, Volume 81, Issue 2, pp 293–318 | Cite as

Is better to be a kayayei than to be unemployed: reflecting on the role of head portering in ghana’s informal economy

  • Yaa Ankomaa Agyei
  • Emmanuel KumiEmail author
  • Thomas Yeboah


The implementation of neoliberal economic reforms with its resultant effects on rural agricultural economies has facilitated the migration of young girls from northern to southern Ghana to seek for alternative livelihoods in the urban informal economy as head porters (Kayayei). Using semi-structured questionnaires and interviews with 45 Kayayei in Makola and Agbogbloshie Markets, Accra, this study examines how migration as a livelihood strategy contributes to an improvement in the living conditions of young girls and their families. The paper also looks more closely into the pathways through which the livelihoods of these young female migrants may contribute to local economic development. The study highlights that Kayayei contribute to local economic development through market exchange and revenue generation, also there is significant perceived positive impact of head portering on standard of living of these young girls through improved access to income, health care and asset accumulation while their families benefit from remittances. The study concludes by advocating for the need to provide access to credit and skills training in enhancing the livelihood of Kayayei.


Migration Livelihoods Remittances Head porters (Kayayei) Standard of living Ghana 



We wish to acknowledge the President of Kayayei Youth Association (KYA) in Accra who provided diverse assistant during data collection process by helping in recruiting the study participants. We are grateful to the migrant female head porters (Kayayei) who served as study participants. We gratefully acknowledge Professor Alison Brown, Cardiff University, United Kingdom for her insightful comments. We also want to thank the peer reviewers for their constructive feedback.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yaa Ankomaa Agyei
    • 1
  • Emmanuel Kumi
    • 2
    Email author
  • Thomas Yeboah
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Planning and GeographyCardiff UniversityCardiffUK
  2. 2.Centre for Development Studies, Department of Social and Policy SciencesUniversity of BathBathUK
  3. 3.Centre of Development Studies, Churchill CollegeUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeshireUK

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