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01.06.2015 | Ausgabe 2/2015

Urban Forum 2/2015

(Dis)continuities in Scale, Scope and Complexities of the Space Economy: the Shopping Mall Experience in Ghana

Zeitschrift:
Urban Forum > Ausgabe 2/2015
Autoren:
Martin Oteng-Ababio, Isaac K. Arthur

Abstract

Contrary to common assumptions, the (re)emergence of organized shopping malls in Ghana is not a new development. Accounts of their existence date back to the pre-colonial era, when their character, status and operations were as popular as the malls of today. What is missing in current narratives is an analysis of how these malls—consisting of elegant apartment designs integrated with appreciable green spaces and centrally located food courts to entice visitors to lengthen their stay—impact the urban economy and the traditional retail structure. Using participant observation, semi-structured interviews and a survey, we examine the role of malls in the local economy and their possible ramifications on the retail structure. The paper interrogates whether the emerging malls can crowd out their seemingly ‘fortified’ informal predecessors. The results demonstrate two key findings. First, that positive outcome is intrinsically tied to the manner in which malls are conceptualized, especially with increasing trade liberalization and its reinvigorating impact on the informal retail structure. Our findings frame the continuity of the informal sector as important to the success of the malls. Second, that malls must respond positively to the rising demands and tastes of postmodern consumers and the middle class by investing in attractive, iconic architecture—or they risk being pushed out of business by the ever-growing activities of the informal retail sector. Our results are congruent with current literature that questions some of the conceptual and policy framings of informality, and we opine that such framing makes evident the sector’s significant contribution to urban poverty alleviation.

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