West African Journal: Selling Themselves Short

June 5, 2008 Updated: October 1, 2015

Canadian Epoch Times correspondent Zoë Ackah, writing (and photographing) from Ghana. (Zoë Ackah/The Epoch Times)
Canadian Epoch Times correspondent Zoë Ackah, writing (and photographing) from Ghana. (Zoë Ackah/The Epoch Times)
KUMASI, Ghana—I know what you're all wondering. What am I bringing you from Africa?

It wasn't easy getting that perfect gift for each friend and family member, let alone each reader.

I set out by following my own advice. I went to buy each and every female friend a two-yard cloth. Imagine my surprise when I found the vast majority of "African fabric" is now made in China.

"What is the purpose of buying something made in China as a souvenir of a trip to Ghana?" I asked the cloth seller in Central Market. "But the quality is good," she replied. Not to mention the fact that the Chinese made prints are exactly half the price of those made by Ghana Textile Products. I bought the Ghana Textile fabric anyway.

Of course, I've always refused to buy the top quality fabric here called Hollandaise or Holland wax. (The very best African prints are made in Holland, of course.) Why would I support colonialism? Stupid me. I later learned Ghana Textiles is a subsidiary of the Dutch-owned Vlisco. I began to feel queasy.

I decided to buy some of the cheap Togo fabric people sell on their heads. Ghanaians go to neighbouring Togo to buy fabric. Somehow, I though maybe the Togolese still make fabric. Stupid me. I later learned the Togo fabric is actually smuggled into Ghana. Why smuggled? It is a matter of copyright infringement.

You see African fabric print design is highly competitive. As soon as a fabric design from Ghana is selling well, someone will take a piece of it to China, have the print cheaply duplicated, and run yards of the knock-off at half the price. I guess the Hollywood elite aren't the only ones being bled dry by Chinese copyright infringement. They're just able to afford lawyers a team of public relations experts.

By this point, I was feeling sickened. Then it happened.

I got lost in Central Market, an experience that was pleasant eight out of 10 times it happened to me. Somehow, I stumbled upon the alley where the kente weavers bring in their wares from the countryside. 

  [caption id=”attachment_70342″ align=”alignleft” width=”320″ caption=”These traditional sandals are custom fitted. I bought a pair for $7, but most people now wear the $1 flip-flops from China