Ghana, Accra, Transport and Trade for Market Women, 2006 - present

Ghana women trader caring a load in her head into a market

Project Summary

Transport and Trade for Market Women aims to improve livelihood opportunities and improve social conditions for the female market traders in Accra, Ghana. The lack of a transport service that meets the needs of women traders reduces their profits, increases their working hours and exposes them to unnecessary risks.

This project will provide the recently formed women’s transport co-operative with a small fleet of light goods vehicles and training and support in the necessary transport management and business skills to ensure they operate in a profitable and sustainable manner. The profits made will be used for the vehicle replacement and expansion of the fleet.

The Problem
Accra’s markets are the centre of the city’s economic activity; it is here where most people buy their basic goods. The majority of traders are women who source and carry their own goods to the market at great expense and effort.
The existing transport service fails to meet traders’ particular needs, it increases their costs and forces many women into a punishing daily routine that makes life unnecessarily hard for them and their families. Bus drivers frequently refuse to allow women to board if they are carrying goods and taxi drivers often demand that women take the whole taxi rather than share.  
Transport costs can represent up to 40% of average turnover for traders, and these costs get passed on to those who come to buy basic commodities from the markets. But it isn’t just the high cost of transport that affects the women traders, walking and waiting for transport means that a working day can stretch from 4am to 11pm.
As transport is so costly and time-consuming, and the risk of theft is high, some women choose to stay with their products at the market site until their stock is sold. This means frequent overnight stays at the market, often keeping the younger children with them. 
The Process
The market traders function in highly organised co-operatives and commodity guilds. A committee structure exists that brings together representatives to discuss problems and concerns. They are great entrepreneurs, but by tradition have never involved themselves with transport, which is solidly the man’s domain. 
Following discussion with Transaid the cooperative leaders set up the transport co-operative, and together we have designed a business plan to manage a small donated fleet of vehicles, and build this into a self-financing and sustainable transport service for the co-operatives.
Phase 1 began with a visit to Accra by Caroline Barber, a Wincanton logistics volunteer.  Caroline worked with the co-operative leaders to develop the Business Plan and Operating Policy for the transport operation.
This is to be followed by technical and transport management training for selected members of the co-operative, the recruitment and training of drivers (hopefully women).
A small pilot fleet of light goods vehicles will then be donated to the co-operative in order to kick-start the project. This fleet will be operational for a trial period during which Transaid will provide ongoing monitoring and support to the cooperative to ensure the fleet is operated equitably, efficiently and cost effectively.
For the second stage Transaid will support the co-operatives in the acquisition of mainstream finance to expand the fleet through a combination of reinvestment of profit, and loans. 
Ghana Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Social Development
The Market Traders Co-operative Union
The Results
The women transport co-operative will assist their members with transport of goods that is reliable and accessible, and that take their needs into account.
Efficient management of the fleet will allow the co-operative to use a margin of the profits for maintenance, and in the future renew and expand the co-operative’s fleet.
The Impact
The co-operative members and their families will be the first to benefit from this project. These women will gain greater profits in fewer hours of work which means they can spend more time with them.
The success of these co-operatives will set an example for other women showing that they can manage their transport by themselves in a more efficient manner. This example and the skills acquired by these women can lead to the creation of similar sustainable co-operatives.
Finally, in the long run, the easier access to transport for the female traders will result in the decrease on the prices at the consumers’ level.

To see a video on this project click here