There’s a word for it in Ga: nakpee. That combination of awe and disbelief that leaves you breathless. That’s what I feel when I round a corner in a field full of what I assume are rusting old tanker trucks and find a man standing on a massive sheet of curved metal. He’s staring into the guts of a half-finished tanker with a profound look of resignation on his face. “Light off,” says Kofi Boache, brandishing a lifeless welding gun to prove it—there’s another blackout. This is why the damn things take a month to make.
This is Suame Magazine. A vast, open-air industrial district in Kumasi, Ghana’s second largest city. Here, 200,000 skilled workers manufacture everything from bolts to tanker trucks by hand. A million dollars passes through the factories and workshops here every day, and it’s the place where most of the country’s laborers learn their trades: the heart of Ghana’s informal economy.