|Street hawkers line the pedestrian walkways along Graphic Road near Kaneshie Market. Accra, Ghana.|
So the question is, why do efforts by the AMA continue to fail to address street hawking, and are they even addressing the real problem(s), or just the symptoms?
- Sale, offer of sale or purchase of merchandise to vehicle drivers or passengers
- Trading on the street (except for street markets)
- Littering on streets, pavements and from moving vehicles
- Owners of vehicles required to provide waste bins for passengers and to use those
- Solicitation of alms, aiding and encouragement of solicitation of alms (with exception of religious or charitable organizations)
- Responsibility of a parent to avoid child delinquency
- Promotional activities on streets or in markets without proper permit
— AMA (Street Hawking) Bye-laws, 2011, September 1, 2010
“Unemployment and underemployment remain major problems, reflecting the failure of past economic growth to generate substantial formal employment in the private sector, and the lack of job-relevant skills of the majority of the workforce. Ghana’s labour market is still characterized by the dominance of employment in agriculture and a large informal economy. Government figures indicate that currently two out of three working adults are employed. The national unemployment rate is estimated at only 3% by government sources. The low rate of unemployment in the country disguises the high levels of unemployment and underemployment inherent in the large informal sector.” — “Ghana: Social Context and Human Resource Development,” African Economic Outlook, 2011
Any solution must to designate accessible hawking spaces or zones (for both patrons and vendors), and/or standardize vending venues and sizes that allow vending but also respect the need for ease of traffic in public spaces (pedestrian walkways, roadways). Concurrently, skills training and capacity building, combined with microfinancing to support small business development, as well as the execution of policies that encourage vendors to move from informal to small-scale business services, can help draw informal works into a more formal, regulated economy, and incentivize them through support and the potential for regular employment.
In Kerala, India, city officials are doing just that through a street vending management pilot project. Instead of trying to outlaw street vending, city officials and urban planners are recognizing it as a legitimate economic activity and “public convenience,” and efforts are focused on organizing these activities for the public good: licensing vendors, designating street hawking zones and times, providing mobile stalls to vendors that suit their types of wares and even facilitating access to microfinance for vendors.
So much of this change in Kerala is centered on the necessity that officials and the public change their perspectives on street vending. While in its current form this activity is disorganized, promotes congestion seems inefficient, I can’t help but wonder, if the phone credit vendors weren’t there on the street and sidewalks, where would I get my phone credit from? Clearly, these vendors provide a necessary service. The question is how cities like Accra will choose to harness it for the greater good.