Monday, October 13, 2008

Broken Water on the Streets in the City of Accra

A pitiable, teen-age boy snoozes like a sculpture hewed out of the darkness at the roadside. A medium-size basin poses upright in the street, one metre before him. A half-dozen plastic bags lie scattered and flattened on the street; and the boy, the bowl and the bags all stand in a tiny wash of water.

The boy looks dazed, and utters not a sound. As every car schleps by in the half-light jam, he lifts his cheerless eyes to the window, and then into the black heavens. The first time I witnessed this, I worked out the obvious interpretation, and was moved to stop to give him 5 Ghana Cedis.

Not quite a week later, I saw the same woebegone scene re-enact itself in a different part of Accra, and another in another part, and another, and another…. And, then, I caught on. It is a new money-making ploy in the City of Accra!


  1. I feel a struggle in your text, a struggle I often face when driving. The one between sympathy and cynicism. Do we feel sorry for these people and give them money or just brush them off as another bunch of free-loaders who really ought to get a job?

    I can never decide and therefore a person who begs from me will never know his fate as it changes from day to day.

  2. Maya, I think from a post last week, Denise feels largely the same. Sometimes I wonder who is the victim of whose actions. What makes teen boys set up such a false scene to make money off honest workers who have been away from home for more than 12 hours?

  3. Yes, it is like the time I heard that London beggars made an average of £50 a day, then realised I was making just around that. The next time I saw a beggar I couldn't help but feel that I was the fool/victim for getting up, getting ready, going to commute and slave for hours before handing over part of my salary to him!


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