The Ghanaian Bazaar

I love going to bazaars in Ghana. Basically each bazaar is a collection of 30 – 40 vendors selling all sorts of wares – beads, furniture, clothes, artwork, books, craft, jewelery, the works. It is normally in the open air; each vendor with a table, under a canopy. There is often music, entertainment and games for children. The result is a colourful, festive carnival-like environment.

It is a true win-win (dare I add another win?) situation. The vendors get an opportunity to display their wares to customers, the organisers raise funds from the vendors (the entrance fee and any other fees that they collect), and the attendees have access to a variety of vendors all in one place. Vendors are often more willing to bargain at a bazaar than at their normal place of business as they attempt to make the most of the event.

The United Nations Spouses’ Association of Ghana, of which I am the current president, held such a bazaar on February 12. It was a successful event, attracting over 350 people and we raised a considerable amount of money for our chosen charity, a very under-privileged school. It was truly a different experience, being on the organising end of the event and I learnt several things about Ghanaian behavior in the process.

1. There really is such a thing as +3 GST – Ghana Standard Time. Almost every company and individual that promised to arrive at time x arrived at least three hours late.

2. The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in Ghana. While we were setting up for the event, two packs of raffle tickets went missing. We were not particularly concerned. However, shortly after the gates opened, a group of five patrons expressed great surprised at being asked to pay a gate fee since they had already bought an entrance ticket outside. They presented the raffle tickets which had been sold to them by a respectably dressed young man just outside the gates. He sold about 20 tickets during the course of the day and we were never able to catch him.

3. Prepare to be disappointed. The day before the bazaar, we collected promises like bottle caps – I will be there at 7 am, I will have everything I need, it will fit, it will work, it will reach, it is included. And one by one, almost every promise was broken.

4. In Ghana, at least for the small stuff, if you leave it alone it will work itself out. Problems were like colonies of worms, they wriggled and wriggled until they untangled themselves and scooted off into the ground. We had no electricity and the generator was strong enough to operate the kiddie games OR the music system, so the drumming group took over the entertainment and played longer than they had been paid to do. We did not have enough water to sell so the guys commissioned to bring them at the wholesale price went somewhere and got some more from goodness knows where. The guy who was selling tickets outside? Well, we are sure no good will come to him from the money he stole!

5. It’s really all about the people. We held the bazaar at a beautiful location, but it was too small for the number of vendors who had purchased stalls. I intervened in several discussions between vendors each of whom were trying to organise his stall to make the best sales. In every situation, I simply got each vendor to express their concern and then I left them to work it out. When I took a look over later, they would be happily settled in their stalls. With few exceptions they were all courteous and accommodating, thus guaranteeing a spot at next year’s bazaar.

Will I do it again? On the morning of the bazaar, the answer was definitely not. As the memory of the madness fades, I am considering it again.

Photos kindly taken by Photos by Promit Moulik.
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