This paper reports on a study into the use of the informal public transport system by women traders in Accra, Ghana. Market trading in the urban centres of Ghana is a predominantly female economic activity and is a fundamental element in the survival strategies of many low income households. Petty trading is the predominant form of commercial activity and as such, given the financial constraints inherent in this form of trading, necessitates frequent travel between wholesale market and selling place on the part of these female traders. In addition, the lack of secure market storage areas requires the many female market traders to transport their wares across the urban areas on a daily basis. Female traders make use of the informal public transport system, in combination with supplementary services such as portering, to meet their very frequent travel needs. Public transport policy, however, often concentrates on the inefficiencies of the informal nature of public transport and the need to carry passengers. This paper highlights the load carrying needs of a section of the fare paying public, the solutions they shape through the use of the informal transport system to meet their needs and the ways in which these women traders and their households organise to allow the transport system to be used in this form thus permitting trading to continue and contributing to their household's survival. It, then, considers the policy consequences of these findings in the context of the travel needs of the urban poor.
The seventh World Conference on Transport Research, Sydney, 16-21 July 1995. TRL - Crowthorne, UK. pp. 21