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Transitions to adulthood among young entrepreneurs in the informal mobile telephony sector in Accra, Ghana

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journal contribution
posted on 2017-09-08, 12:18 authored by Robert L. Afutu-Kotey, Katherine V. GoughKatherine V. Gough, Paul W.K. Yankson
The rapid expansion of the mobile telephony sector in African countries has been accompanied by the establishment of a wide range of informal support businesses, mostly run by young people. Little is known, however, about the lived experiences of young entrepreneurs working in this rapidly changing, technologically-driven sector. Drawing on qualitative research conducted in Accra, this paper explores young people's experiences of running informal businesses within the mobile telephony sector, including the sale of mobile phones and accessories, repair and technical support services, and the sale of airtime and mobile money services. Fateful and critical moments relating to personal and family events, as well as social networks and structural factors, are shown to mediate young entrepreneurs' chances of success in this new ‘niche' economic sub-sector. Despite the challenges they face, the paper illustrates how many of these young people have been able to achieve financial independence, afford rental accommodation, provide support for family members, and establish and sustain households. The mobile telephony sector is shown to be offering young people the opportunity to carve out a living, facilitate transitions into adulthood, and even enable some to move up the social ladder. By highlighting the agency of this group of young people, and for some their success in achieving the status of adulthood through their hard work and ingenuity, this study offers an important counter balance to images of young people in sub-Saharan Africa as being ‘stuck' or in ‘waithood'.


The Consultative Research Committee for Development Research (FFU) under DANIDA (project NO. 09-059KU) provided funding for the fieldwork of this article.



  • Social Sciences


  • Geography and Environment

Published in





290 - 298


AFUTU-KOTEY, R.L., GOUGH, K.V. and YANKSON, P.W.K., 2017. Transitions to adulthood among young entrepreneurs in the informal mobile telephony sector in Accra, Ghana. Geoforum, 85, pp. 290-298.


© Elsevier


  • AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Publisher statement

This paper was accepted for publication in the journal Geoforum and the definitive published version is available at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2017.08.008.

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