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Let’s Make Accra Work: The “Forced” Removal of Onion and Scrap Dealers

Earlier this year, the Greater Accra Regional Minister embarked on a campaign to make Accra work. As part of the campaign, onion and scrap dealers at Agbogbloshie were asked to move to Adjen Kotoku in Accra.

Despite the hurdles the minister Henry Quartey had to go through to execute this plan, the traders were finally moved to the required market designated for them.

The Greater Accra Scrap-Dealers and Onion Sellers Associations

The Greater Accra Scrap-Dealers Association and the Greater Accra Onion Sellers Association are organized along informal lines, consisting of smaller groups federalized into larger ones.

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This tends to create occasional problems since there are several groups and tribes represented at Agbogbloshie, and so problems and conflicts from the Northern Region and other parts of the country, from which most of them have migrated, tend to trickle down to Agbogbloshie, and lead to issues with cooperation, though usually not violence.

These associations are led by local representatives or opinion leaders. They are people who do not occupy any official position, but are just respected in the community.

What caused the displacement of these traders?

On the side of these scrap dealers and onion sellers, the primary reason for their displacement was because of congestion. Cited in news reports, their displacement comes on the back of a campaign initiated by the Greater Accra Regional Chairman Henry Quartey themed Let’s Make Accra work.

This campaign is as a result of President Akuffo Addo’s determination to make Accra the cleanest city in West Africa in his term in office. “Let’s Make Accra Work” was implemented to increase sanitation, security, health, education, and discipline in the city.

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And the displacement of these onion sellers and scrap dealers was part of a plan to establish a vision in which everyone could live, work, and conduct business in a safe and enabling environment.

The decongesting exercise executed at Agbogbloshie is to improve the conditions in the national capital, thus the need to displace the traders to a different place to free up space in the city.

As such, another cause of their displacement might be need to undertake development projects such as schools, hospitals and social centers. This could also be a major factor in the future plans of the government, as it was not the main cause of the displacement of these traders at the Agbogloshie market.

More evidently, in a news report by Joy News, another reason for their displacement was as a result of unaccounted use of electricity and security issues. According to Mr. Quartey, these traders who have conducted businesses over 20 years at the place have issues in footing utility bills because they don’t pay and this causes financial loss to the state.

On the issue of crime, he added that when cars are stolen, they are brought to the scrap dealers to dismantle and sell the parts to businessmen at Abossey Okai. And this makes it difficult to chase the culprits.

Also, the statement made by Mr. Henry Quartey was that the government really cared about the welfare of these traders because they lacked proper sanitation means such as washrooms, fire breakout backing and other security issues which played a critical role in their decision to move these traders to a better geographical area rather than their original spot.

Effects on traders displaced

According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, displaced people often lose assets when they are forced to flee their home and land or work places. They may also be unable to pursue their former work, leading to unemployment, underemployment or informal work, and a significant drop in income.

Moreover, this is evident in the case of the onion sellers and scrap dealers displaced in Accra to different locations. These traders’ temporary might stand a higher risk to lose from these displacements.

First, accommodation or space is one of the risks. According to news reports, the Greater Accra Scrap Dealers for example who were affected by the demolition of the Agbogbloshie onion market have secured for themselves a 50-acre land at Teacher Mante in the Eastern Region at a cost GH¢ 1 million to conduct their business activities. This was after they rejected two offers from the government.

The government had offered them land at Adjen Kotoku and later 10 acres of land at Adjei Kojo after they rejected the first option on the grounds that it was too small to accommodate all of them. Even though accommodation or space are not the same for the Onion sellers, the displacement of these people stands a higher risk of losing a lot since they had to go and search for their own spaces.

However, on the side of both the onion sellers and scrap dealers’ issues with transport also makes them stand higher risk to lose from the displacement. This is due to the recent hikes in petrol prices and the unstable transport fares. Chairman of the Progressive Onion Sellers Association Sumaila Iddi Zanzeh, as sighted in news reports, called for government to work on deplorable roads leading to the new markets.

This when not done will serve as blockages to potential consumers, leading to loss of revenue and customers because they won’t be able to make it to the market to purchase goods.

Job loss will also be a major issue due to the displacement. This is because with the instance with scrap dealers they had to reject two offers from government because the location given them were small. As a result, other traders who won’t be able to pay to secure their own land will have to find other jobs or other avenues to make a living.

Contrary to the stated effects that generate forced displacement, which in turn create further insolvency and hardships, it is not simply being displaced from one’s place that is the source of hardship but long-standing and hard-won livelihoods and social networks forced in particular places are disrupted by resettlement.

Conclusion and Recommendation

Displacement is not a new phenomenon. Many countries especially in the developing world have been managing these situations for years at times decades. (World Bank, 2016). Every situation has its own unique challenge, but ensuring that the locals are supported and involved in long-term planning decisions and enhancing job opportunities are among important elements of avoiding displacements in Ghana. So, assuming these traders have been involved in decision making processes it will be obvious that these displacements wouldn’t have taken place.

The Social and Human Science website describes displacement as people being forced to leave their place of residence or surrounding environment and their professional activities. In as much as the onion sellers and scrap dealers were compensated, they literally had no choice than to start their lives, especially when their livelihoods and businesses depend on their past positions. When the capital they have is not enough, they tend to revel in poverty.

Larger or smaller businesses that cater to a specialized customer base or local client base and for whom the separation from that client can risk the business’s existence are more concerned about relocation implications, particularly financial impacts. The onion and scrap dealers, for example, are being requested to relocate to Agyei Kotoku; however, the distance between Agbogbloshie and Agyei Kotoku will lead them to lose consumers.

Transportation or moving costs are also a consideration because they add to the victims’ financial burden.

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