Blog Post #5
Walking on the street of Ghana, you can see numerous people walking with a big bowl on their heads. They congregate at the traffic lights, and when the lights turn red, they will rush by all the cars and ask people in the car if they will buy the things in their bowls. The most common goods are water (Sashi or bottled) and drinks; bread; plantain chips (as the photo below); spring rolls; donuts (Ghanaian donuts); Vodafone data cards; and sometimes there are people selling belts, textile, chocolate, and other things.
Another form of market is sole proprietorship: markets along the streets. People along the street have built their own stores to sell all kinds of essentials, from soaps to eggs to snacks to computers, to amplifiers, to TV, to Vodafone cards.
In the beginning, I was skeptical, because I am used to buying foods and essentials from the market. I have this preconceived notion that food along the streets are not as clean and healthy and the quality of goods in the stores along the street would be lower. Therefore, in the first weekend, I went to the Palace Hypermarket which is a supermarket in Santasi region. I looked through all the things on the shelves. The type of goods sold in those areas is pretty similar, except there may be some imported goods. However, the vegetables and fruits are not as fresh, and also, some of the shelves are not refilled by goods. I, then, went to the Shoprite in Kumasi city mall, which is one of the biggest markets in Ghana. There are so many more people there, with more goods. It is similar to Harris Teeter in North Carolina, US, and Jialefu in China. One thing that sells in the market that I normally don’t see on the street is alcohol. The price of the products is normally higher than those in the stores on the street. I bought some fruits and vegetables from Shoprite the first time I went there. Gradually, I started to purchase more and more from the ladies (normally they are all women) walking along the streets, and from the sellers along the streets.
I talked with some women selling donuts, meat pie, bread, and spring rolls on the streets. One lady making donuts said that “I have to wake up at 3 in the morning to make those.” Knowing that they make that fresh every day and hearing their stories draw me closer to them. I felt more than merely a buyer, but also a part of the connection. I’m buying not only because I want to eat donuts, but also because I want to have some home-made fresh food by this lady who I see every day at the same spot. The market in Ghana is more humanitarian in this way.
It is the humanitarian way of dealing with goods and services that largely promoted business organizations like sole proprietorship and partnerships. Comparing to China and the US which relies mostly on public companies such as Target and Walmart, Ghana relies less on public companies.
The prosperity of the sole proprietorship affected the market structure in Ghana. Because there are so many people on the streets selling the same products, such as water from the same brand Vena, the market structure is almost like a perfectly competitive market. (For features of a perfectly competitive market go to
https://www.economicsonline.co.uk/Business_economics/Perfect_competition.html. When buying foods, water, and data cards on the street, there’s unanimous consent on what the price is. Buyers usually hand out 20 pesewas (Ghanaian currency) without asking to get a bag of water. Every Trotro (a type of public transportation in Ghana) has the same price from one spot to another (except everybody tries to overcharge foreigners). All the people selling the same products congregate together: people would weave keychains would walk together, taxi drivers stay together, all the stores open right next to each other, all the ladies walk together. I once asked some of the sellers why do they stay together, and one of them pointed at another said “He is my senior brother. He is my brother.”
Since all of them walk together and sell together because of the social connection that Ghanaian emphasize, and there are so many people selling identical products at the same price, the market structure in Kumasi exhibit some major characteristics of a perfectly competitive market. There are so many cultural reasons support its existence, although some economists believe that this form is unlikely to exist. After living six weeks here, I have to say that I think this market structure is rather convenient and emphasizes on human connection more.
Ghana. Ministry of Trade and Industry. Ghana’s National Trade Policy. Accessed July 2, 2019. http://moti.gov.gh/docs/Ghana Trade Policy.pdf.
“Ghana – Tariff Rate, Applied, Simple Mean, Manufactured Products (%) – Country Comparison.” n.d. Accessed July 2, 2019. https://www.indexmundi.com/facts/indicators/TM.TAX.MANF.SM.AR.ZS/compare?country=gh#country=cn:gh:us.
Schwimmer, Brian. “Market Structure and Social Organization in a Ghanaian Marketing System.” American Anthropological Association, 1979, 682-701.