Accra’s Night Markets on the Pavements

Wed, 25 Jan 2012 Source: Mensah, Solomon

By Solomon Mensah

When night falls and the “Abayees” are snoring heavily like Okonkwo does in his sleep, brisk businesses are born on pavements of Accra. The items sold range from consumable to non-consumable goods. Brassieres, foot wears, jewels, and “kye-bom” with bread are but a few wares that compete with pedestrians on the pavements and spill over onto the streets of Mayor Okoe Vanderpuije’s Millennium City.

Clinking of bells, soothing voices calling on passersby to buy, sign languages and many more constitute traders’ advertisement. As someone born and bred in the woodlands of the Brong Ahafo Region, I get curious when I walk in the streets of the capital. In my part of the world, the sun does not set on traders. Back at Dodosuo (my holy village), one has to knock on Maame Kwaayie’s door when it is 6pm for condiments. And if it becomes your habit to be knocking on traders’ doors after sunset, you can easily be (mis)taken for a witch. But that seems to sharply contradict the marke ting trend in big cities. “Their market knows no night,” I mummer to myself . It is 8:10pm and I am walking down the lane leading from the V.I.P Bus Terminal at Kwame Nkrumah Circle towards the Ghana Commercial Bank tower. Men, women and children are seen busily buying and selling. I am so trapped in the crowd that I have to walk sideways like a man who has lost his bearing to alcohol. A young woman in her late twenties has the neck buried in the clothing she sells. Her right leg is mounted on a small post and one hand dipped into the pocket in an attempt to ‘balance’ a customer. Next to her is another fairly old woman selling a pile of second-hand clothes.

Asare Emmanuel sells ladies’ bags. He tells me this lane is the Circle Odorna Market. On a blue polythene rubber spread on the pavement, his stuffed bags sit like bull frogs in a swamp. “Oh the night market here is good. I make good sales each night”, Asare explains why he sells at night.

But aside this flourishing venture at night, the question as to whether it is good selling on pavements is what must be the concern of authorities of the city, if not the sellers and buyers.

Asare’s friend, Kwabena says the Abayees (AMA city guards) do not allow them sell on pavements. He corrects my impression of the Abayees sleeping heartily at night. For him, the Abayees only sleep with an eye closed.

“They come here sometimes around 11:30pm after us,” he screams into my voice recorder and makes a passionate appeal. “Please, tell them we beg them.” Business seems to be thriving in the night markets, especially as the economic rains of the single ‘swine’ sorry ‘spine’ keeps falling. But this act of indiscipline must not be allowed to continue for long. Pavements are meant for pedestrians’ passage but not for market. Simple! The night markets on the pavements have also become safe havens for pick-pockets. They mingle with the crowd and take advantage of the human traffic to terrorise unsuspecting passersby.

The most annoying attitude of traders on the pavement is the fact that they see it as their right to do what they do. In one of my rush hours to catch Burma Camp bus at Tema station for lectures, I got humiliated by a trader. My crime was my unknowingly kicking a pair of shoe he displayed on a pavement. The least attempt to rid our cities and towns of such acts of lawlessness is often met with the accusation of rendering people jobless. But the fact that there are no jobs does not mean that we should compound the situation with behaviours that have the tendency of making life uncomfortable for people in our towns and cities. We must all help the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) to make our city clean and safe.

The writer is a student-journalist at the Ghana Institute of Journalism. Email: nehusthan4@yahoo.com

Columnist: Mensah, Solomon