16 May Africans should be allowed to take the lead on trade in their countries
It’s impossible for me to list the organizations around the world created just to “save the Africans.” Of course we appreciate the work done by these organizations but the efforts of African indigenes shouldn’t be overlooked. From Tony Elemulu, a giant of commerce, to Bethlehem Alemu, a social venture genius, we are doing some pretty amazing things. CNN’s site for African start-ups also showcases young Africans doing amazing things right here in Africa. The real issue arises when we are pushed out of business by foreign companies that exploit our local talent and resources.
For decades, organizations around the world have sold Bolga Baskets, many tagged with photos of weavers, and fair trade labels. After reading a research report about Ghana’s Bolga weavers, I decided to check out the industry on my own. In February 2016, I started my own social venture called Design Dua. The Bolga weavers hail from Ghana’s Upper East Region, an area known mostly for farming and basket weaving. This age old craft remains dominated by organizations that market a few basket types as charitable purchases, but few organizations work creatively within the industry. Unfortunately, these baskets are often mislabeled and the credit for the craft is not even attributed to Ghana’s Upper East. Design Dua was created as a locally run and managed initiative that works with weavers to create more than just charitable market baskets, but internationally marketable handmade design products. Our goal is to foster creativity in an age-old industry that will bring more commerce to the region through training and innovation.
Design Dua started selling our products in March and we have experienced tremendous support from the local community, other basket retailers, and customers around the world. Surprisingly, we have faced tremendous backlash from some “competitors” in the industry. In the recent year, the “African Moses Basket” made in Ghana has gained tremendous popularity among instagram’s Mothers to be. Due to the amount of time and skill it takes to make that particular basket, not many retailers have been able to sell it with consistency. When Design Dua started to specialize in this product, it caused quite a stir. One retailer, who marketed the Ghanaian Moses Baskets as fair trade products from “Ghana, South Africa,” went as far as to troll several positive reports about our products, purchase and display our products as her own, and go through her supplier to complain about our company to the local weaving association.