Hawking is the market art of selling wares from street to street and house to house. This form of business is the most popular in most Cameroonian towns and cities where we find not only youths but also the elderly carrying different types of goods. It is not an over statement to say that; there is no single bus-stop in Cameroon where you will not find tens to hundreds of hawkers of different age groups desperately hunting costumers.
In Buea, like in most towns where hawkers tarry mostly in the streets, bars and motor parks, this form of business is experiencing a new paradigm shift in that; hawkers have extended their markets to the door steps and rooms of people. Many will wonder if the markets are saturated to contain these sellers who go about disturbing people’s privacy in the name of marketing. These people move from door to door in every hostel irrespective of whether they were invited by a customer or not. If a door is locked, they will knock until the room owner comes out, most at times expecting a visitor but unfortunately, just to see a desperate hawker with sweat all over his body.
These hawkers sell goods of different qualities depending on their capital and physical strength. In the student residential areas, the most common goods sold range from food items to dresses and electronic appliances depending on the age group and gender of the hawker. For children between the ages of 8 to 15, it is very common to see them with food items like; fish roll, fish pie, “kwa-coco” and groundnuts. These kids move from hostel to hostel with buckets on their heads, with common slogans like: “buy ya fish roll, Congo meat, hot kwa-coco, buy one buy two, chicken-chicken, boiled corn etc”. Some of these kids even enter the university and other higher institutions learning in Buea. Some are so bold to enter lecture halls with their goods to sell! The campus guards usually have a hard time with these hawkers trying to put them in order.
Another set of hawkers always carry badges and claim to belong to some foreign or marketing organization they are representing, or doing promotion for them. Most of them sell medicated products; body lotions, hand creams, slimming lotions and foreign tea most of which come from China.
Other set of individuals go about selling female shoes, shirts and electronic gadgets. Also, presence among these group of hawkers are mobile shoe-menders and mobile call box, operators. For the mobile shoe-menders, most of them are Hausas who hail from the North and Extreme North regions of Cameroon. They move with wooden boxes at their site which they hit with an iron bar to announce their presence. As a result, they are generally called “kok-kok” with reference to the sound this makes. These hawkers are a nuisance to students, reason being that they do not have respect for people’s privacy as Ako Pascaline a final year student University of Buea, asserts that, these hawkers as thieves in disguise, they go about monitoring what to steal in the night.
This might not be far from the truth. Recently some of such hawkers have been caught at “Dirty South” in Molyko stealing from students’ rooms!!
A critical case happened in a student hostel in Buea where a hawker after knocking on a student’s door got in and stole her mobile phone when he got no response. Unfortunately for him while coming out he was caught in the act and issued the beating of his life. On the other hand some students do not find any fault with these hawkers. To them they are easily provided with goods they can’t afford the time to go at the market Wajuku Brian, an ACCA student, is one of such students who says he depends on them especially those who sell food in the early hours of the morning for his breakfast. Whatever the case, some order needs to be put in this sector because gas bottles, mobile phones, electronic appliances, money and many other items have been stolen in different hostels by thieves in the guise of selling. Some go about collecting dresses sunned outside in some hostels where students do not know all their neighbors.
In all, business is more appreciated in the market but if someone insists with on selling to you right in your bed room, find out if truly he or she has something to sell because some would want to buy from you, but buying without paying.
On the part of the hawkers, some of them we talk to refuse the allegations that they are thieves in disguise. According to Mua Derick a shoe vendor, he says those who go about stealing in students rooms are not hawkers but thieves who do not want to be identified. He adds that they sell door to door because they can meet their customers with ready cash. Thus there should be no need for any alarm.