The economy in the street: aggression, rudeness, empathy and unsolicited services

Nii Armah Addy is an Education and Management expert

By Nii Armah ADDY

It is often said that the economy of Ghana is in the hands of the market women who determines the prices of goods and have cash flow. In a free market operation, the forces of demand and supply determine the prices of goods. The market women in Ghana are supposedly by this analogy the queens of the Ghanaian economy. I beg to differ in many ways to that popular notion in that the government’s economic policies and economic environment precedes the activities of the market women. Favourable government economic policy will ensure a favourable market.

Granted without accepting that our market women determines the economy, the definition of the market as originally known has now extended to the streets where trading of goods are not the only activity but cleaning of car windscreens, begging for alms, etc. are plied. Reasons for selling in the streets will be considered in this article however, it is not so much the reasons for selling in the street but the attitudes of the sellers that poses security threat which if not attended to will escalate into an uncontrollable practice.

Trading is necessary in every economy. The aim of the trader is to get the goods traded to buyers then to consumers. The buyer on the other hand is to have the goods at his/her convenience at an affordable price. The overcrowding in Accra, the capital city of Ghana has made life not as decent as it used to be. Now, one can buy all his/her necessary goods in the street while in a car in between the heavy traffic experienced daily.

The multiplicity of street hawkers forming various markets on the streets of Accra tells the economic hardship faced by populace. The city authorities have no absolute control for the fact that they know the difficulties faced by the people and the whooping failure of the government to ameliorate the situation.

While sympathising with sellers to ply their trade in the streets in decent ways, we should not lose sight of the unreasonable prices they put on their products. It is as if they gang up to rob unsuspecting buyers. They simply take advantage of buyers because they buy as a means of necessity not for leisure.

Secondary and tertiary education graduates have been reduced to selling in the street to making a living. The more precarious situation is where many vagabonds have also joined the street economy. Their inclusion has taken away the decency of the street market.

The daily abuse on the street is becoming a serious security threat that if not controlled will soon out shine the beauty of the market which provides convenience for many motorists and puts money in the hands of decent sellers.

  1. The aggression

In a competitive market, sellers need some level of aggression to catch the attention of the few buyers. This is an acceptable practice to the extent that the level of aggression is minimal and does not pose any threat to the prospective buyer.

The need for survival has heightened the level of aggression by the street hawkers particularly by the male gender. This level of aggression is aimed at private cars. They approach you with their goods. You looked at it once and know that you do not need it. Politely you give a hand to show that you do not need the goods. They insist standing by your car window that you buy it with such level of aggression as if they will attack you if you do not buy.

In their minds as exhibited in their approach is that you are comfortable and they needed to survive therefore you necessarily have to buy what they are selling. Their posture is so frightening that sometimes you have to roll up your door glasses to avert an unsuspected attack or you are somewhat protected if you are in an air-conditioned car because your glasses are up and the central door locked.

The aggressive look on the faces of the street sellers must not be taken for granted. It reflects the hardship of the economy hence the need for the security agencies to intelligent identify such human threat and get those people off the street. The alternative is for government to have to a strategic economic plan for such able bodied citizens whose only means to survival is selling on the street and terrorizing people by their stern looks when they do not buy their goods.

  1. The rudeness

The street economy is also characterized by rudeness of some sellers. It is a fact that prices of goods on the street are more expensive than in the actual market place. An explanation given to this phenomenon is that they save buyers time.

When they approach you with a product and you dare ask for the price, they take it that you are interested in the product therefore you have to buy it. When they mention a price and you give a counter offer in an attempt to negotiate they turn to be so rude sometimes hurling insults and curses.

Occasionally, when you have bought something, they will delay giving your change until the traffic turns green for cars to move. One gets confused as to whether to drop the item on the street, park after at the next available stop or go away with it. It becomes worse for passengers in commercial cars particularly ‘‘trotro’’.

Because many passengers have been on the losing side, they have decided that unless the sellers have their change ready before they give out their money. Sometimes when you have negotiated and paid and the product given to you, you realise after opening that you have been given something other from what you bargained for. The street seller has always purposed to cheat buyers in cars particularly those in private cars. Beware!

  1. Empathy

Another phenomenon of the street economy are the beggars. They require empathy. There are three (3) of people in this segment. They are children (either selling little things like cotton bud, toothpick, shoe polish, and the like or not selling anything), people with disability and adults begging for alms.

Though their preoccupation is begging for alms, they require empathy. Some will insult you for the little money you give to them when it is below their expectation. Can you be bothered?

They beg with such intensity not given them is almost as if you are a bad person. For them their livelihood dwells on the alms they get on the streets without which their survival is at risk. Such acts are security threats. There has been occasions where street beggars have slapped motorists for not giving them money.

  1. Unsolicited services

This category of the street economy is the worst of all. They are who clean the windscreen. They are very dirty and uncouth. Usually they will not seek your consent before delivering the service. It is as if they are doing it so you decide whether to give them money.

One unfortunate incident is when a motorist questioned why they did it without his consent. They responded with an insult. He got out of the car to question further, immediately five of his colleagues formed a circle in front of him. A woman selling by the side whispered to the driver that those boys carry knives in their pockets therefore he should not approach them and that even they who ply the street market with them are careful in dealing with them.

The lives of motorists are daily at risk with hardened criminals and vagabonds openly parading the streets as providing unsolicited services with an evil mind. Government for political expediency has decided to give a blind eye to the menace.

In conclusion, the brisk market in the streets of Accra has become an integral part of the economy as the practice has been allowed to flourish. Whether or not it can be abandoned is yet to be seen. Whether it requires a policy direction or not, one cannot ignore the fact that the huge unemployment within an excruciating economic environment has accounted to the mess in the street as alluded to. Living in Ghana has become unbearable with prices of goods and services skyrocketing by the day. Whether or not government has a clue as to what to do to improve living conditions remains a mirage but that notwithstanding, the risk posed by the street market particularly the involvement of criminals posing as service providers must be carefully considered and be brought to a halt before it gets out of control.

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