It is 6am, it is a Saturday, and the Central business district of Accra is basking with activities. The Makola market is in the heart of the city. It is the convergence point for many, both young and old: students, children, traders and workers within the low, middle and upper class. This open-air market is a reflection of urban life and an epicenter of Ghana’s trade industry – a fusion of human and vehicular traffic.
Many scenes hit you at Makola – mothers feeding babies, head porters with crying babies on their backs, as they carry heavy loads in head pans from one point to another. Men are drawing carts, people are setting up their wares in their stalls, and shops are opening.
Hawkers and petty traders are arriving and setting up their wares, as they take over the streets and pavements, leaving no walkway for pedestrians. City authorities are arguing with hawkers as they issue daily permit-tickets to them.
As hygiene is essential, brooms shuffle through the streets, in stores and in almost every corner. The irony is that, rubbish bins are full. They have not been emptied since the previous day’s activities. There is litter everywhere; beginning to invite flies and foul smell.
Roadside preachers are playing loud gospel music, they are shouting through megaphones, spreading “the word of God”, and as they scream “praise the Lord”, they beckon shoppers to drop monies in their offertory bowls strategically placed beside them.
It is a cacophony of sounds. Vehicles are honking, music is playing, people are shouting, cars are screeching.
Commercial vehicles, known as “trotro” are pulling up, passengers alight and others go onboard. Bus conductors, popularly called “mates” are shouting on top of their voices, announcing their routes and final destinations to prospective passengers – they can be a real nuisance. They heckle and virtually drag you into moving vehicles.
Private vehicles are also parking at designated spots at a fee… it is a terribly busy environment.
One cannot help but embrace the sweet aroma engulfing the air; breakfast is ready. Local dishes of all kinds are prepared to be served – “waakye” (cooked rice and beans, served with gravy, chili sauce, fried meat or fish), “banku” (a maize meal) with okra soup, “jollof” (rice cooked in tomato sauce) and several others on the menu. Most of these meals are for lunch and supper, but are readily available in the mornings for those who desire heavy meals to kick-start their day.
Activities are increasing, people are flooding, and it is a commotion. Bargains are ongoing; there is buying and selling – fresh food produce such as plantain, yam, cassava, maize, tomato, pepper and other fruits and vegetables are scattered all over. In the butchery nearby, meat is put on pieces of hard woods and cut into pieces with machetes. Trucks are arriving from the hinterlands to offload foodstuffs.
Away from the food section, there are many aisles through the market. It is a colorful array of jewelry, clothing, household wares, fabrics and various accessories. The stalls are mainly built of wood, some portions are rotten, metal gates are somewhat corrosive.
The market is overcrowded. In the event of a fire outbreak, evacuation will be a challenge. Toilet facilities are inadequate; they are in deplorable states, posing a health risk.
Nonetheless, Makola still remains a vibrant one-stop market for all, an experience, a spectacle, a community, a place of artistic and poetic muse. It is a place of sustenance for the thousands of people who ply their trade to earn a living, to take care of their families.
By Famous Kwesi Atitsogbe