The youth taking over the streets

….due to economic hardship

By Helena Selby

The youth of every country are often considered the stronghold, their way of life, their standard of education, standard of living, and level of morality determines the strength of the country. In Ghana, as the youth form the greater part of the population, it is a determinacy that indeed, the country has a secured a large labour force, but its economy is a different ball game.

The youth of the country have little to write home about when it comes to securing the economic future of the country. The youth of the country, as part of trying to enjoy a good standard of living, try to put to use their available scarce resources.

Selling on the streets is one of the most common occupations of the youth in Ghana today.  It is one sure way of getting one’s daily bread, even when the going gets tough.

Even though this type of occupation invisibly contributes to the generation of revenue to the state, and minimises the rate of social vices in the country, the question is how reliable is this type of occupation to the future of the nation’s economy, and the financial security of the youth, who are considered the stronghold of the economy.

For some of the youth, selling on the streets or road sides is not the best, but better than being absolutely idle, which might lead to other negative things. Selling by the road sides, or on the streets, is not as simple as it may be or sound, as it does not only give them a low standard of living and expose them to all kinds of communicable diseases, but as well endanger their lives.

Lives of street hawkers

Selling by the road sides can be found in almost all the major town and cities in Ghana, but is more visible in the capital city of Accra.

This is so, because many of the youth prefer to travel from their various towns and villages to the capital to do their businesses, since they deem Accra to be a green pasture. As about 51% of Ghana’s poor population can mostly be found in the rural areas, and the youth making up the greater percentage, they always prefer to migrate to the cities to make business.

Their lack of proper education to attain them a white collar job, or engage in other vocations, results in them selling on the streets or roads.

They often prefer to sell between cars when there is congestion on the road, or when the traffic light turns red.

To them, selling food is one sure way of getting one’s daily bread, since passengers in various buses feel hungry in the middle of their journey.

As selling on the streets is very competitive, due to the number of people involved, the hawkers are very vigilant about who will need some of their wares.
Sometimes watching them transact their business on the streets, one realises that they have no choice than to struggle for customers, when they are called.

Their struggle for customers sometimes creates funny scenes, resulting in the customer becoming confused as to who’s item he/she should patronage.

It does not always ends there, but sometimes results into misunderstandings among the hawkers.
Most people selling on the streets only have the day time to take comfort, as it becomes a headache for most of them when night approaches.

The fortunate ones who reside in the capital so have a place of abode, do not have a problem as to where to lay their heads for the night, but for those who migrated to the capital in search of greener pastures, and do not have any relatives or friends to live with, and have no rented house of their own, resort to sleeping by the road sides just a stone’s throw from where they do they business.

All they need is a get a mat, cloth, or paper carton to spread on the floor to spend the night. However, woe betides them when it rains.

At Tema Community One, which is the business center, most of these hawkers sleep on the ground in front of stores and banks, but wake up and crowd under the little canopies on the frontage of these buildings when the weather changes to rain.

If they are fortunate to have a sound sleep, they are compelled to work up before the morning comes to take their baths, either in the open, in front of a gutter, or in a public bath house.

Dangers involved in selling on the streets

Most of these street hawkers in order to sell their items make sure they are in the midst of a traffic jammed street, or at a vantage points where the traffic lights take a bit of time to turn green.

The surprising part is that some of these youth have the courage to even transact their businesses on the highways, especially at toll booths.

They take advantage over the slow movement of vehicles to do business, making them earn some money for the day.

Their way of doing business is a good initiative in getting a source of income, but the danger involved is what counts.

On numerous occasions some of these youth have been knocked down by vehicles.

In the middle part of 2008, it was reported that some youth, who sold spectacles at the Dansoman junction were knocked down by a Nissan Urvan min-bus, and died instantly, and when their colleagues who sell at that same point were asked none of them could tell where the victims came from or who their relatives were.

According to Lukman Yusiff, who hails from the northern part of the country, which is considered the poorest, he came to Accra to in search of greener pastures.

He said after he completed Junior High School, his guardian could not help him further his education, so he borrowed money from a friend and fled to the south to make business.

He mentioned that the friend he borrowed money from gave him an address where he could go and stay temporarily, but he could not locate the place, so ended up living on the streets with his fellow hawkers.

According to him, life in the north was a bit harsh, but never thought he would have to go through this kind of business to survive.

He said what hurt him most, was one standing the risk of been robbed of his money and the items one sells. He indicated that he wished to go back home, but definitely not empty handed, to prove that he had benefited from his trip, and help his siblings.

According to him, it was the women for who he really felt some pity, because some of them apart from being raped or molested, they are sometimes lured by some men to have sex with the with the promise of marriage or having a shop opened for them.

He said most of them get pregnant without the knowledge or whereabouts of the child’s father, leading to the intensity of their plight.

Conclusion

Speaking to some of the youth selling on the streets, they noted that they were perfectly aware that they don’t fit in the employment opportunities the government claims to creating because of their educational backgrounds, but what they need most, is for the government to monitor the rate at which prices of goods and services rise every day.

According to them, when prices of goods increase, they do not get the deserved profits, and moreover, customers do not buy the items as they always do. When the government helps in regulating of prices of goods and services, they will also get enough money to quit the business and engage in a more meaningful and risk free businesses, to help their families and their future.

The youth play a major role in the development of the country, and as such, it is important for the government to put into consideration all of their interests, irrespective of their social or educational backgrounds.

This will not only benefit the youth, but also increase the revenue to the government.

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