Mobilization

Someone coming from a capitalist country would be surprised at the way in which goods and services are exchanged for currency in West African cities. As the traffic is quite horrendous, especially during the rush hours, sellers precariously position themselves among the motionless cars and motorcycles, proffering their wares. The variety is outstanding: tissues, sunglasses, tables, cashew nuts, tee-shirts, just to name a few items. The interesting aspect of this mobile mall is the redundancy. Of each item represented on the roads, there are an almost infinite number of persons selling it.

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I suppose one could say that the factor of chance is what drives the choice in who sells what to whom. In principal, when the cars actually begin moving, the driver and passengers (the consumers) will arrive at a different set of sellers.  In reality, however, as I witnessed buying sunglasses, once the deliberations have begun, the seller is required to chase after the potential buyer, even if the price has not been agreed upon. In our case, the seller had to run so far and was so out of breath that he gave up the bargaining and simply offered me a rock bottom price to which I could not refuse.

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The items which are available on the road are therefore obligatorily portable and thus in many cases inexpensive. It is unclear to me how they actually make a financial profit, and even if so, is it worth the physical effort. So what motivates them? The selling provides an opportunity to interact with others which is of utmost importance here as is a sense of work ethic.

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In case you are wondering, these photos really have nothing to do with the content of this blog post. The blog in general is merely a place to store and share my thoughts. The visuals are just extra.

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