CONGESTION, filth, poor infrastructural development and planning are the characteristics of most markets in Accra and its suburbs.
In many respects the disorderliness of our markets mirrors the haphazard manner in which most infrastructural development and settlements are taking place in the country.
Markets are important places for socialising and commercial activities in Ghana, where all Ghanaians have a stake.
Traders spend all day there, while buyers also spend a great proportion of their time there, bargaining, purchasing, meeting and interacting with others.
The Madina market in the Ga East District and the Agbogboshie markets, in the Accra Metropolitan Area (AMA) are typical Ghanaian markets, where disorderliness, filth and general discomfort are exhibited.
Mr Frank Takie, the Director of The Consortium, experts in human settlement development, thinks the country has got it all wrong in the planning, siting and development of its markets.
District assemblies have the capacity at the local level to put in place an enabling environment for the easy acquisition of land for the development of markets.
Moreover, they are enjoined by the Local Government Act, 1993, (Act 462), to invest in markets, he says, and not shops as is the case currently.
Thus, by investing in markets, assemblies must concern themselves with providing convenient spaces with basic infrastructure such as sanitation facilities and modern butcheries.
District assemblies involve themselves in the building of shops, a venture that Mr Takie thinks must be left to private investors.
They disregard their core function of investing in functional markets.
Ideally markets must be designed and planned for, with space, adequate drains, collection points and parking lots and also planned to serve their purpose of facilitating commerce in a comfortable environment, he says.
“The way our markets operate are not right, their locations are wrong, space is inadequate and the engineering and planning of it is haphazard,” he said.
Apart from the physical development of the market, all markets in the country must be so located as to permit linkages and easy access by residents in the various environs, he said.
Supplies from the hinterland must be intercepted in markets built at the outskirts of cities for distribution to satellite markets within cities and at strategic areas for ease of access.
Markets built at the outskirts of the cities must be done with rest facilities for traders and farmers who bring their wares in bulk to the cities and sometimes have to stay for longer periods till they dispose of their goods.
From these markets at the outskirts, middlemen can buy directly from farmers and other traders and take them to sub-urban markets where others can then retail to small neighbourhood markets.
This concept is called the bulk breaking and allows for a decongestion of cities.
Close up, the Madina and Agbogbloshie markets have similar problems of poor infastructural facilities, inadequate space, poor sanitation and security.
All those who patronise these markets are conversant with challenges of parking, sanitation and congestion.
The car park at the Madina Market is now a trading area, metal containers, umbrellas and some wooden structures have been erected by traders to display wares.
Customers to the market have to park at the side of the main road in front of the market.
The chairman of the Madina Urban Council, Mr Yeboah Dadzie, said the lack of a central parking area for commercial drivers and the increasing number in people doing commerce had resulted in that.
However, the district assembly has completed a new market in Madina, behind the Presbyterian Boys Secondary School, and hawkers and street vendors with those selling at the car park are to be relocated there.
A commercial car park is also being built to relocate commercial vehicles and decongest the area, Mr Dadzie added.
Of all the markets in the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA), the Accra Markets Limited, that manages the Kaneshie Market stands out as a model.
Established in 1975, the Kaneshie Market is a partnership venture of the AMA, the National Investment Bank (NIB) and the State Insurance Company (SIC).
It is managed by the Accra Markets Limited, with good infrastructure by Ghanaian standards.
The Kaneshie Market, unlike most markets is housed in a three storey building with washrooms on every floor.
It serves Kanaeshie, Adabraka, Mallam, Odorkor and its environs. However, it also has challenges.
According to the Deputy Managing Director of the Accra Markets Limited, Mr Edmund Kofi Duffour Addae, sanitation is the greatest challenge, because with no dump site in the area, all communities surrounding the market see the market as a dump site.
“Sixty to 70 per cent of the refuse we have here comes from outside,” he said.
To overcome the challenge, the administrators have contracted an additional waste collecting agency to help lift rubbish and make the environs of the market better.
Another challenge, according to Mr Addae, is the spill-over effect of the AMA decongestion exercise in the central business district, which has resulted in a number of displaced hawkers settling at the Kaneshie Market.
Mr Addae said they were trying to contain them in the market and not make them spill over onto the streets.
For now, the administrators of the market are embarking on advertising within the market, using speakers to sensitise people to the availability of goods and services within the Kaneshie Market, as the traders, who number about 10,000 complain of low patronage at the market.
The market has also seen a facelift recently with the rehabilitation of an area in front of the market for use as a customers’ car park.
Mr Addae said the second phase of the rehabilitation of the market would be the renovation of the area in front of the market used by commercial vehicles.
He said that would begin by the first quarter of next year.
Accra Markets Limited, in the medium to long term,there are were plans to set up a 12 tower boarding parking area.
Markets, experts say, are important and need careful thought and planning to make them functional.
The idea of satellite functional markets are of paramount importance now more than ever , in the light of population growth, congestion in cities and increasing numbers of hawker0s.
District assemblies must stick to their functions of providing the policy initiatives for functional markets and partner with entrepreneurs for the running of markets.
DAILY GRAPHIC, SATURDAY, DECEMBER 8, 2007, PAGE 29