Humans are born with talents, and so do Akwesi, a 21-year-old windscreen washer on the street of Accra, believes was born to be an iconic football star whose name will be heard beyond the shores of Ghana.
The streets of Accra, Kumasi and other big cities in Ghana are not only piled up with hawkers plying their daily activities but there is another set of workers known as ‘Windscreen Washers’ waiting patiently for the traffic light to turn red for vehicles to stop for them to carry out with their windscreen cleaning assignment.
The windscreen cleaners, often males between the ages of fifteen to twenty-eight years are seen with squeegees, half of an empty 25Litres Frytol oil bottle filled with water and mixed with either a liquid soap or washing powder detergent.
Squeegee sponge water cleaner
Commercial drivers mostly permit these windscreen cleaners to wipe the dirt on their windscreens compared to private car owners.
Based on this information, The Ghana Report had a series of interviews with some commercial drivers and private car owners as to which two parties often welcome the service of the windscreen cleaners and how they rate their services.
” The street boys into windscreen washing always begging car owners to wash their windscreens can just be any of my brothers. Sometimes the vehicle I’m using might not be dirty and that windscreen washer definitely knows that the glass is not dirty but will plead to wash it. Well, sometimes, I don’t allow them to use the water on my windscreen at all but instead of throwing hash words on them like others do, I try to give them some coins for food or maybe some water for the day”, one commercial driver shared his thought on the incident.
Another commercial driver said, “I always allow them to wipe my windscreen for me because it saves me from going to the washing bay most of the time. When I wake up for the day for work, the mate only cleans the body parts of the vehicle with my rag and I’m good to go”.
“Well, to me I believe the work they are doing is very risky as the traffic light sometimes turns on to the green and you see drivers and motorists rushing to set off, unknowing to you there’s is another windscreen washer crossing. If you are not a bit careful you might knock down that person, and you the driver will be in trouble. The Police must ensure they clear them all on the street. Hawkers are a headache to drivers and now windscreen cleaners are also coming to give us trouble”, another commercial driver shared with The Ghana Report.
On the side of the private car owners, four drivers were able to open up to us on the activities of windscreen washers and the threat they pose to drivers on the road.
“I’m human and I know how it feels to sometimes be on the sun hustling to make ends meet. Why should I spit on a young boy who wants to be of service to me?”, one of the drivers in his own black Hyundai Elantra car quizzed.
According to him, the government must create more jobs in the country for such youth to be able to cater for themselves.
Another driver said, “Those windscreen cleaners are not only cleaners, the majority of them are thieves. The moment they get closer to your car and you haven’t rolled up your glasses, then they try to steal from you. What is the Ghana Police Service doing with these recalcitrants on the streets claiming to be washing windscreens for drivers?”, he asked.
The third driver also was of the view that most of the windscreen washers are school dropouts whose bad behaviours have landed them on the street and for that matter drivers and even passengers must not give them any money when they are begging after washing their windscreens.
The final driver also opined that the young boys into windscreen washing must ensure that they don’t come into the middle of the road when the traffic light turns red.
Recounting how he nearly knocked one windscreen washer in 2022, he said, “I would have been in prison by now because of what one windscreen washer did at Baah Yard whilst heading to Lapaz. This guy was in the middle of the road cleaning the windscreen for people when the traffic light turned red. I was on my phone when the light turned green and was in a hurry to move after dropping my phone and unknown to me this windscreen cleaner guy was crossing as well. I had to step on the break, immediately which nearly caused an accident behind me as well”.
There have been several cases whereby drivers claim these windscreens have been taking valuable items from their cars.
Is the work of these windscreen washers against human rights as most intellectual drivers claim and what even pushes young boys of school-going age to be on the street begging people to wash their windscreens?
In the quest to find more on this new lucrative business for the ‘street boys’, our interviewee, Akwasi, a regular windscreen washer who bases around Accra New Tema Station highway and Kaneshie First Light gave us more information on their cherished job.
“To any street boy who is very passionate to join the ‘Windscreen Washers Association’, you only need to get about GH₵40.00 to buy a squeegee and the street lords will be available to provide you with an empty container, water and washing powder and you are good to go”, said Akwesi.
One of the street guys with a half of 25L Frytol bottle with other equipment for the job
Akwesi found comfort in the streets in 2018 after leaving Ghana Water Polo Academy pioneered by Prince Asante Sefa-Boakye.
Ghana Water Polo Academy according to Akwesi trains people on how to swim and to play football as well.
A young boy growing up with the aim of becoming a great football star, his dream was shattered after he was asked to resign from the team.
Knowing he has biological parents who are alive, Akwesi decided to join his father at Kasoa who he allegedly said didn’t open his alms to welcome him and that was when he decided to join the street lords.
He noted that the mother, whom he used to stay with before heading to Ghana stays in Benin.
When he was asked how he managed to move from Benin to Ghana, specifically Accra he said he has to cross the border with some people to Ghana in search of greener pastures.
He revealed that before coming to Ghana, he was aware he will meet with his biological father to continue with his education but all those visions couldn’t be achieved due to the neglect of his father.
Although Akwesi is a famous windscreen washer, he disclosed that he started the windscreen washing business wasn’t his first business on the street.
“I used to sell air fresheners, dusters and candies before starting the windscreen business. At a point in time, I realized the business wasn’t moving faster than I expected. At a point in time, I noticed some guys like my age group are doing this business (windscreen washing) so I approached them and ask them more about the business.”
“I was told to get about GH₵ 40.00 to buy this tool(squeegee) and they promised to permit me to use their water for some time. They (some street boys) told me to look for a big gallon and cut it, look for water and buy any washing powder detergent so that I can be on my own since everyone on the street is a boss”.
“At the beginning, I was scared for my life but had no option but to join the windscreen-washing boys for the job”.
Speaking on how much drivers pay them after washing their windscreens he said, “Ohhhh, a beggar has no choice. Sometimes we have to beg them before we are being allowed to do the washing so others pay 0.50 pesewas if you are lucky you might get GH₵2, or GH₵5 for a single wash”.
“Others don’t even give you anything at all but as hustlers, we don’t give up. We just move on”, he added.
How much do you earn in a month after calculating your daily wages?
“I have been able to get more than 500.00 before. It’s a very good business but very risky. Any vehicle or motor can knock you at any time. We get hurt at all times but like as said we are hustlers so there’s n need to pay attention to our bodies”.
Akwesi busily wiping the windscreen for a commercial driver in traffic
In a week, how many times do you operate this business?
“I’m always on this Accra-Tema Station road. If you don’t see me here then I’m at Kaneshie First Light. I operate at these two places every day except on Sundays.”
“As I said earlier, I am a footballer and a swimmer so every Sunday I move from one beach to the other and assist in rescuing people who don’t know how to swim and accidentally fall into the deeper parts of the sea”
“Me in particular I wanted to be a footballer. That’s what from my infancy I have been yearning for to be in future”.
This notwithstanding, Akwesi who seems to be living on hard drugs, hopes he may forget the hardships he is exposed to on the street and believes with the effort of the government and other philanthropists his story can be changed.