One of my favorite and most terrifying experiences here in Ghana is going to the market. Merica and I shop at many local markets in Accra but go to Makola Market several times a week.
“Makola Market was constructed in Accra in 1924 and stood at the heart of the urban Ghanaian life. The market was the main wholesale and retail marketplace in Accra, the epicenter of trade in the country and one of the nation’s most important social and cultural institutions.
On the 18h of August 1979, 55 years after its creation, Makola Market was destroyed. The Rawlings government that agreed on the demolition of the centre of trade in Ghana thought that devastating Makola would improve the economy. Indeed, there were accusations that various products considered banned in Ghana were being sold in the Makola Market. In this way, the market women were accused for Ghana’s economic problems.
Makola Market is currently under the observation of Transaid which is developing a project Transport and Trade for Market Women which is designed to improve the livelihoods and security of female market traders through the development of Women’s Transports Co-operatives in Accra.” Wikipedia
You can find anything, truly anything, in Makola Market. However, you need to be very brave because most of the 4 million people in Accra, shop at Makola Market on any given day. Today was one of those days.
I knew it was bad when we tried to park the car. After we turned into the lot we found it was full but there were two cars behind us and we couldn’t turn around. Eventually the lot attendant moved a reserved sign and let us park. Cost $1. That is the best part.
From the car park we have a short walk to the beginning of the Market. The market is miles and miles of stalls, building, people in the streets. People will set up shop in the middle of a street and then have to move when a delivery truck comes. We cross two major streets getting into the heart of the market. You have to be very cautious. Motorbikes are the major taxis here in Accra. They do not observe any traffic laws. They go the wrong way on one-way streets. They run red lights and they drive in between the car lanes. If you are not careful, you will get hit cross the street.
Once you get into the Market it is a sea of people. The sea moves quickly and often in waves of carriers–young girls with goods on their heads. It is not unusual for someone to have a large board piled high with cases of can goods or boxes of biskets. Since most of them are shorter than I am, it is easy to get clunked in the head with a board. Here is where my fear kicks in.
Picture this. You turn into the market stalls area. Stalls are on both sides and you have about 15″ of space between them. People are passing in both directions. There is no getting around without bumping into people. Remember this place was destroyed in 1979 so the ground is uneven, broken concrete. You have to watch your feet and at the same time watch your head because of the carriers. I cannot wear my bifocals without getting dizzy.
In most places only one person can pass through so you need to squeeze into a crack beween stalls. Every stall is carefully piled very high with items like soap, bowls, biskets, candy, jewelry, kitchen utensils, clothing, and anything else you can name. If you bump too hard things will topple like dominos. You do not want to be the person who tips the dominos. Been there, done that! It was not fun.
Here are a few items we have purchased in the last week:
- 65 backpacks
- 50 pencil cases
- 132 T-shirts
- 450 writing workbooks
- 90 yards of fabric
- pineapples, mangos, bananas, greenbeans, cabbage, etc.
This is just the beginning. During the next week we will purchase 39 cases of water, 30 pounds of fresh tuna, 150 pounds of rice, 600 juice boxes and biskets, 50 pounds of tomatos, 50 pounds of onions, . . . . . I can see more several market trips in my future. If I don’t get run over by a motorbike, it could be fun! You will enjoy this short video.