At the heart of the capital, near the Tema Motorway, sits the nation’s premier shopping mall, the Accra Mall, which boasts more than 70 shops on 21,311 square metres of retail space.
The mall hosts some of the world’s top brands, including fast-food chains Burger King and KFC, and South African retail giants Game and Shoprite, targeting the middle to upper classes of society.
Across the road, facing one side of the mall, is a bustling street market whose vendors sell items ranging from second-hand clothing to shoes, mobile phones, watches and other wares. There are about 200 traders in this outdoor market on the edge of the street, which also features sellers of “store rejects” (that is, discarded or damaged products obtained from mainstream shops) and fast-food joints.
Looking at the mall vis-à-vis the street market, the scene may be described as the case of a titan and a mite. However, the mite in this instance is not to be unduly underrated, as the street market offers many of the things for which people patronise the mall, except perhaps there may be differences in quality and price.
Initially, the Ledzokuku Municipal Assembly (LEKMA), which oversees this part of the city, did not tolerate the presence of the traders, who were causing a nuisance by occupying the pedestrian walkway, and tried to stop their activities. This forced some of them to resort to doing their business at night, when the municipal taskforce ejecting them from the area was away.
However, since the coming into office of Mr. Henry Quartey, the Greater Accra Regional Minister, whose vision is to “make Accra work again”, a dedicated space has been demarcated for the traders, and the previous chaos has given way to a better-organised setting.
This has no doubt brought life to the place, and when Business24 visited the market at night recently, the traders had set up their stalls under tents lit by solar lamps. Some of them told Business24 they are now able to open their shops from morning till evening without facing any challenges from the municipal taskforce.
“Initially, the municipal authorities used to worry us a lot because we were operating on the pedestrian walkway. I only came to sell in the evening and I wasn’t making much. But now, they have organised us very well, and things are moving very well for us,” said Joseph, who sells ladies’ clothing.
A second-hand wares seller, Felix, agreed: “Because we were close to the mall, I think they didn’t like the idea, so we used to face many challenges with the authorities and the mall operators.” He added that he liked the new arrangement, which has brought them peace and serenity to go about their work daily.
In many ways, this story of the upscale mall neighboured by a downscale street market, both contending for the consumption cedis of the rising urban middle class, is the story of Accra itself—a fast-modernising and increasingly prosperous city struggling to pull along those inevitably left behind.