Collaboration and competition: Market queens, trade unions and collective action of informal workers in Ghana’s Makola Market

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Abstract

This paper focuses on informal workers in Makola Market, Accra (Ghana), and the ways in which they organize for collective action. Ghana has a long history of trade and this makes for well-developed and culturally embedded local institutions that have organized and represented the (informal) workers active in markets. A prominent example is the market queens, who (cl)aim to oversee, protect and promote markets vis-a-vis the public and the (municipal) government. Yet, these social structures are not easily recognized as a kind of social movement by (inter)national trade unions. Hence trade union interventions and outreaches aimed at ameliorating the plight of informal workers tend to bypass and antagonize these existing formations, fuelling competition and division in the already fragmented and inherently competitive market space. Based on 2.5 year-long ethnographic research on strategic actors in inclusive development with a focus on informal workers, this article draws attention to empirical realities in Ghana. It demonstrates that bypassing culturally embedded groups is problematic because it feeds fragmentation and thus limits the possibilities for collective action.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)162-187
Number of pages26
JournalInterface : a Journal for and about Social Movements
Volume9
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2017

Keywords

  • informal workers
  • collective action
  • market queens
  • trade unions
  • Ghana
  • social movements
  • Makola market
  • ethnography

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