Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Marketplace

If you move around a lot in Ghana’s capital city you’ll realise that new businesses and industries have set up in various places. In the same way many marketplaces are emerging. It begins with one hawker or trader setting up a ‘point of sale’ in an area of little interest. When business is good they invite their friends to sell at the same place and others join them without invitation and eventually you have a small marketplace. Such a place can be found at the Tetteh-Quarshie interchange, close to the Accra Mall. I guess that’s how the most popular marketplaces were born, and they grew in size until they were established. The established and legal marketplaces in Accra include Accra Central Market, Kaneshie Market, Agbobloshie Market and Madina Market.

The Ghanaian marketplace is where you get all the fresh farm produce to cook that delicious local meal. From the ‘bankye’ (cassava) to the vegetables to the ‘aburo’ (maize) and fruits: you name it and it’s there. If it’s not at the store, it’s definitely at the market. You may wonder then, why go to the store if it’s fresh at the market? Shopping at any marketplace in Accra is quite an overwhelming experience if it’s your first time. Even for those who frequent the marketplace, they almost always find something interesting or distasteful happening there. Yes, distasteful; it’s a society, not a harvest haven. To say the very least it’s a tiresome task, but the aftermath is a mouth-watering aroma coming from your kitchen. On a regular day there are enough traders and consumers selling and buying respectively. Every marketplace has their ‘market days’ on which the human and vehicular traffic is enough to make you collapse if you’re faint-hearted. On those days you’re sure to go home with your bags full and your wallet or purse empty.

An established marketplace in Accra is a very large open place, Accra Central Market being the largest, I think. It’s easy to get lost there so if you don’t have a good sense of bearing you might want to go with experienced company or maybe leave a breadcrumb trail. It’s a fast-paced environment where you always have to watch your step and your head so that you don’t get hit by the kayayos’ load when they pass you by. There are traders everywhere: under sheds, by the roadside, in alleys and buildings and the car park. Every marketplace has a bus station and taxi rank so it’s easy to go to and from the market. Walking is what makes it so hectic especially when you have to comb through the whole market to find the various items you want. Like any other buying and selling environment there are criminals in the marketplace who see everyone as walking ATM machines: elusive pick-pockets, gang thieves, con artists, and fraudsters (including the fake pastors). If you lack vigilance you will end up going home without your wallet or items or both, and in the worst case scenario you might not make it home without some monetary assistance from a stranger. Believe it; it’s happened to me before. A word of caution will be to wash every item you buy thoroughly, including yourself, as the marketplace is not the most hygienic of places to be.

To survive the marketplace in Ghana, there are basic and important things you may want to know, the most important being to have a market list and budget. First off, in the marketplace you are what you wear. If you dress to kill, they (traders) will price to kill. Secondly don’t bother wearing perfume; the market’s ‘lavender’ is enough to distinguish you. While walking through the market you may want to hold your bag(s) tightly and never pick a call in open space. Your bag or phone could easily be snatched by thieves. Also if you are new to the marketplace you should ask around for varying prices and buy from the most cost effective trader while maintaining item quality. Foreigners should never go alone on their first date. Their negligence will definitely get the better of them. When buying, do not be soft. Look serious, bargain hard until you become unreasonable and when there’s a deal demand a top-up if possible. You always want to get the most out of every pesewa you lose. Finally there are no ladies and gentlemen in the marketplace. Everyone is an aggressive buyer and it would help if you are too.

The marketplace is like a business centre. Always keep in mind that most traders reward loyalty. If you frequent their sheds, they will be nice to you. Forget customer service though. It’s a pocket and product affair and you’re just the carrier of both, nothing more.


This article was written by LSG Staff Writer Kobe Asiedu and may also be found on his blog.
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