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A note from Ghana: Hustling is universal

By XN Iraki | Nov 10th 2021 | 2 min read
By XN Iraki | November 10th 2021

Madafu on sale on a street in Accra, Ghana. [Courtesy]

Makola market in Accra, Ghana resembles Gikomba in many ways. It’s noisy, full of carts but less crowded.

At 8pm when I visited, some traders danced on the streets to loud music while a preacher tried to reach out to the crowd too. 

The small scale businessmen and women sell anything from bread to cooked food and clothes. Lots of food stuffs from yams to onions were on sale. Even Madafu. Ghanaians carry luggage on their heads much like our kin from western Kenya. 

It seems wherever you go, hustling is universal. There are always men and women who must start small or even live small. No matter how much we praise large companies, SMEs remain the backbone of most economies.

In Ghana, the informal sector contributes about 80 per cent of employment, much like in Kenya. Ghana has hustlers too. They use matatus, called trotros with touts calling out passengers much like Kenya.

Trotros are Mercedes, VW and even Dodge. Motor bikes are not as prominent in Accra as they are in Nairobi. I heard they could even be banned.

Access to capital has been cited a big hurdle for SME growth. In Ghana, interest rates are rather high.

One bank says it has the lowest interest rate at 22.75 per cent down from 26 per cent. One entrepreneur in Ghana told me the rates are worse among micro-finance institutions (MFIs).

Kenyan banks used to have almost similar rates. One finance expert, who preferred to remain anonymous, explains how we got out of that fix.

“Fiscal consolidation as practiced by the Mwai Kibaki administration, a mix of higher tax collections, tightened spending and lower borrowing by the government was the solution.” 

Beyond high interest rates, hustlers everywhere suffer from neglect. Their working spaces are poorly lit, overcrowded and lack basic amenities. 

It’s paradoxical that in Africa we neglect the vast majority of the population then complain about joblessness, insecurity and slow growth rates. 

It’s time we stopped talking about hustlers and focused more on improving their working environment. 

Hustlers are serious men and women proud of their self - reliance. Even climatic change should not distract us from this key sector. 

Out of their experimentation, we could get the next generation of African multinationals

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