The (Real) Accra Mall

I stared out of my window, bored out of my mind. No magazine, no book, no games on my phone. A cry in the distance broke the silence. “Yeess, tie, tie, tie!” I had just started working and had come face to face with the reality of having to wear a tie to work every morning. I looked around.

It wasn’t till he called out again that I saw him. “Tie, tie!” He stretched one of the many yellow and black catapults he was selling and released it, his cry quickly reminding me of their Ghanaian name. What on earth for? A thrill that will last all of 10 minutes, then it’s chucked away. And besides, the local ones made with wooden handles are much stronger. I immediately remembered my bird-chasing days with Paa Willie and the boys. As for this cheap Chinese thing, I’m sure the okpo will even stand in the tree laughing at you as the flimsy catapult breaks in two as you stretch for the kill.

It struck me that if you can even buy inferior catapults on the road to 37, then this has got to be the real “mall with it all”. Forget Shoprite or Game. Everything you need, you’ll get on a hawker’s head somewhere in the city.

They’re everywhere. Part of the traffic. I wasn’t in Accra during Ghana @ 50, but I heard that the streets were cleared of them. I saw a picture of Opeibea deserted, and it looked horribly unnatural.

In reality, stretch your neck out of any trotro, taxi or private car and hiss, and you’ll get young and old sellers of all the stuff you don’t need running to you, regardless of oncoming traffic. Gone are the days when there were only apple and PK-Pectol sellers on the streets competing for space with the beggars. There was also the occasional Poki seller blowing his horn.

And don’t forget the ice water sellers. No, not the sealed ones we have now. The ones tied and filled with tap water. (I remember helping one lady near my house fill up these bags. Blow and fill. God help anyone who drank water that I and my friends bagged.)

Typically Accra

Today, if you need a baby cot, why go too far? I once saw somebody wheeling one up and down between the cars caught in a traffic jam in Accra.

Then there are calendars. It’s an endless production line. Everything from disasters to lynching of notorious armed robbers, they appear on calendars across the city. The dates, by the way, occupy a barely seen strip at the bottom. It’s not uncommon to see a 2006 calendar in a barber’s kiosk without noticing that it’s outlived its usefulness.

Movie? No problem. 30-in-1, with bad spelling on the covers, and bootlegged movies obviously recorded in the cinema. A friend told me of a DVD seller who walked up to him in his car. The hawker softly told the guy that he had “Brown Sugar” as well, stealthily revealing pirated pornographic DVDs hidden behind preaching DVDs. Vice and virtue, all available on the streets. But then, if you’re in the right section of town, you could even see a hawker carrying a DVD player in his arms, ready to make a quick buck. I’d think I’d want to make sure that the thing worked, at least! (With some of them, I’m sure you’d even see a DVD in them. Only God knows if the stuff is ummm … hot.)

And those who sell shoes in traffic, I need to ask the mate to park to try them on? Not happening.

One lady had a whole shop on her head, balancing among other things, scrubbing brushes and shoe brushes. If only she sold toothbrushes too, she could hand-on-heart use the slogan, “For anything you brush.”

Friends, but competitors

You’ll get anything you want on the streets, from tonight’s yam to little Kofi’s cheap water gun. And if you’re in the World Cup spirit, you could get Black Stars jerseys that only very well-trained eyes will see are fake.

Need binoculars? A hawker has a pair. Soon we’ll be able to buy petrol in gallons without entering any station. Indeed, if you desire anything and look hard enough, you’ll get it on your way home in the real Accra Mall, still your mall with it all.

So tell me. What are some of the strangest things you’ve seen being sold on the streets of Accra?

I watched the catapult seller walk away, shouting, “Tie, tie!” for all the world to hear. If his wares could help get me through the awful traffic without harming anyone, maybe I’d consider buying one.

Asomasi.

P.S. The Daily Commute has been published fortnightly for a while. I will be experimenting with a weekly post in the coming weeks.

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About Kwaku Dankwa

By day, I'm an advertising copywriter. That's what I've done all my working life (National Service doesn't count). Husband of Esther, father of Jesse, and servant of Christ. I previously wrote a blog on the dramatic side of public transport in Accra, "The Daily Commute: From Bridge to Ridge." Enjoy.
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20 Responses to The (Real) Accra Mall

  1. Naa Lamiley says:

    haha….this is really interesting! I LOVE IT!!! Nowadays, u can buy fried rice, plain rice or jollof (in packs) in traffic. and to think that the sun’s rays hav done justice to it! Hopefully, in future we’ll look back and remember the days when the accra mall was ryt in the middle of the street!
    Keep them coming :))

  2. Raj says:

    Nice piece. Tell you what, I saw someone selling medicated glasses i mean spectacles on the street and i ask “is it because our lives have become so fast that we don’t need to go to the optometrist anymore?.

    I also saw someone selling trousers. my question is what happens when i get home and realize that it does not fit? And if i should come back and luckily find the seller will he/she be willing to exchange it for the right size?

    I can almost bet that very soon we’ll have antibiotics, etc and other serious medications being sold on the streets.

  3. Lyrix says:

    Strangest things being sold on the streets of Accra?, hmmm. I have seen so many things being paraded that i will not be surprised to ‘akpakprensa’ with crabs being sold. Given that rice and stew is, the idea will not be far fetched.

  4. adwoa says:

    kuks, i love this! ur mall with it all, inDEED!

  5. Dee says:

    Puppies, lint remover, jewelry, cuff links…..

  6. Gabbsta (Mwalimu) says:

    you know the one that freaks me, the plantain chips. Praintain, praintain or cheeps, cheeps. what most people dont know is that the guys on the streets inflate the prices, a book sold at EPP for 5 cedis was on sale on the streets for 36 cedis. you know you can get fried chicken on the streets around the airport area?
    good writing son

  7. elorm says:

    No matter what we do, whether it is Ghana @ 50 or 1000, we will not be able to rid the streets of the “pure weta”

  8. esenam says:

    hahahahahahah…….i was telling my self, one can get all dressed up in traffic….u can get a dress, shoe, jewelery to go with,make up kit and perfume……Interesting!!!

  9. Kwadan says:

    What happened to the good old dog chain? I remember the days when one could only buy golden tree chocolate on the streets.

  10. richard says:

    donuts, shoe polish, super glue (not the real thing…never the real thing), puppies….yes, Asomasi, cute little puppies….

  11. Kwaku Dankwa says:

    Oh, how could I forget about the dog chains and the chocolate? That was like way back in the day … when hawking was nothing compared to the madness of the present age.

    Now I expect to buy mobile phone credit on the road rather than in a shop.

    As for the food you can get, I intentionally didn’t mention it. A whole post is gonna be dedicated to that one in due course!

  12. Helen says:

    ….chilled drinks of every kind, packed lunch and or dinner in take away packs, oh where is “nkatiea burger”….. indeed its an endless list of items any one can grab from this mall

  13. naa k. says:

    oh yes of course, the mobile credits…i must say that one is very convenient though..ha ha

  14. sharl says:

    the scariest one for me was when i saw cutlass (langa langa) being sold in your “real accra mall”. what has become of us? i guess soon we will be having instant pedicures and manicures done in the streets as well. what will they call it i wonder?

  15. benanyan says:

    multi sockets, tool kits, everything to start a small-time carpentary workshop, lol. Lovely post K, i think a post a week wont be bad too.

  16. Mammie says:

    Just read this…its spot on the real Accra Mall is in our streets not at TT quarshie…lol..

  17. Selasie says:

    last time i did some awoshia somewhere on a weekday, i just got dressed on my way to work. New white shirt, underwear- got those from the wheelbarrow boutique, got a ‘gucie’ tie and i got some 213 cologne. Not bad eh? Next time you don’t sleep at home or forgot to do your laundry; don’t fret. The Real Accra Mall’s got it all!

  18. Efo Dela says:

    Buy on the streets of Accra is a test of faith. Imagine buying a light bulb while moving through traffic. There’s really no way of testing if it will work.
    What about all the “TV Poles” they sell? How can u be sure they work. True test of faith

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