I visited the home of Ghana’s authentic goods a few weeks ago. Unlike my visit to the Eastern and Volta regions, my trip to the market was not for Dziffa.com. I had already decided months ago that the best artisans to work with were those farthest from the city. In my eyes, the artists in Accra were the privileged few; their strategic location not only exposed them to Ghana’s middle- and- high-income class but also to returnees, expats, and tourists.
I arrived about 3 p.m. and expected that, like Makola and Kantamanto (Accra’s import markets), this market would be flooded with lovers of authentic goods and I wouldn’t even have a chance to shop in peace.
But instead, I was stunned to witness how empty the place was; there was practically not even one customer in sight.
I could not get my mind around why a place full of beautiful high-quality authentic goods would be so bare. I walked past the lady asking me to come check out her new collection of fabrics and headed straight to the old man selling straw bags (pictured).
“Me pa wo ky3w.” (Please, good evening.)
“I am looking for a really big basket with fabric inside.”
“Unfortunately we don’t have those baskets right now, but we can order it from Bolga (Upper East Region of Ghana) for you if you want them in bulk.”
“When will your new products come in? I will just wait.”
“I’m not sure when. People don’t really buy these days. These baskets you see have been here for months.”
“Why is this place so empty?”
“My daughter, Ebola has stolen all our customers.”
“But Ghana never had a case of Ebola!”
I said the obvious truth that needs no affirmation. Despite having not even a single case of Ebola, the disease’s global association with West Africa has deterred tourists from our region and deprived our local artisans of their biggest pool of customers.
“Surely, there must be local sales. It’s absurd for businesses at the market to die down because of a decline of tourists.”
“I’ve been selling bags for 14 years; this year has been one of the toughest. Ghanaians do not buy the products we sell. They would rather buy imported bags rather than ours.”
We agreed that even though I did not find the bag I was looking for, we would bring all of their amazing products from the market to the world through Dziffa.com.
The world should not be deprived of a constant supply of authentic goods because of Ebola or any other future health, political, and economic crises.
Our local industries cannot afford to be this vulnerable.
I reflected on the status of the market and its overall relation to the country on my way out. Much like the country, the market is a haven of authentic handmade quality products that people in other parts of the world travel to museums to see or window shop for.
In a world where technology rules, Africans are fortunate enough to still have men and women who turn raw materials into treasures with their bare hands.
The knowledge of our local artisans is crucial to transforming our current state of perpetual trade deficit into trade surplus. If managed properly, our local manufacturing sector can change Ghana from an economy dependent upon the export of raw materials to an economy specialized in exporting authentic finished goods.
Such transformation will enable the world to see us as an authentic goods hub instead of an aid and remittance hub, enable us to experience positive balances of trade, and create employment opportunities for youth in the local manufacturing sector.
We at Dziffa are proud to have about 30 percent of our products from the Center and continue the journey of discovering more authentic havens across the country. You can view some of our products here.