Informal sector activities are not urban nuisance: Integrate them into mainstream of land use planning.
Odumase, December 16, 2022
Ms Gifty Nyarko, the Sunyani West Municipal Physical Planning Director has reiterated that integrating the informal sector activities into the mainstream of land use planning is vital in achieving the Goal 11 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) thus, achieving livable and sustainable cities.
She therefore urged the District and Municipal Assemblies “not to always see locations of informal sector activities as an urban nuisance”.
Speaking in an interview with thefourlens.com on Friday, Ms Nyarko indicated that the International Labour Organization (ILO) 2020 classifies the informal workers as “those working without government permit, approved trading spaces or permanent locations in the city but have inconspicuously inserted, attached or settled themselves and their activities into urban open spaces”.
According to Ms Nyarko, the informal sector workers are estimated about 85 percent of the urban economy of Ghana and represent approximately $63 billion at GDP level as indicated by the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MoTI) in 2019.
She said despite this significant contribution of the sector to the Ghanaian economy, much attention have not been given to it.
Ms Nyarko emphasized the only time operators of the sector receive attention in Ghana is when they are being displaced, evicted, relocated or their structures are demolished.
Saying that, all these efforts to get rid of them have failed because as long as the formal sector could not absorb all the Ghanaian working population, the informal sector activities ought to flourish.
She told thefourlens.com that “informality does not mean illegality, just that they have not been integrated into the mainstream of land use planning”, a situation making operators of the sector competing for urban space to undertake their small scale businesses to make ends meet.
She cited petty traders doing businesses such as porridge, waakye, kenkey selling and mobile phone operators need an urban space before they could do their business, but no space is specifically zoned for these activities apart from the market space zoned on local plans.
Consequently, these small businesses have no option than to locate in marginal spaces, incidental open spaces, encroach on roads and buffers within the urban environment in an unregulated manner, Ms Nyarko observed.
She said the informal sector operators are in that regard seen as threat to proper city management systems, yet city authorities could not find antidotes to the situation.
Ms Nyarko therefore suggested that zoning land spaces on local plans for the petty traders in a nice shed along streets and zoning land as mix-uses would help sanitize the urban system and avoid the issue of city authorities pouncing on them everyday for eviction in the name of decongesting the central business areas of cities and other arterial roads.
She further opined that regularizing the activities of informal sector operators could also prevent them from selling at unhygienic and unauthorized areas.
Hence, the need for proper plans by the City authorities for these small businesses to avoid the situation of haphazard and uncontrolled siting of containers and tables in cities.
This, she noted would help beautify the cities, increase revenue mobilization and enhance infrastructure arrangement.
Ms Nyarko added in proper planning processes, the local people are key partners in infrastructure provision, therefore the need for community engagement get them well informed as participants in the land use planning processes.
This is because they have to be in the known about their stake in national development, she said.
Ms Nyarko called on the Municipal and District Assemblies to view this informal activities (containers) as not nuisance but rather take steps to allocate space in the local plans for these activities with proper data base to enhance a more inclusive national development.
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