Fellow, University of Cape Coast. The municipal authorities spoke first, outlining their priorities for the informal workers. Then spokespersons from each market spoke on their priority issues.

Dorcas notes that the traders were as articulate and respectful as they had been in their practice sessions, but that emotions began to run higher in the actual dialogue setting, and on occasion, interventions were necessary to maintain a respectful composure and allow both traders and officials a fair chance to speak. “People were angry and this was an opportunity to voice their grievances. The officials were taken aback,” she says.

Nonetheless, the AMA received the messages the traders wanted to deliver loud and clear. It was evident the parties needed to work more effectively in building better rapport and communicate more frequently. It was clear that the adopted communication channels by the officials were not getting to the grassroot market and street vendors. To kick start such engagement, the AMA invited the traders to a budget hearing they were organizing the following month.

The discussion around this invitation led Dr. Akua to note that the traders did not always understand the technical aspects of the budget, and suggested WIEGO organize a session about this to ensure traders are able to give valuable input. She went on to note that she hopes to see the AMA incorporate the valuable contributions of the workers in the final budgets.

In the chair’s closing remarks, Dr. Akua emphasized effective participation and consultation among the stakeholders and advocated that this platform should be sustained.

Ghana News Agency subsequently reported that the Institute of Local Government Studies (ILGS), a partner with WIEGO in Accra, would collaborate with local NGOs to promote the activities of women in the informal sector to accelerate national development. Read ILGS to promote activities of women in the informal sector.

Read more about the Focal City approach in this news story.

ISSUES PRESENTED AT POLICY DIALOGUE FORUM – 22 MARCH 2013  – ACCRA, GHANA

Congestion and Evictions • Competition between vehicles and traders
• Ad hoc evictions

• Some markets are constructed in slums, therefore liable to floods

• No escape routes

• Market ownership (in some markets); one man (landlord) imposes unfair sanctions on traders. Traders lose space when sick for a week
Security  • Violence on the increase (buttering, murdering)

• Robbery is increasing (armed, pick pockets, tricksters and burglary) many affected are traders

• No security at night even though we pay fees for security

• Frequent fire outbreaks with no fire extinguishers for traders to help themselves in such situations

• Negative practices by task force towards textile sellers (method of seizure, unofficial policemen, method of disposal of seized goods , no transparency in enforcement)

• Most markets have no gates

• Some markets are inaccessible
Facilities Lack of facilities to make market attractive:

• Lack of spacious markets

• No daycare centers in most markets

• No toilets in some markets (e.g. Ogbojo market)

• No warehouse for safekeeping of wares

• Some markets have no electricity

• No escape routes

• High fence wall blocking visibility (e.g. Circle Pedestrian mall)

• Poor road network to some markets

• Unfurnished market (no facilities in new market)

• No market in East Legon and its environs. Traders sell along roads (e.g. Shiashie, Okponglo, la Bawaleshie, American house, Mempeasem, Adjirigano, Christian centre)

• AMA key staff do not pay regular visits, for traders to update them of their challenges
Sanitation • No refuse collection containers (proximity to refuse dump)

• No refuse dumps (Ga East)

• Lack of refuse containers "rubbish" left at the mercy of traders.( Kantamanto)

• Irregular collection of garbage

• Flooding even with small amount of rainfall, due to poor drainage

• Storm drain from Accra Polytechnic down Makola market blocked by a building erected in its path

• Flooding due to Telecom and ECG wires blocking drainage at a strategic point

• Choked gutters generally due to poor or no drains

• Some fruits and food venders sell close to insanitary conditions

Participating in decision-making

• Assemblies take decisions that affect traders without involving them (e.g. siting of new markets, evictions, fee and licensing decisions)