While riding in taxis in Accra, I have noticed that among the street vendors that hock their wares at car windows, a number of them are selling paintbrushes. Strange products aren't exactly unusual. While in a car to Cape Coast, my friends and I bought a flapping duck toy from a very earnest vendor, who did not seem to think there was anything strange about childless adults buying such a thing. My coworker was once offered a vibrator while in a taxi. However, I have not seen multiple vendors selling flapping ducks or vibrators, and I have seen many vendors selling paintbrushes, which has led me to wonder how many people driving around Accra see one of these vendors and remember they have some painting to do at home and need a brush.
I recently solved the mystery of the roadside demand for paintbrushes. I was in a taxi, and as we were stopped in traffic, the driver opened his glove box, pulled out a paintbrush, and used it to dust off his dashboard, which had a light coat of the reddish dust that is ubiquitous in Ghana this time of year. Eh-heh!
Recently, Accra decided to put a stop to street vending to people in cars, in part over concern about traffic safety. It's not illegal to sell something to someone in a car, but it is illegal to buy something from someone when you are in a car-- a nice twist that ensures that penalties fall on the wealthier purchasers, who are better able to bear them. However, assuming the rule is enforced, the ultimate result will be the same-- with no demand, there will be fewer street vendors on the roads. It is not clear how much of the sales that took place on the roads will shift to markets and other outlets, but I think we can expect more unemployment among those who used to work as vendors-- and dustier taxis.
I have worked in economic policy and research in Washington, D.C. and Ghana. My husband and I recently moved to Guyana, where I am working for the Ministry of Finance. I like riding motorcycle, outdoor sports, foreign currencies, capybaras, and having opinions.