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Ghana Prepares for 50th Anniversary Celebrations


In Ghana, the authorities of the capital city, Accra have started clearing the business district of unauthorized structures and street vendors, as the West African nation prepares to celebrate its 50th independence anniversary in March. Efam Dovi visited the central business district and files this VOA report.

Makola Market in Accra is one of the biggest open markets in West Africa. It is listed as a tourist attraction, but the usually crowded streets and sidewalks, combined with 30 degrees Celsius plus weather most time of the year, makes it not very attractive to some.

Here, people compete with vehicles for space, as the pedestrian lanes have been taken over by street vendors, who usually display their wares on sidewalks.

Today however, people are using the sidewalks again and the traffic is moving. Last Friday night, stalls and kiosks and other unauthorized structures were demolished and removed ahead of a massive clean-up exercise throughout the city.

Clogged drains were cleared and heaps of garbage that have been mounting in many parts of the city, are also being removed.

Previous programs to clear the city were not successful. But the mayor of Accra, Stanley Nii Adjiri-Blankson says this time round he is determine to have a clean, modern city.

"We are resolute in our determination to move the petty traders and hawkers from the streets and pavements, because that is one of the ways the city of Accra can be mirrored as a modern metropolis where business can be conducted with ease and in a hassle free manner," he said.

Crowd control policemen on horses and security officials are guarding the market streets, to ensure that the street hawkers do not return.

A new pedestrian market has also been built.

With the street vendors gone, shop owners like Jane are happy and hopeful business will be good again.

She says it is good the street traders have been sent away. She says when they were here, customers preferred to buy from them, because people think goods displayed on the floor, are cheaper than those in the shops. She says the goods in the shops are of better quality, and says the shop owners pay taxes and duties to the authorities and have bigger expenditure. She says storeowners will benefit greatly from the exercise.

But not everyone is happy with the results. Kwabena Amoa used to sell shirts on the sidewalks.

He says he has been allocated a stall at the new market, but says he couldn't start trading because the authorities have asked them to wait for official inauguration in three weeks. He says they should have been allowed to continue selling on the pavements until the inauguration. He says they work with loans, and are losing money for not being able to work. He says some of them have children in school to cater for.

The mayor's office, however, denies Amoa's claims.

Nii Adjiri-Blankson says the new market is opened for trading, but says unlike other markets, traders need official identity card to trade.

"You need to wear your tag, your ID tag, if you want to sell, anybody who sells in the market without an ID tag will be arrested," he explained.

Accra is one of the fastest growing cities in sub-Saharan Africa, with an estimated population of close to 4 million.

Similar exercises over the years to clear the city were not successful because the authorities lack the resources to enforce the laws.

For now however, the authorities are doing everything they can, to show a beautiful Ghana to their numerous guests from around the world. Thousands are expected for Ghana's 50th anniversary celebration as the first African country to have gain political independence.