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Govt urged to regulate operations of street hawkers

BY: Maclean Kwofi
Mrs Mercy Afrowa Needjan (right) explaining a point. With her is Mrs Marlese von Broembsen (left) and another representative at the event.
Mrs Mercy Afrowa Needjan (right) explaining a point. With her is Mrs Marlese von Broembsen (left) and another representative at the event.

The Informal Hawkers and Vendors Association (IHVA) of Ghana has called on the government to come up with a comprehensive policy to regulate the activities of street hawkers and vendors in the country.

The absence of a clear policy framework, the association said, denied the government the opportunity to collect the appropriate revenue from such trade activities across the country.

“Regulated industry is crucial to help the government to build the appropriate database and raise more revenue from the hawkers,” the President of the association, Mr Anass Ibrahim Hille, said at a dialogue organised by Women in Informal Employment Globalising and Organising (WIEGO) and other stakeholders on May 2 in Accra.

According to him, most of the traders are the backbone of their families and so frequent eviction by all means necessary will also deny them the opportunity to end a living.

He explained that street hawkers were mostly poor people who could not afford to run shops and stalls in markets and on street corners.

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“Driven to cities by poor infrastructure and lack of opportunity in rural areas, they run their businesses with little or no capital.

Many of them make just enough money to take care of basic needs for the day. This means that any day they do not hawk goods, basic needs, such as food, may not be met,” he said.

The president observed that an option to address the situation was to permit hawking in designated streets and intersections for both the state and the hawkers to benefit.

“An option may be to permit hawking in designated streets and intersections, which can be purpose-built to facilitate the activity.

Another option is to build lay-bys where motorists can buy from standing vendors which would ease traffic jams.

“Proper regulations as it is done in various developed countries such as Finland, United Kingdom (UK), and United States of America (USA) while at the same time educating people on such trade activities is significant to control hawking along street of Ghana,” he added.

A Law Programme Director of WEIGO, Mrs Marlese von Broembsen indicated that across the world, the law criminalises the activities of street traders and waste pickers, and excludes homeworkers from employment rights and benefits.

“What is needed, are new legal and institutional approaches to informal workers that recognise informal workers, as workers, and as contributors to the economy.”

According to her, street vendors and waste pickers need regulated access to public space, waste, and infrastructure.

Not resist development

For her part, the President of the Greater Accra Markets Association, Mrs Mercy Afrowa Needjan, urged traders to put a stop to the habit of resisting upgrade and development in the markets by the government.

“Traders often resist development in the market as a result of a combination of factors and this habit deprive the markets of the necessary facelift,” she said.

According to her, the development in the markets by the government is the right of traders and so instead of resisting they should rather embrace it.

An example, he mentioned was a period where her office advocated for a renovation on a facility at Makola Market but the traders resisted and the contractors abandoned the protect.

The dialogue

The dialogue was an initiative WIEGO and Advocates for Community Alternatives (ACA) and it was aimed at creating a platform to help address key issues affecting the informal sector.

It brought together street vendors, waste pickers and lawyers in Accra to open a discussion between workers and legal professionals, to foster understanding, and to identify opportunities that could improve the lives of these important informal workers while benefitting society.

It also exposed public interest lawyers to informal workers’ everyday experiences and working conditions.

It examined the laws that regulate street vending and waste picking and draw linkages between these laws and working conditions in the informal economy.