A visit with the tomato sellers at Accra’s traditional market points the way toward Ghana’s future.

Located approximately 620 kilometers north of Accra, at the crossing of three ancient trade routes, Tamale is Ghana’s fastest-growing city. The sight and sound of motorbikes wading through green and yellow auto-rickshaws on well-paved roads define the city. The population is visibly youthful. The weather—a feature of the savannah—is assertively hot and dry in the absence of rain. The third most populous city in Ghana, Tamale is led in numbers by Accra, followed by Kumasi. For its residents, Tamale’s transition from big town to the city has come with new banks, more houses that expand the boundaries of habitation, supermarkets, and hotels. For sports lovers, the benign majesty of Tamale’s football stadium, built 10 years ago, remains a source of pride. The frequency of domestic flights to the city’s airport these days provides more than a hint of Tamale’s importance in the national economy: Not long ago, flights were limited to a few a week. Today, you have a daily option of four flights from a single airline. There are plans to upgrade the airport from domestic to international.

Some things, however, remain the same in Tamale. The Aboabo market is one example, like a scene from a historical movie. Its glory lies in its alleys and its nonexistent direction signs. Here, neither Google maps nor the Internet can give any clues on where you can find what. You get what you need by keeping your eyes open and talking to people. I travelled here in July 2018 to find out more about the tomatoes sold on this market, to trace their source and understand their contribution to the economy of Tamale.

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