Early November, in Accra, the capital of Ghana, , 40 years old Ghanaian entrepreneur Otoo Emmanuel Addo introduced his activities to women in Kaneshie market. Kaneshie Market is a trading center built in the 1970s. It is a night market. But people also work in the morning from 4 am to 6 pm, according to Otoo . He owns a company called Eng-solutions ltd. I met him during a two days conference called “dare to share knowledge on just transitions”.
“I am interested in just transitions and this conference was quite helpful, as I usually felt alone, trying to solve problems by myself”, he explained. The dare to share knowledge platform on just transitions was a two days event aimed to help bridge the gap between many stakeholders and helped understanding how to reach a fair sustainable development in Africa , through case studies. But I found useful after these two days to see how this entrepreneur’s activities can be understood by women working in the market.
After the conference, Otoo drove me to Kaneshie market. Traffic is very dense in Accra and traffic noise is also intense. It will even be noticed in the car and in the market. In the car, the entrepreneur told me his story and explained to me how his family understands what he is doing with organic waste and how his whole family finally supports his activities. He is the last of 7 . It must be said that since his childhood Otoo has been working. He first repaired flashlights at the age of 5 with the support of his grandfather. Today, he owns a company with more than 80 employees paid with an independent remuneration system. Otoo works between formal and informal. He has a solar panel company, but he is also doing many other activities, he emphasized. He studied science and worked in Germany.
When we arrived at Kaneshie Market after a 30 minutes drive, Otoo first unfolded how he used to introduce his activities in Ghanaian markets. Normally he finds the leader of the association of sellers to introduce his activities. But this time was different as it was a direct request from myself. Otoo spoke with her in Twi and translated my questions. Originally from Kumasi, Ghana’s commercial city, Otoo speaks twi, an Akan dialect from Ghana’s largest ethnic group. There are more than 32 million inhabitants in this country.
Women in West Africa, according to an OECD report titled « Agriculture, Food and Jobs in West Africa », published in 2018, plays a central role in the food economies of the Sahel and West Africa, accounting for 51% of total employment. The report said that in rural areas, 75% of women employed within the food economy work in agriculture. In urban areas, off-farm food activities employ 4 women out of 5 women working in the food economy.
In Kaneshie market, indeed a lot of women are working, selling plantains, yams, tomatoes, coconuts…
With Otoo as a translator, I have asked mama Dorothy how she preserves plantains. “Plantains should not be in contact with water, otherwise they turn black like these ones,” she explained and showed me the black ones. To preserve them, the saleswoman puts them in a basket. She also said that merchants who buy plantains in large quantities use the waste from these bananas to give to the animals. Plantain waste can also be valorized. According to the book “plantain banana, socio-economic and technical issues”, published in May 2019, plantain banana contributes to food security. Powders from its processing can also be used for biogas production. Ghana, report the authors of the book, Moise Kwa and Ludovic Temple, is one of the 8 main banana-growing countries. According to the authors, climate change affects production. There are 150 varieties of banana seedlings and these bananas face these challenges differently. This crop must also deal with the lack of fertilization, the lack of control of pests, fungi, bacteria and also the lack of training of producers, the authors of the study emphasize.
Otoo is also a multifunctional person. During the discussion with mama Dorothy, he talked about his computer training awareness’s job when he was at university in Ghana. ” I opened an informal school to help people understand excel..”, he said. We learned during the conversation that mama Dorothy’s eldest son studies at university. ” I give you my phone number and you will give it to your son so that he can call me and I will give him some small tips about life: once he gets this orientation, he will know exactly what to do”, Otoo said to the seller.
Otoo said he can help people in any field. “It’s in my nature”. Mama Dorothy informed us she also works to pay for his son’s education at university. “I will help him to create a small business as I used to do when I was at university,” the entrepreneur said.
We left mama Dorothy and we went to meet another group of women 5 minutes by foot. I noticed many plastics in the street, and also a lot of plastic bags with water. Plastic remains a problem for health security. As it is very hot in november, people drank a lot through these plastic bags. But Otoo said that there are recycling companies which used to fetch these plastic bags. In the market, I noticed also many vegetables.
According to an OECD report entitled “Development Dynamics in Africa 2023: Investing in Sustainable Development”, global yam (95%) and cowpea (85%) production were largely attributable to West Africa, and seven of the region’s top 15 agricultural products represented 50% of the continent’s production. While most people are from rural areas, market vendors live in the surrounding suburbs of Accra.
We met a group of women who sell yams. They have an association, called “Yam Celest Association ”. Their names are Felicia, Esther, Cecilia… Otoo presents his activities again. This time, he showed images from his mobile phone, presenting all his crops from organic waste, including those representing cassava, one of the country’s main food resources. Women, who like mama dorothy support their families with their daily work, are impressed by what they see. Felicia Appiah then asked Otoo for his phone number. She invited him at her place to duplicate his activities.
As a reminder, one of the five main priorities of the Accra Climate Action Plan from 2020 to 2025 is to separate organic waste from landfills. There should be no open dumping of organic waste in 2050 in this city of more than 4 million people, according to its climate action plan.
“I have this knowledge, but I do not know if in the next 50 years I will be alive, I prefer to share : if I die now, I will leave all my knowledge, but if I share it with these women, they can even transmit it to their children,”entrusted the entrepreneur.
Otoo likes to solve problems by creating work, he said. Today, he has a solar company, gained from his experience in Germany. He also does security systems. He has an interest in biogas and he is looking for opportunities in the carbon market too. ” I’m interested in biogas and in carbon market, and I want to partner, but it has to be win-win”, he said. He is now in contact with Enoch Kofi Boadu, CEO of DAS Biogas and Construction, another entrepreneur who was at the dare to share knowledge platform.
” I look at the value of this transition, renewable energy, waste management, but I do not usually force people, I just introduce myself,” Otoo concluded our conversation.
Report made in Accra, Ghana, by Houmi Ahamed-Mikidache