For seven years, Mohammed Abubakr has worked as a loading boy at the onion market at Agbogbloshie. Before him was his senior brother Hussein who now works as a trailer mate and travels with his master Diallo twice a month to Niger to buy onions.
The Agblogbloshie onion market in the Ghanaian capital, Accra, had been the main market for onion trading in the country for decades until the traders were ejected and taken to their current location at Adjen Kotoku in the Ga West Municipal Assembly.
Though government had made plans months before the July 1, 2021 ejection date, those plans were initially met with fierce opposition from the traders – some of whom accused government of encouraging and pursuing gentrification.
Careful and persistent engagement would have about 80 percent of the traders agree to the relocation, and on July 1 a combined security force invaded the market and ensured every single one of the traders left – as government had earlier disbursed GH¢500,000 as stipend for the transportation of their goods. But this was not without opposition as some of the traders resisted the relocation, which forced the security forces to use some crowd dispersing techniques to break the resistance.
Two months after the relocation, the resistant and rebellious traders have made amends and are elated the relocation was made possible; with some rhetorically questioning why the move had not happened long before.
Work at the site has progressed rapidlym and what is left to finish the entire project is very minimal. A recent visit showed the construction of additional sheds and block tiling. The market also came with the construction of new fire and police posts to serve the market and Adjen Kotoku community as a whole.
Some of the traders said they feel a sense of security, because unlike Agbogbloahie where there were no lights at the market and traders were required to close by 6pm each night. Adjen Kotoku is different because every corner of the market is covered by street lights, and trading can go on all day and all night provided there are customers to serve.
One thing they said made them happy they had moved to Adjen Kotoku, too, is that the entire place has been fitted with block tiles – unlike Agbogbloshie which becomes muddy and difficult to walk in during the rainy season.
Some of the traders also expressed their joy at the reduction in transportation cost, because when they come with onions the from the Sahel they need not enter Accra Central – which helps them reduce the quantity of fuel used and prevents them from getting stuck in traffic for hours.
But since there is nothing without a hitch or negative side, the traders are calling out for a few things to be done to make their trading activities a success.
Reigning supreme on their priority list is the poor road network leading to the market, which they say is negatively affecting sales. Moro, who had come from Ablekuma to buy onions at the market, said the Kia truck drivers hardly agree to come there to convey their goods to Accra Central; and when that happens, you need to pay more to convince a driver to go there.
Mohammed Abubakr, the gentleman spoken to earlier and who doubles as chairman of the loading boys’ association at the Adjen Kotoku onion market, complained there are no washroom facilities to enable them freshen up after a hard day’s work. This, he said, negatively impacts on their level of output as they feel uncomfortable throughout the day. He therefore called on the local authorities to in the meantime create make-shift washrooms for them; even if it is on a ‘pay and use’ basis.
Not only do they need washrooms at the location, but also they plead that accommodation be made available and affordable at the site so they can easily get access – to prevent them risking their lives and capital as they walk in the dark after the day’s trading activities. They argue that they were permitted to sleep at Agbogbloshie, and that made them feel at ease and have enough rest.
The market is not occupied by only onion traders but also others who also trade in food vending, groceries, toiletries etc., and these people are also concerned about the GH¢50 per week charged them each week. They say paying such an amount per week is on the high side and is killing them slowly.
On the whole, Adjen Kotoku is very crucial to the country’s economy, and the issues raised by these traders must be attended to amicably and hastily so as to help economic recovery amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
The writer is a level 300 student of the Ghana Institute of Journalism