International Development Planning Review

On the governing of ‘gray’ trading spaces in Accra: multiple powers and ambiguous ‘worlding’ practices

International Development Planning Review (2022), 44, (1), 81–104.


Recent studies on ‘urban informality’ stress the role of the state in the production and governing of ‘gray spaces’. This paper contributes to this body of research by emphasising the multiple actors involved in the governance of informal land uses and their ambiguous positions on how these spaces should best be understood and approached. Based on an in-depth case study of ‘gray’ trading spaces in central Accra, I show that individual landowners in the vicinity of trading spots play a crucial role in the governing of roadside trading, together with state actors and traders. Furthermore, traders and state actors are both engaged in ambiguous ‘worlding practices’ that, on the one hand, envision Accra as becoming a city where street trade is eradicated, while, on the other hand, street trade is considered to be an opportunity for urban (economic) development. These varied perspectives imply that neither traders nor state bodies are uniform actors and that these groups are not necessarily positioned against each other.

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Author details

Fält, Lena