On Life, love and Politics

"Random musings about Life, love and Politics. Just my open diary on the events going on in the world as I see it."

A Day With Carriers at Mfoundi Market January 18, 2010

Filed under: Society/Societe — kikenileda @ 4:30 AM

Mfoundi

The group is made up of young children who help buyers transport luggage.

It’s 10:00 a.m. in Yaounde and we are at “Marché Mfoundi”, one of the
big markets in the metropolis. It is as busy as ever. From the main
junction at the former Cameroon Airlines office to the market the area
is teaming with activity. The busiest group of people happens to be
carriers or “porteurs” in French. The porters move along the main road
with wheelbarrows looking for potential customers. The customers are
mostly women shopping especially during weekends. This group, which is
usually made up of young children, mostly boys, specialises in carrying
peoples’ luggage during or after shopping and help them to the car.
Customers then pay a certain amount not less than FCFA 100 to the
carriers. The wheelbarrows take several items and serves as the fastest
and easiest means of transportation in the markets.

Apart from using the wheelbarrows, some group of porters carry the bags
on their heads while others prefer their backs depending on the kind of
good. John, one of the carriers seen with a 50kg bag of rice on his
back moving to one of the shops in the market, said he prefers his back
because it is easier. “I am used to it. This way I work faster. Also
the distance is short,” he said. A little boy of about 15 almost had
his oxiput shattered by the boot of a car as he tried to load the
luggage f a customer. This did not bother anybody, not even the lady
whose luggage he was loading after all she had already paid her
transportation fare. “These are some of the risks involved in the
profession,” said one of the traders. Another trader, Christian Durand,
who owns a beauty shop, said most of the porters are children who
working to earn money to pay their school fees and other needs while
few of them are street children. “Some have even left school and have
decided to continue with the profession. They are looking for money to
live,” he said.

No Uniforms

Some of these carriers are as young as 11 and they struggle to face the
task. One of them shied away by questions from because
he was not sure of the people talking to him. According to Christian,
the young children are sent by their parents and they have been given
instructions. What raises eyebrows is the fact that in most cases, the
porters are alleged to have made away with the goods of their
customers. Beaudelaire K, a trader said for some it is an easy means
for stealing even though not all. “Some women even forget to tell the
carriers that they have stopped to buy something. So the carries get
lost and deposits the goods elsewhere”. In such cases the woman will
start complaining,” he said. The major problem is that the carriers in
most markets especially in Mfoundi market have no uniforms or numbers.
As a result if any carrier steals, he cannot be easily identified.
One of our informants who asked for anonymity said he was a carrier for
one year before raising money to start trading. He explained that most
of the carriers have the habit of stealing their customers’ goods
especially when they notice that the customer is not vigilant. “Some
times we just hear a woman crying that all her goods have disappeared.
In such situations nothing can be done because nobody can identify the
carrier,” he said.

Cost of Services

The cost of carrying luggage is however affordable. The price ranges
between FCFA 100 and FCFA 1000. One of the carriers, Achilles Ndzie,
23, said he has been in the job for the past three years. He said he
goes to the market at 6:00 a.m. and goes back home at 1:00 a.m. He
makes a living from the job. He explained that there is no fixed rate
for customers. “It all depends on the luggage. If it is much the
customer can pay FCFA 300 or even more,” he said. Patrick, a trader,
said the cost is FCFA 100 but customers pay FCFA 500 or even as much as
1000 as a way of encouraging the boys. The profession is however not an
easy one.

Seraphin Meke, 32, one of the carriers said the problem facing the
business is that the agents of the Yaounde City Council seize their
wheelbarrows from time to time. “They don’t want us to work in the
market. When they seize your wheelbarrow you have to go and collect it
at the council and in most cases you never find it,” he said. He
however accepted the fact that, most of the carriers are street
children and they are out to steal. He said because of that many
customers don’t have confidence in them. “People refuse to allow us
carry their goods. Unless they know the person to whom they are giving
their goods. These days, we only get customers through confidence. If
some customers have known you they can allow you work with them” he
said adding that the job is a job of chance. “Some days I make money
but some days I go back home with nothing,” he said. He expressed the
wish that carriers will be identified in future in order to regain
confidence.

cameroontribune

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