By Ato Keelson & Mindy Cooper
One basic commodity that has shed its expensive tag in Ghana and the world at large is the mobile phone. In the early 90's mobile phones in Ghana were considered a very expensive and scarce commodity.
At the time, these tiny and portable electronic devices were not only considered the preserve of the rich in the society, but they were also very difficult to come by. People who possessed such electronic gadgets were accorded appreciable magnitude of respect.
However, this story can no longer be told today, particularly when mobile phones are widely patronized and used in almost every nook and cranny of Ghana. Thanks to telecommunication companies like Mobile Telecommunications Network (MTN), Vodafone, Tigo, Kasapa and Zain it is now possible for us to reach our relatives who live in the hinterlands. Now in Ghana, with a minimum of GH¢1 and an amount of GH¢20, one can get both a cell phone and a starter pack to allow him/her to be hooked on any of the telecommunication companies in the country.
If you doubt this, we would entreat you to travel to the remotest of any of the ten regions in Ghana where you will find a plethora of ordinary charcoal, food and porridge sellers, Grannies and Grandpas, all using a mobile phone. This growth of technological gadgetry can only tell us that within Ghanaian culture mobile phones have become a basic necessity.
In Today's world people are ready to dole out huge sums of money to the tune of between GH¢600-1, 000 Ghana cedis in order to purchase the latest Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Motorola, or Samsung phone in town. Currently, giant mobile phone manufacturing companies such as Nokia, Motorola, Sony Ericson and Vodafone are facing stiff competition amongst themselves and are always finding ways of getting more people in the world to purchase their mobile phone products.
One hot spot and area where the mobile phone businesses continue to grow is in Circle, a suburb of Accra. Here, one can see various mobile phone shops with very interesting names, including: Flex Phones, Happy Phones, God Son Entertainment, Big Ambition, Freddie's Corner, Mobile Phone People and Fuzzy Phones. It is also an arena where, apart from the congested nature of phone shops, people can find either the latest Nokia phone or the newest Sony Ericson in town.
At Circle, as a very busy community in terms of mobile phone dealings, if one is not very careful he/she can be swindled by people who also parade the area as phone sellers. Such elements do not own shops and are known for always sitting on the metallic bars along the pavement.
“Our business is going down,” said Mr. Bash. “The outside people can sell more than those who are in the shop.” Their style has been to taunt and persuade consumers with all kinds of sugar coated words before you even enter into any of the registered shops to begin to browse for your phone.
Mr. Bash pointed out that the reason people are buying them on the outside is because they are cheaper even though they are often purchasing stolen merchandise. Unlike the phones sold within stores, which buy their phones from places in Japan and Dubai, those sold on the street offer cell phone buyers no security for the customer if something were to go wrong.
On the other hand, Mr. Hololi Alason, who has worked at Fuzzy Phones since 1995, says that because the shops selling cell phones offer amenities that those who are hawking the products can't, people often prefer going into to stores.
“When you buy it in the store you have a guarantee, but when you buy it in the markets you don't have guarantee because it's stolen,” he said.
However, by selling goods on the street less people are venturing into stores and therefore are making the times hard economically for these entrepreneurs.
“A whole day can go by, and we never sell one,” said Mr. Bash. There is much consensus from those who own cell phone store that in the future the boys selling phones will be out of the street. And it was observed that if nothing is done about the phone hawkers, than they will continue posing a serious threat to the wellbeing of those who are running their cell phone businesses in the future.